The Catacombs Catacombs Credits Guide
Sylvia Anderson

This is a edited version of an interview with Sylvia Anderson at the RAF Museum Cosford "Flights of Fantasy" event on Saturday 17th May 2014.

Space: 1999 started filmed in December 1973. The 3 day week lasted from 1 January to 7 March 1974. The formaldehyde incident is Death's Other Dominion, in August 1974.

It got off to the worst start, I think it was a 3 day week or a 4 day week. We were on the big set at Pinewood, and I walked on the set one day, and, oh my god, what's that smell, it's terrible? It was formaldehyde they were using. So everyone is leaving the set going, oh (covers mouth). I said what are you using on this? They said formaldehyde. Technicians are so used to doing terrible things, being in terrible places. So that was not a good start. And then we had different people involved. And somehow it didn't have the magic, at all.

It did involve us going to America. I thought, this is not what we really set out to do. Lew Grade sent us to America, to cast the main characters. So I had the bright idea while we were over there, let's cast outside the box, let's do something different. So I cast some people, and rang him up. He said, 'oh we don't want him, he's trouble, the studios won't like him'. We were really governed by the studios.

(Of Landau and Bain) I didn't want them. I thought they were very wooden. She didn't want to turn her head. I thought this was the Hollywood that I don't like. I don't like any of this. This was so typical. She was the hair and the face, he was the master. He hated anyone that I cast who was younger. So there were all the things that came up like that, that I really didn't like.

Our leads wanted to go through every line, and every dot, everything, like they knew it all. I'd say, here's the script. They'd say, no, we didn't like page 3, line 23, or whatever. Oh god.

Another thing, Lew Grade said I want you to go to Rome. I went to all the best places. I want you to cast a lead man in Rome. As you go in the hotel itself, there was a grand piano. People sitting there playing the piano, having lots of fun. I saw loads and loads of actors. Either they couldn't speak English properly, or they looked wrong. So the very last day, I thought I can't do any more. So I said to the casting guy, look, I'll take one more session then we're going home. And as I said that, this very tall handsome man enters, sat down and played the piano, and spoke very good English. And we cast him, needless to say, as the sidekick to our guys from America. I've got two or three there, we'll fly them over, we'll do them some scenes with our guys and see what works.

Giancarlo Prete was cast as Alphonse Catani in 1973, but couldn't be released from a film in Italy when filming began. The role was recast, with Nick Tate playing the renamed Alan Carter. Prete appeared as a guest in the episode The Troubled Spirit

I spoke to our leading man, I said don't worry about it, we've been asked to get Italian money into it, because they're putting money into the series, so everything's got to be Italian now, not American. So we're flying him over. What? Who, what? Have you got any pictures? Our leading man, I said by the way, let me show you some footage we had done in Rome, and see what you think, but we can trust him I think. What? How old is he? So I arrange all these sessions, and the day comes for our man to be there. So he slumps in, not wanting to be there, with his agent, and up comes this handsome Italian. He spoke perfect English, very good actor, he'd worked in America, ticked all the boxes. And suddenly am I going to get sued for this? And suddenly our leading man jumped up and said, 'how dare you, what are you doing? I didn't want him.' He went totally berserk. So I was enjoying it actually. I just sat there, yeah, carry on. His wife, who was always very cool and calm, said, 'is this the man I married?' I thought, is that all you're going to say to him? So I decided to be very dignified about it. I said, if you're quite finished, in my best English accent. He went on swearing at me, I said off you go. So he left with his agent. 'Oh Sylvia, what are you doing to him?' He's had a very good run, and he's still getting in the series, but I'm not going to be spoken to like that in front of anyone. If he doesn't want it, we'll recast. Gerry was saying, 'what are you saying? How dare you say that?' Don't worry, he'll calm down. I was due to see him for a costume fitting that evening. I said I'm not going. He's got to learn his lesson here, who does he think he is? So I went home. The phone went all evening. I said don't answer it. Gerry answered it, he said she's feeling ill at the moment. I was enjoying every minute of it. So next morning I go in, he said 'Sylvia, can I see you'. I said, look, don't mention it any more. The fact of the matter is, we've been asked to cast someone who's going to help the series. And if you want the series to go on, we've got to do what they say. So we stayed with Giancarlo Prete, and that was it, basically.