SFX Chris Barrie Interview

In the current issue: September 2004, #121. Let’s get straight onto the quotes, shall we? Buy the magazine for the rest of the interview, but basically: no more Tomb Raider (what a shame), and he probably won’t be in the new Spitting Image series (what a shame). Guess the sarcastic comment.

The Red Dwarf movie – due to film down under – didn’t happen this year, despite the high hopes of all involved and during that year, most of us gave up hope. It’s now five years since Red Dwarf gasped its TV last and each year than passes means the likelihood of a properly budgeted movie being made becomes more remote. But things are still going on, as Barrie can testify, his agent being one of the producers of the film.

To put this into some sort of perspective: one of SFX‘s regulars is Development Hell, which gives all the latest info on films “waiting to be born… or to BURN!” If anyone should know that some films wait 10 or more years before they make the screen, they should.

The five years thing doesn’t make a huge amount of sense – the TV series had a four year break between 1993 and 1997, and came back with the biggest audience figures the show ever had. And, of course, “properly budgeted” has to be put into proportion – compared to Hollywood SF films, the budget the Dwarf film needs is meagre. Having said all of that, a lot of people with the money are short-sighted and stupid – as evidenced by the constant Dwarf movie delays…

“I’m not told every sentence from every meeting with the money men,” Barrie tells SFX, “but I’ve got a pretty good idea of the sort of reactions are going on, what sort of thoughts are there from people who are about to sign a cheque for a large amount of cash. Originally – and understandably – they’ve been saying, ‘Well, these guys aren’t even big names now in British television, let alone the movie world, so why don’t we make it with…?’ I dunno, at the time it was Brad Pitt. There’s a new generation coming along all the time.”

Mohh. It’s not understandable at all. It’s pretty obvious that part of the reason Dwarf works as well as it does is down the to chemistry of the lead actors. And not every successful film has big name stars. And like I said, the budget of around £12 million really isn’t that much compared to the films Dwarf would be up against. No, this is just more money-men stupidity, I’m afraid. Brad Pitt? Even a total gwenlyn could see that wouldn’t work.

Barrie is cautiously optimistic that a Red Dwarf movie will eventually happen, but in what form he’s reluctant to admit. Red Dwarf‘s charm has always been its somewhat punky irreverance and he knows that if they secured a large budget the men in suits would wield a little too much power.

“The Red Dwarf fans, some of them even like the flapping sets of the first series,” he says, “and anything CGIish, they say, ‘Forget it! Keep it to the bunkbed and the dialogue!’ That’s really the heart and soul of Red Dwarf. We can’t start competing with The Matrix and X-Men and all that. I think the film, if and when, will have the same kind of balance between dialogue-driven plot and FX as the early to mid TV series. Obviously it’ll be filmic, with the big screen in mind. It won’t be like the Cannon and Ball movie!”

Man, the first series sets really weren’t that bad, apart from perhaps the Drive Room set. The CGI comment is a bit dodgy too; I think the thing people objected to with VII/VIII was that the CGI wasn’t nearly as good as the old model shots, not that it was CGI per se. The effects have always been part of Dwarf’s appeal, right from the very beginning. And the bunkbed was never the soul of Red Dwarf anyway: just look at Back To Reality for the evidence of that.

So, does the fact that the talk is only over a new Dwarf movie mean that any new TV project is dead? Barrie claims that a new TV series simply isn’t being talked about.

“At the moment, we’re in a period where something like Red Dwarf is just too expensive to put on,” he says. “For one series of Red Dwarf they can have ten series of Have I Got News For You, or something like that. But more and more people are getting fed up with gardening programmes and DIY programmes and reality programmes, so I think maybe we’re coming out of that now. What we need is for someone to come into the BBC and say, ‘Hey, let’s do a Red Dwarf special!’ You’ve got a guaranteed audience and a team that are gagging to make the show!”

Someone, like… oooh, Doug Naylor? The same Doug Naylor who said the following in his DJ Statement:

Question No 8 – The film’s taking forever – have you considered going back to the TV series?

I’d love to go back to the TV series, but the movie wouldn’t have got to the stage it has without my fulltime, or nearly-fulltime, commitment. Also, we can’t accept a commission to do a TV series if we’re on the brink of getting the movie off the ground any moment and that’s how it’s appeared for some time now.

The last series of Dwarf got over 8 million viewers – on BBC TWO. The BBC would have a difficult time turning down an in-depth documentary on Doug Naylor’s bowel movements, let alone any more Dwarf. There’s no more Dwarf on TV currently purely because Doug Naylor doesn’t want to do any at the moment.

Back to SFX itself, then: why haven’t they mentioned Doug’s DJ statement, anyway? Surely it’s more relevant to the future of the movie than simply Chris Barrie not knowing very much? Never mind – they also have a review of the Crime Traveller boxset. Which was released on the 24th March 2003. Well done!

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