The Catacombs Catacombs Credits Guide
Sylvia Anderson

This is a edited version of an interview with Sylvia Anderson conducted in 2010 for Network's Blu-Ray release of Space:1999.

Sylvia Anderson interview

Lew sent us off to Hollywood and said, look, I want you to cast out there. I had some ideas, I wanted an off-beat astronaut, I didn't want the usual thing, I wanted someone who didn't get on with his wife, all the usual things that happen in ordinary life, but I wanted it just happens to be space. Lew had phoned up one day and said, right, this is what I wanted you to do, I want you to cast Martin Landau and Barbara Bain. I went oh God, no. They're so known in Mission Impossible and the studio said if you get them they'd buy it. I said, Lew, they're not right. I don't think Martin Landau's right for this. And Barbara Bain's very wooden. No, no, you've got to do it. And he actually insisted because someone in America had said to him we'll buy it if you have Martin Landau and Barbara Bain because they were still hot from Mission Impossible. It was a formula thing, and they're good at formula. What I didn't realise is that they were going to be such a pain over here. They thought, coming to England, we'll tell everyone what to do, and they didn't always have the best taste in the world, and they had to have a driver 24 hours a day, all these things. And then Barbara wouldn't go home, she wouldn't leave Martin behind in case he was flirting with someone... it was just terrible. After one series of that, I thought, life's too short.

I did say to Lew, Lew, I'll do as you tell me, but I don't agree with the casting at all. I would like someone offbeat. Martin's since proved to be a good character actor, he was never a leading man. He didn't know how to walk, he was flat footed, he had to be in every scene, he couldn't allow any actor to have any lines. I did a script conference, and we gave Nick Tate a scene that was his. He gets on the set. Martin Landau comes to my office and says 'Nick Tate's saying my lines'. I said, 'no he's not, he's saying his own lines'. 'Yes but..' I said 'You can't be in every scene the whole time, Martin.' and he said 'Oh well, I'm the leading man' and I said 'I know you are, but Nick Tate is a good actor and he's a young interesting guy and he wants more lines, and we're going to give it to him. I think it's a change, you can't make all the decisions all the time. Give it to someone else, even if you disagree with it, you can go in and say I disagree, let's have a scene where you... No, he wouldn't have it. And he goes to Gerry, and I said you can't keep pandering to him, because he got worse.

And then I got a call from Lew saying Rai in Rome had put some money in, so we've now got to cast some Italians. I said what? (laughs) So I got on the plane with the casting director and saw all these Italians - oh god, no. Finally found one who was very good, trained in America, done theatre, was Italian, brought him over with a couple of others that I found over there to do a test. We test them, Martin Landau's supposed to test with them, would he hell... He was sulking the whole time. So the one I eventually cast came in to me, and I said, look, he's jealous of you, let me just put it on the line, don't take any notice of him, just go ahead, do your scene, because he's going to make it as difficult as possible, because he doesn't want any competition.

And so we did the tests, we came up the viewing thing, Martin came in, didn't really want him, but he came in with Barbara, with the casting director, and the guy that was shooting, Lee Katzin the third, or something ridiculous, who was one of their directors on Mission Impossible, and everything they did was wonderful. So I sent the tests up to Lew and he said 'what do you think?' and I told him Giancarlo Prete was the one, and he said I agree with you, and Martin Landau went absolutely bananas. We were all sat in the viewing room and he suddenly stood up, and turned into a monster, started swearing, 'what do you think you're doing to me?' He went totally mad. The director shrunk into his chair, and the casting [director] Michael Barnes, he looked at me, don't look at me. I let him have his rant and rave, no-one spoke up, I stood up and said when you can speak in a bit more of a civil tone, I'll discuss it with you, but in the meantime, he has been chosen, so put up with it (laughs).

We had a costume fitting afterwards, so I cancelled it. He rang at home, he got worried then. Gerry said, 'you're weren't rude to him?', I said, oh yes I was, I not going to put up with that from anyone, how dare he talk to me like that? You should be worried he's spoken to me like that. I said, the more you give in to him, the worse he's going to get. So he rang that night at home to speak to me, Gerry took the phone, I said, no, I can't be bothered tonight, I'm not in the mood to talk to him . He's got to get over that, and I'll see him tomorrow for the costume fitting. Didn't get another peep from him. That's what you had to do, all the time, and to me that was very wearing. So in spite of everything, Giancarlo came on the set, everyone loved him, he did very well, and of course he wasn't used again, was he?

The first series, that I produced, we had the five day week, or something. There was no power at all. So we had to get special generators in, freezing cold on the stage there. And then the art department decided to use formaldehyde on the big set, and I walked in there and said, oh my god, this is going to kill everyone off. We'd better clear the stage, because everyone was passing out with formaldehyde.

By this time, my home life was disintegrating, and so I didn't do the second series at all. They brought in someone, Fred... Freiberger, who didn't understand filming over here. Whereas the first series, I used to have very good script conferences, so I'd get the writers in and Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, who insisted on being there anyway, and we'd hammer it out. You've got to be believable, even if you're in an unbelievable situation. So if anything went too haywire, I'd say I don't think that's gonna work.

On the next series, Freiberger was the guy from Hollywood and Gerry obviously thought I've got somebody here that's going to agree with everything, but he didn't. And so he got more and more outrageous, Freiberger, and to me it didn't work. So that was a very difficult time in my life, to be honest. All that I worked for, I had to walk away from. And that was very, very difficult. Barry Morse, he left as well. He came in to me when I was leaving and he said, oh Sylvia, we used to talk about things, what I was going to do, he said, I can't go around all the time looking after Martin Landau and Barbara Bain. He said, I'm not going to do another series.

It was difficult; it was very, very difficult for me. Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, I'd looked after and nurtured them when they came over, they'd come to my house, I'd entertained them for dinner, anything you'd want to know about working over here, I'd help you, I didn't hear a peep from them the second series when they came over. They didn't pick up the phone, they didn't do anything. They weren't interested. While I was of use to them, I were. So I thought, I don't really need it. When I worked for HBO I went over there quite a lot, and one day I got a message. Would I like to ring Barbara Bain? No, I wouldn't, actually. I thought why should I bother? At the time when I needed someone to say something nice to me, they didn't want to know.