Zoe Wanamaker interviewed about His Girl Friday
Richard and Judy (Channel 4), 2003-10-01
During His Girl Friday's run, ZoŽ was interviewed about the National Theatre's production by presenters Judy Finnigan and Richard Madeley for their tea-time chat show. Below is a partial transcript of that interview.
Richard Madeley: And does the play have the very fast delivery, the fast slapstick?
ZoŽ Wanamaker: Extremely fast. Normally - apparently - a script on film [has] a hundred and fifty words a minute, and [in] this show we do two-hundred-and-fifty words a minute!
Judy Finnigan: Good grief!
JF: That must be hard to learn.
ZW: It was, it was very hard to learn.
Richard Madeley: And the timing -
ZW: And the timing.
[RM introduces a clip from the 1940 film, His Girl Friday, starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell.]
RM: The machine-gun delivery... Must be a nightmare to get right live every night.
ZW: It's fast, it's very fast.
RM: You must be knackered at the end of every performance!
ZW: We are, we are. It is a marathon.
JF: And it's still set - your play is still set - back in 1939.
ZW: We're setting it in 1939. We're setting it as a monochrome [production], so it's an homage to the film, really. But it's also a mixture of the play The Front Page. So John Guare, who wrote it - adapted it - put the two plays - the two shows - together and has come up with this.
RM: Well, I can't wait to see it. I'm going to come along and see it.
ZW: It's great fun, I have to say. It's great. We have a ball every night.
RM: Well, I must say, the film, as a young boy, was one of the many influences that inspired me to go into newspapers, to be a newspaper journalist, because it was just so romanticised.
ZW: Romanticised, but it was also vicious in those days...
JF: It still is!
RM: It's still as cutthroat as ever.
ZW: Yes, yes.
RM: We quite like sort of strange stuff on this show - in fact, we're looking for 'road ghosts' on Monday. And I read something in the paper about your late father, Sam Wanamaker, who, of course, was single-handedly responsible for the re-building of the Globe Theatre. And it said - and I understand this might be a traveller's tale - it said that ancient records, or medieval records, had been recently discovered for the very area in which the Globe's been re-built, where it shows that a man called Sam Wanamaker used to live there in Shakespeare's time. [For more information about this discovery, see Andrew Marr's 'Notebook' column (Telegraph, 10 September 2003; scroll down webpage to find the relevant passage).]
ZW: Samuel Wanamaker.
RM: Is it true?
ZW: It is true.
RM: Is it really?
JF: Is that true?
ZW: Yes, it is true.
RM: Isn't that strange!
ZW: I know, I know. It's very extraordinary.
JF: Did your father know about that, before he got so involved?
ZW: No, no, he didn't. What is interesting, though, is that 'Wanamaker' is a Dutch name and it wasn't my father's real name. So it was given to him - or he took it on - when he was in Chicago and decided to... I mean, when they came over on the boats from Russia - the Jewish immigrants, fleeing from Russia... And I think that their - I don't know what their Russian name was, I've forgotten it...
RM: Pretty spooky, though!
ZW: Yes, it's wonderful, it's wonderful.
RM: Yeah, it is.
JF: ZoŽ, it's always lovely to talk to you. Where's the play on at? What's the theatre?
ZW: It's the National Theatre - the Olivier. And it stars Alex Jennings and various other people, and it's a wonderfully fun evening.
RM: Oh, it looks great! [To ZoŽ] And the other spooky thing is, you and I were born on the same day, we've just discovered. And you go to the same school as our children [his and Judy's]. Well, you don't go to the... You used to go to the same school! [They all laugh.]
ZW: I know, it's great. It's a good school.
RM: Great school.
RM: OK. Nice to see you again.
ZW: Thank you.
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