Mike Hodges

Photo provided by Mike Hodges. Copyright ©️nobby clark
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Interview Date(s): 
3 Mar 1998
6 Apr 1998
2 Jun 1998
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Interview notes

Mike Hodges Interview Notes 


Born I932 in Bristol. Father worked for Wills Tobacco. Lived in Yeovil then Salisbury. Mother a Catholic. Sent to Irish Christian Brothers in Bath at age of 7. Escaped at 15. Obsessed by the cinema. Parents disapproved of it. Became articled to an accountant for 5 years. National Service in the navy which alerted him politically. Social education from two years on the lower deck. Iceland fish wars. On release joined Commercial TV. Became a teleprompter. Worked with all television companies. Observed the business and met many people. Artists loved you. Hilarious moments when prompter speeds up. Working from a Welsh script. Started writing during days off. Met Sydney Newman who was looking for a play on euthanasia. Not used but led to other commissions. Scripts for advertising magazines. "Jim's Inn". Through Lloyd Shirley became editor of "Sunday Break" for two years. Description of their nature. Presenters included Polly Toynbee, Gus MacDonald, Joan Bakewell, Richard Lindley etc. Let room in flat to Robert Stigwood. Stigwood commissions him for programme on Stephen Ward with director Jimmy Hill. Programme cancelled. He and Hill make programme on funeral directors. Took the idea to Tim Hewitt at "World in Action". Joined the team. Derek Granger takes over. Working methods. (45'36")


End of Side 1.


More on working for "World in Action". Radio pirate ships. Pop groups. Freemason programme banned by the Board. Experiences of doing a programme in Vietnam in 1965. Crewing anomalies. Could see the hopelessness of the war. Americans remote from the population. The insanity of the war. Programme on the Chinese outside China.  To the U.S. in 1963 for programme on Skinner and the baby box. Then moved on to a programme on Barry Goldwater. Teamed up with the Maysles brothers. A joyous way of working. American idiosyncracies. Nightmares in Dallas. Times of great paranoia. Interviewed the UAW leaders (Reuther Brothers) in Detroit. Six teams working on "World in Action". Impressions of America. Extremes of poverty. Massive underclass. John Bloom. Vetted by Lord Goodman. After two years moved to "Tempo", arts programme at ABC. Production methods. Used Allan King's Canadian technicians. Accountancy experience useful. Programmes went out on Sunday afternoons. (45'30")

End of Side 2.


  • Final remarks on "Tempo". Moved as a team on to another series on crime. Approached Westinghouse for backing, but abandoned project. Devised and produced "Sound and Picture City" for the BBC aimed at young audiences. Clash with Tony Palmer. BBC stole the show from him. Appalling ethics. (Further clash with them in later years on "The  Healer".) Returns to Thames and Lloyd Shirley to make children's series "The Tyrant King". First experience of actors. First filmed drama "Suspect" for ABC. Story behind the production. Followed it up with "Rumour". A flashier film set among rat pack journalists. Backlash when it was reviewed. (45'40")

End of Side 3.

"Get Carter": how it was set up and produced. Meeting Michael Klinger. Barry Cross his agent. Klinger gave him the book "Jack's Return Home." North east milieu familiar from his navy days. From novel to completion of film took 32 weeks. Budget £750000. Michael Caine came on board at script stage. Writer/director fee £8000. Recceeing  locations  with Klinger in his Cadillac. Strong part played by N.E. locations in the film. Influenced by experiences from "World in Action". How he chose Wolf Suschitsky to shoot it. A gentle man for a violent film. A very smooth and satisfying film. Michael Caine a true professional. His directing style. Learning all the time. "Get Carter" very successful commercially and critically. Next film "Pulp". Original script this time. Based  on the Montesi scandal.  How the story evolved. Its relationship to "Get Carter". Different shooting style. A happy experience. Mafia prevented it being shot in Italy. Chose Malta instead. Great cast. (45 mins)


End of Side 4.


Audience and critic reactions to "Pulp". Financial differences. Left Klinger. Importance of relationship  with producer,  nursing projects.  Goes to Los Angeles in 1973 and  makes "The

u Terminal Man" from Michael Crichton novel. Studio gave him full creative control. The American way of death. Choice of shooting style without colour and only a piano score.

Influence of Edward Hopper. A very successful film for him. Differences between working with actors and stars. Contrasts in working methods between British and American crews. Joy of working in studio conditions. Uninfluenced by but not constrained by locations. Worked with storyboards for the first time. The story of "Holiday Magic" weekends. Embraced extreme capitalism. The cutting edge of materialism. Contrasts between American and British attitudes to living. Became a script called "Mid-Atlantic". A black comedy. Too subversive for Warner Brothers. Still trying to get it made. (45 mins)


End of Side 5.


Next assignment: "Omen II". Producer Harvey Bernhard neurotic about money. Fascination with Chicago. Problems with people on the production. Leaves the film after two weeks. Returns to UK and meets Dino de Laurentis. Persuaded to direct "Flash Gordon". Art director Danilo Donati. Terrified of the extravagance of it all. Tries to escape. Decided to relax his approach to survive. Organised lunacy. Had to improvise all through. Great enjoyment directing it. How he handled Dino, who took his films totally seriously. (41 mins)


End of Side 6.


More on Dino de Laurentis.  "Blood & Thunder",  a script for Vanessa  Redgrave.  Script on a secret comedienne. ("Say Goodnight Lilian, Goodnight"). Never shot. Echoed by film "Punchline". Missed the protection of a good producer. Divorce. Made "Missing Pieces" in for CBS in U.S. Strict censorship in American TV in those days. Illness interrupted shooting of "Buried Alive". Never paid. Hit rock bottom. Revived by shooting "Squaring the Circle" by Tom Stoppard. Voytek Romain designed. How is was made for Southern Television. Synthetic sea. Holding American contribution at bay. Success in U.K. Fulminates at dreadful music for U.S. version. (45'20")

End of Side 7


Final comments on American version of "Squaring the Circle". US version never shown. Never told of awards it won. Working with Federico Fellini. The Italian way of making films. A family affair. Directing  styles. Making "WGOD" for Home Box Office in the US. A delightful experience. "Morons From Outer Space" with Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones. Difficulties of working with television orientated people. Stuck with it to completion. "Florida Straits" for HBO, shot in Shelby, North Carolina. Brought over British crew. (45'50")

End of Side 8.


Creating Cuba in North Carolina. Pantomime performance on production. Eccentric studio owner: Earl Owensby. Starred in his own films, only shown in the Carolinas. A mad but enjoyable experience. "A Prayer for the Dying", on retired IRA man, shooting in London. Accent problems on production. Editing problems. Libel actions all round. How he developed "Black Rainbow". (46 mins)

End of Side 9.


More on "Black Rainbow". Shot in North Carolina. A joyful experience. Goldcrest very good. The changing face of Charlotte NC. Appalling press release. "Messages in bottles". Launched on film festival circuit. Latest film "Croupier", written by Paul Mayersberg. Overtones of Pirandello. Loss or presence when films shown on TV. Reviews his career. How film making has changed. Lacked a real producer. The changing generations. (39'10")


End of Side 10.


Mike Hodges  0:00  
This is a recording of an interview with Mike Hodges, recorded by Rodney Giesler on the third of March 1998, in Blandford Forum Dorset for the BECTU Oral History Archive, Reel one

Rodney Giesler  0:22  
Right So Mike, can you tell me when you were born and a bit about your family background. 

Mike Hodges  0:26  
Right I was born 1932. And I was born in Bristol. My father worked for W. D. and H. O. Wills the tobacco company. He started there as a young man and ended there as an old man. I mean, he, his whole life was spent with them. And he was a traveller but a commercial traveller. And we moved, so we moved around a bit to begin with, because he used to have his journeys would vary according to wherever he went. And those days because there's commercial travellers were really pivotal actually, because they were the link between the the major corporations and the and the retailers. So we lived in Yeovil, and then we eventually moved to Salisbury, which is really where I spent most of my childhood. My mother was a Roman Catholic, my father wasn't in those days mixed marriages were very frowned upon [by] the Catholic Church. And it meant that also the the female or the either party had to agree that the children were brought up in the Catholic Church. As a result of that, there being no Catholic school in in Salisbury, I was sent to a boarding school in Bath called Prior Park College at the age of seven, and it was the Irish Christian brothers who are pretty renowned bunch of religious thugs. [chuckles]. So it was a curious education really, it was the sort of non education and in some ways. It was pretty rugged stuff. I mean, it was wasn't sort of one of the - certainly better than most of the other Irish Christian brother colleges that you could have gone to if they were in Ireland, they were particularly renowned. And in Australia, eventually, the order was actually banned by the Catholic Church itself, because of all sorts of chicanery, usually sexual. And I escaped from there the age of 15. Having got to matriculation I'm not quite sure how, distinction in mathematics and credit in French which was pretty bizarre. But education was sort of a slightly different process in those days. I had already at this stage, I then went to, to live with my parents in Salsbury. And I had wanted to go to try to get into Royal Academy of Dramatic Art to do the stage management course. But my parents, you know, they just couldn't conceive of me doing anything like that. I mean, I was obsessed by the cinema already forever. 

Rodney Giesler  3:20  
Did you have brothers and sisters?

Mike Hodges  3:21  
No, I was an only child as well. So probably boarding school, in some ways was probably helped me would be, I think, would have been really very lonely for me, actually. I mean, we lived in a semi detached house and sort of cul-de-sac in Salisbury. So I think my childhood would have been very much lonely if I hadn't gone to boarding school.

Mike Hodges  3:48  
 So what much as I sort of reached them align it and still do to a degree, I think probably I was quite lucky in retrospect, to get away. So I, I had suggested to them that I did that. And then they also, for some reason or another, they suggested that I may like going to Dartmouth to join the Navy. My father, needless to say, had always wanted to be a professional if you lived in a small provincial town, the professional people, the lawyers and the dentists and the Chartered Accountants and the estate agents and they were always the people who are respected. And I think my father whilst he was respected always felt that I probably should get a profession. So as I got this distinction in mathematics, they sort of decided that I should become articled to a chartered accountant and that's what I did at 15 which is extraordinary looking back so I was articled to a firm in Salisbury called Fawcett, Brown and Pinniger and I did: in those days there wasn't a unit, wasn't a degree course in Chartered Accountancy you did. You were articled pupil and you took your, you did a correspondence course. So I did. And it's extremely hard because you were doing a day's work. And then you have this complicated, and they were hard exams they have always been hard, and quite rightly. So I did five years of accountancy working, not liking it at all. I got 10 shillings [50 pence] a week. And you've got your two weeks holiday. But I've always said to my parents, well, I'll do it. But then when I've completed it, I will, I'm going to do what I like, I don't think [they] ever believed me. So I did. I passed my Intermediate the first time, the final proved more difficult as it often was. And I went on a crammer course in London. And eventually I got, I think on the second take. So I now was qualified, about 21 or 22. And now I had to do National Service because it's been deferred. And those days it was the fag end, although it was just coming to an end although it hadn't officially at that point come to an end.

Mike Hodges  6:06  
 So miraculously, I got into the Navy, I've no idea how because I was you're meant to be RNVR, which is, which was voluntary that was the voluntary service you did, you're meant to have done two or three years of that before you got into the Navy but somehow [by] some freak I applied to the Navy and got in. To my parents horror, I turned down a commission I could have got a commission as a chartered accountant, but that meant that I was likely to be stuck in a barracks or whatever and I and I didn't want to proceed with accountancy anyway. So I went on the lower deck, which was the most important thing I ever did probably in my life because it was a complete revelation to me, I was on a minesweeper, two minesweepers, Coquette and Wave, Fishery Protection. So this will be now about so [counts] 21 - [19]53, 54, something like that; the Icelandic fish wars were just coming to an end. So I spent two extraordinary years. Once I got the hang of it, I mean, it was I didn't think I was gonna survive to begin with because the 10 week basic training was absolutely grim. And joining a ship was you know, as a national serviceman when there were only two of us on the on this Minesweeper was pretty hair raising to begin with, you got all the really horrendous jobs like you know, in the bowels, he was sort of cleaning doing the rust and the red paint and all the rest of the horrors down there. But gradually, you were able to assert your sort of personality and and by the end of it, it was started sort of, there's like a cruise actually I sort of became, you know, the disc jockey and the, you know, the caterer and running the mess and various other things. So you were able to assert yourself and find your own personality how to survive, basically, it was, but I did witness the most not only from the men who I was, you know, who were in for 7, 14, 21 years, a lot of them and they were fairly extraordinary group. At every level, I mean, their sexual activities, their, their drinking, they were and they had the Navy always had his own language. It was almost like James Joyce actually looking back, it was sort of extraordinary sort of life that you led bouncing around on this - it was only a crew of 90, and because it was Fishery Protection, we went to Iceland, while you witness storms, the likes of which you just dream of you didn't dream that anything could be as bad you're when your ships going astern for 24 hours or 48 hours and you just can't make any headway. You recognise that you know how extraordinary seas are,  seas can be something incidentally you can never really catch on film. I don't - now you can catch it probably better than it used to be able to as always very difficult to to to portray I always thought on film. But the seas were massive. I mean that you would witness often off Iceland. But then in addition to that, we went into all of sort of port: Hull, Grimsby, Felixstowe Mull, I mean, every single port we were we would go into where  fishing, where the fishermen were. And we had a kind of love hate relationship with the fishermen themselves who were - if I thought  we were tough. I mean, they were like we weren't even, we're pansies by the side of these guys and they were, it just seemed like hell to me, their lives. But of course they were because we were measuring their net are regarded on one hand as  sort of being interfering nannies. But on the other hand, we were often saving their lives and often saving their ships and their catch and all sorts of things.

Mike Hodges  9:50  
So I really went through this extraordinary two years and 

Rodney Giesler  9:56  
You were an Able Seaman?

Mike Hodges  9:57  
I was an  Able Seaman by the time I left I was an Able Seaman. I   was an ordinary seaman  to start with,actually, 

Rodney Giesler  10:01  
You couldn't make a killing [?]

Mike Hodges  10:02  
Well  you couldn't make killock[?] in the national service actually. But I, so, so it was a revelation for me. I mean, it just transformed my life. And I think it also certainly changed my political views. I mean, the, the difference between the wardroom but if you want to see a class difference, you just go on a ship, I mean, the ship was just a complete revelation to me, between the wardroom and the lower deck and with the petty officers and the buffers in between, um, you had it absolutely there. And of course, I became pretty radical. Socialist as a result of this, that was pretty a lot of things happen that used to make me very angry, the way that we were treated and the lack of information and various other things. I have to say that the captain that we were with for the two years was whilst he was extremely difficult, disciplinarian was a brilliant sailor. So you were grateful that you had a captain who really could handle a ship and the situations, often we would go alongside because in Iceland, for example, we were never welcome. And you throw your line when you came alongside and they throw it back at you know, so you'd have to jump onto,  the skipper would have to bring the ship along. So it was a big, big enough ship, it's an oceangoing minesweeper, and you'd have to jump and do your own tying up. So, and of course, in the seas and the conditions on which we're working. One was always grateful that he was a brilliant, brilliant sailor. And you felt safe with him. Although at other levels, you also hated his guts for that was par for the course. However, all of this really was it was like it was a complete education for me. I mean, and when I came out, I sort of missed miss them, actually. And I think I'd always somehow felt that I probably would live on a boat. I mean, I really just enjoyed the whole experience. But I, I came in it's came out. And as usual, it's sort of, you know, your life changed. And you and each, I just never did that. So I decided that I - So commercial television, by the time I got out the Navy just begun. And Associated Rediffusion was renowned in those days being run as a naval ship. I've never the remember Commander, I forgot what his name was. [Captain Thomas Brownrigg RN] But there was literally there were all ex naval officers running the station. So I assumed [laughs] I get a job there. No problem. I just write and say I've just come out of the Navy. And I expect, you know, hopefully you can employ me in some way. Well of course I couldn't get a job anywhere in television - Associated-. I mean commercial 

Rodney Giesler  12:47  
Just going back. 

Mike Hodges  12:48  
Sorry. Yes, sure.

Rodney Giesler  12:48  
You almost started to tell me and I think I probably interrupted you that you had an early interest in the cinema and wanted to do that

Mike Hodges  12:54  
Oh Yes. Right, sorry.

Rodney Giesler  12:54  
So tell me a bit about that. 

Rodney Giesler  12:57  
 Why did you aim for television as soon as you came out of the Navy?

Mike Hodges  13:02  
Because that's I mean, I will. It was odd. I mean, first of all, the whole time that I was living in Salisbury, there were three cinemas there in those days, the ABC, the Regal and the Gaumont. And it was during a period, when you had some really amazing British films being made. There's Powell and Pressburger - there's another interesting thing you've just reminded me actually, and I would go, you know, two, three times a week to the cinema, my parents, and there was Sunday's, there were films as well. My parents disapproved the cinema. And they- we didn't have television, of course, in those days. So I would have to be rather secretive about the way that I would get to the cinema, also going back at proper college, there was in the winter and the, and the, autumn months, there were one film every fortnight, which was also kind of absolutely magical experience. The first one I ever saw was, was "Top Hat" with Fred Astaire and, and of course, there were a lot of war films, a lot of good films for young men in those days for us all to go and see, and they were terribly they were, I mean, it's so you became very enamoured of the cinema. And it seems so magical. Other interesting thing is that that Powell and Pressburger came to film at Prior Park and they you know, I had no knowledge of film at all. And they came to film the various scenes with Margaret Leighton and David Niven in The Return of the Scarlet Pimpernel [DS: "The Elusive Pimpernel"]. So I didn't even know who they were even, so I, I cut some classes and got into terrible trouble because I wanted to watch what was going on; school, by the way, Prior Park was an amazing Ralph Allen. You know, it was [an] amazing building. What went on in it was not so great, but-

Rodney Giesler  14:51  
It's not the place The National Trust have got now is it?

Mike Hodges  14:54  
It may well be -  out on the outskirts of Bath up on the hill. They may well do,  its had, it was burned. That's, that's right. That's it. Yeah. So that was it. So and it was a wonderful place in many ways. But it was curious because you had, you know, Pope Alexander Pope lived and it was Pope's Grotto and there was the Palladian bridge. And it was a beautiful looking place. And it was so odd to have the Irish Christian Brothers in their who were, who pretty crude, really, they weren't the elite, they weren't the Jesuits, these are pretty you know, you the intellectual standards of the of the Irish Christian Brothers was pretty low, really. Anyway, so I had all of this, you know, but the chances of my ever getting into the cinema were as you can imagine, I mean, extremely remote. I mean, I mean, just out of the question, really, I've done during the Chartered Accountant period, I've done amateur dramatics and various things like that. So when I came out, I went to London, and I used to live off expenses for applying for jobs. So I'd apply for a charter, a job as a chartered accountant and claim the expenses. So I get the train fare and all the rest of it. And that's how I lived in London for the comparatively short period. And I met a man called Alex, Alec McKenzie, whose father [W.A. McKenzie] was the Daily Telegraph motoring correspondent at the time, who, that's right. And his son was a floor manager at Rediffusion. And, by this time -  all the commercial companies that overstaffed to begin with, and they were now shedding staff. So it was even worse and I'd applied to the BBC to get a job as a trainee cameraman and failed that. I mean, I, you know, they'd ask if you're a member of a camera club, or I mean, it was bizarre trying to get into television in those days. And he told me about teleprompter, which was this American device owned by an American or the franchise was owned by an American and it was being run in Britain. And of course, with the advent of commercial television and live television it was in those days, it was the only electronic cueing device that was in existence here. And it was owned by a number- you'll laugh when you hear, who's Alan, er? [struggles to recall name]

Mike Hodges  17:22  
No, I have to give that to miss for a minute. And I'll tell you, so anyway, I got this job. Alan Dell was the managing director, the disc jockey, right, ran it. And who's the guy who owned it? He was an infamous film producer, whose name escapes me, 

Rodney Giesler  17:41  
Harry Alan Towers. 

Mike Hodges  17:42  
Harry Alan Towers. Gosh, you're good. Thank God for that. I'm grateful to you - 

Rodney Giesler  17:47  
When you said infamous-

Mike Hodges  17:49  
It had to be didn't it? So Harry Alan Towers, who crossed my life several times and owned it, but he didn't run it. Needless to say. So I, I went to see my friends, the McKenzie had told me to go and see teleprompter, you may get a job there. So I went there and there was no vacancy at the time. But the one came up about six months later, so I managed to get this job. Which was pretty menial. You did - I mean, there was, you did, you got 10 pounds a week. And the advantage was that you work with every single company there was I mean, we're Granada you work with the BBC, you work with ATV you worked with ABC you worked, you know, so you were going around all over the place. And whilst the cameraman loathed you because they had to lift their heavy cameras as they were in those days, and put this plate down and put the prompter on and all the rest of it. It was an immense the immense experience one the fit, you know, how fearful it is to go into a studio and you see them at the beginning with I think, like going into cathedral and you're you know, you've got to operate in vast and daunting places. So all of those fears dropped away. And in addition to which you were able to observe so much that was going on that you learnt, it was an amazing learning curve for me. Absolutely extraordinary. And you met a lot of [people] - because the artists often depended on you. So you they were in front of the camera. Mm hmm. The artists loved you they were because they were relying on their words, you know, being correctly at the correct speed moving through the things - 

Rodney Giesler  19:36  
I was going to say was that your job scrolling it at the right -[speed]? 

Mike Hodges  19:39  
That's absolutely. Well, you had to load the machine, you operated on your own which was always a bit traumatic because the machinery is very old. It was discarded  American equipment. And if certain things happened, the the prompter would take off on its own. They've just speed away if they touch one of these really fragile joints, so Uh, so and you're on your own, and it was live television. So I used to do things like" Billy Cotton Band Show", for example, you had three prompters and all the, you know, Alan Breeze and all that lot were all pretty old gits and if the word suddenly took off [laughing] like a ski, like surfing through the, they would absolutely be frozen. I mean, it was truly extraordinary to watch. One of those things was touched, and you're on your own. And then you had to get it all back together again, while they're ad-libbing all over the place. 

Rodney Giesler  20:30  
And you had a speed control knob of that you could twist. 

Mike Hodges  20:32  
That's your rheostat.

Rodney Giesler  20:34  
And the text was actually put on transparent film was it?

Mike Hodges  20:36  
No, it was put onto paper, massive, but a big massive typewriter, which we didn't type actually. But it was typed in the office, we go out with a script, and then it was loaded onto a prompter and there were various prompters, though these would be - those prompters would be below the camera. But you could fit one with a mirror, which would then be reflected, which is you see it often on nowadays, there's another company called Autocue, which was just starting out, which was in competition with it. But Teleprompter had had the running for quite a bit of the time when I first started. So these these people were, the artists, were very reliant and they became more and more reliant on them.

Rodney Giesler  21:22  
Do you remember any particular incidents of cockups or triumphs ?

Mike Hodges  21:26  
Well, there were all sorts of incidents and it was permanently hysterical. I mean, I did one with who were the two in Around the Horn and there was Kenneth Horn, and there was Stinker Murdoch. It was Murdoch. That's right. [I think this is misremembered: Murdoch was never in "Round the Horne" or "Beyond our Ken". Most likely Mike is referring to Kenneth Williams. DS] And they were doing they were doing a stand up act, right where they were talking to each other like you and I are now one prompter to would be over your shoulder and the other one will be over my shoulder. So they had these reversed, well, we're doing this live and it looks like they're talking to each other, they are reading the prompter well one prompter broke down [laughing] so they both had to face, face away from each other. So they're standing side by side reading the prompter off to the left or right or whichever it was. And it was constantly like that. And I went to- 

Rodney Giesler  22:13  
Like old live television. 

Mike Hodges  22:14  
Oh live television I mean, just absolutely unbelievable stuff used to go on. While you'll remember I'm sure. I mean it was comedic, they added wonderful charm to the thing, the accidents and the things that would go wrong, you know. So there was another memorable occasion when I went to Granada Television and I was on, sort of lent to them for a week because there they had their own equipment, their own prompter operator. And I arrived there on a Monday afternoon, and they would do so would be Granada and they would feed programmes into North Wales. Late at, Late at nights, basically, I think it was one every night or whatever. Anyway, I arrived on the Monday and they said, here's the scripts, and I looked and it was in Welsh. And the up in Newcastle , er, up in Manchester, you the operator type their own scripts, I sat there typing this Welsh script. I mean, it was 20 minutes of tight dialogue, one person talking to camera. I mean, there was no way that I could type it freely, because I just had to have one finger on it. And one on the typewriter, which was very heavy, you can imagine the letters about, you know, 20 times the size of a normal one. So I would and I had no idea what I was saying, um, it taught me hours to type this 20 minute thing is how the normal guy does it, I have no idea how he managed to do it.

Rodney Giesler  23:40  
Probably Welsh speaking.

Mike Hodges  23:42  
Anyway, so I do this, they keep coming in like six o'clock, seven, how you doing? Page three out of 20 pages. And so anyway, about 20 minutes, the programme has about 20 past ten, because television sort of stopped at 11 o'clock in those days. So I got about 20 past 10 the floor managers coming in saying we were really getting crazy. And so I rushed out. And I loaded the script now up to the point of having finished it right. I mean, going on over guy counts 30 seconds. And I suddenly said, "How am I going to understand what he's saying?" So I said to the man, who's going to speak all of this stuff. So I said, "tell me how am I going to know.?" So he said, "just watch my hand under the desk I do that or that." So it was constantly to do with the sort of mad situation so you were doing all that - [presumably gestures] 

Rodney Giesler  24:27  
Speed signals. 

Mike Hodges  24:27  
Speed signalling. And so I had no idea to this day what on earth he was talking about no idea at all. So there was that. 

Mike Hodges  21:42  
And then there were all sorts of there was a live commercial I remember for the Sunday Dispatch, which we did it from Hackney Empire, which was owned by Lew Grade and it was converted into a TV studio in those days because when ATV was set up, they took over all the old Delfont theatres and use all of all of them, now Hackney being one of them. So we're there and it's I think that it was three o'clock on a Saturday afternoon, it was a commercial for Sunday Dispatch live, because it meant that they could put in the, whatever the the contents of the Sunday Dispatch was going to be the following morning. So you've got the shedule, like, eight hour shedule for the day, and there's this one minute commercial being popped into it. So I'm standing there, and we've rehearsed and everything. And I said, the floor manager, I want to have a pee. So he said, "Fine, we're not going on for 10 minutes. So I went off and had a pee. When I came back. They- he'd misread his watch, or something had happened. Anyway, they got the cue to do the commercial, right. He picked up my, my control panel, and turned it the wrong way, the paper went straight off. And the artist is left so they go on air. He's got no prompts. He wings it all the way through wonderfully so that the one thing he didn't mention was Sunday Dispatch. He did everything word perfect but never ever mentioned the Sunday Dispatch. And I came back to having a fucked up studio and absolute uproar. So it was constantly filled with these sort of these insane scenes, but the Billy Cotton Bandshow was, was extraordinary the things you have to do there. And I mean, climbing between chorus girl's legs to get to the prompter. And you know, I was just constantly like that, and the equipment was so big and Harry Allan Towers was never going to spend any money on coming in, getting new equipment or anything like that he was just doing extremely well out of what he had. So, but what was great about it was one the experience that I you know, that I learnt, but that I had of all manner of programming. And you also realise during this period that you could do it yourself, you can probably direct you know, you've there were a lot of people who were not terribly good as indeed there are now probably, you thought well I can do better than that often. So the other advantage was that you would do you do seven days on and then you would have four days off. So I started after doing it for about six months, 10 months, something like that to use my four days off for writing. So I had been travelling up to Manchester and because you would often travel with the executives or people you're working with. And Sydney Newman was in the carriage and he was talking and he used to run Armchair Theatre in those days again, it was another live television, live drama. And he said he was looking for a programme on euthanasia. So I my ears perked up and I thought, right, I shall write one. So I wrote Some will cry Murder, which is a play. So I wrote it and sent it to him. And it took ages for them to make their minds up. And they decided eventually not to do it. But a lot of other people had read it. So it meant that I could then get other writing commissions so I've managed to get - and another person that I met. And that was a man called Lloyd Shirley who eventually moved on to television drama himself. But in those days, we had they have this absolutely bizarre item in television in their schedules in those days called advertising magazines. They were hysterically funny actually is one very famous one in London called "Jim's Inn", which was a pub where Jimmy Hanley would be behind the bar. And they would introduce all these products in the most often comedic way - it wasn't meant to be comedic because they you know, the people who were selling the advertising, never really we just wanted to sell it they had to then work it into the scripts you see. So Lloyd Shirley he was in charge of this for ABC and each company Rediffusion was Jimmy Hanley and "Jim's Inn"...Each company had their own advertising magazines, and they were eventually banned. Um, they were just they're in breach really of the original charter, I think but they've somehow they've been allowed. I don't quite know why because I mean, something which I think is very sad that's happened under the Tory government was in fact this bridge, this chasm between advertisers and product had always been kept. They'd never- the charter had always been unlike in America, that the advertisers should never have any kind of power or control over the content of the programming, which is gone. I mean, it was sponsorship it just that was the end of it. So but in those days it was guarded. Absolutely. So these were the one exception I don't know eventually they were banned. Anyway, I [was] grateful because Lloyd was running this depart And I've met him on the train journeys to Manchester, and doing other programmes. And he also started offering me scripts to do so that I used to get 25 quid for writing these advertising magazines, which were done in Manchester or Birmingham, which is some of the, where the ABC Studios were. And that gave me an income. So it meant eventually, after two years, I could say, au revoir to teleprompter and move on.

Rodney Giesler  30:29  
The day job was still teleprompting.

Mike Hodges  30:34  
 It was to begin with. But then when I could do that I could get a couple of these or one a week, I mean, from 10 quid a week to 25 a throw for a script. I mean, it was just a big, was a big leap, actually, in those days. And if you've got two a week that was 50, so you're five times better off which meant that I could give up being a teleprompter, all the teleprompting, and move on to being a writer, albeit of advertising magazines. But again, you did those at home, you went up for the production. They were terribly simple things to do. And it gave you free time to write other other things. And eventually, again, it was a sort of another kind of experience because you became involved in the production itself, even though... and Lloyd Shirley of course, played a major role in my life ultimately, because he then went on within ABC to take over the documentary and, and features department and then eventually he moved on to, to drama. And because he was a Canadian, he was very experienced. He'd been an actor. He was a very intelligent man. He's very unsung person in television, in my opinion, because I think he'd done some extraordinarily things. So he eventually, left advertising magazines, and was offered the features department and there was a curious another curious, particularly curious, not a curious programme, and this is called "Sunday Break". In those days, we had what was known as the God slot, there was a I think it was an hour and a half period where programmers had to put religious programmes in. And there was one which was, as I said, called "Sunday Break", which was for young people. And they also had a religious advisor, which is a wonderful man called Penry Jones. And they chose agnostics, actually, to be the editor, which was pretty brave actually. So it meant that the programming was not sanctimonious. It was, it was lively and questioning. And as an agnostic, I was chosen to be the editor of this programme. When I took it on, they they used to have sort of skiffle groups and sort of things that to appeal to younger people and I decided to change the sort of the style of the programme completely. So I took the music out. And really, we did these kind of -  I did it for about two years. And they were they, were they were extraordinary sort of programmes, in some ways. They were explorations. I mean, they'd be very curious to look at now, late 50s, early 60s. Explorations and all, all, sorts of different subjects, gambling, alcoholism, they were much more mature than the earlier "Sunday Breaks". And I think probably looking back, they went to an older audience, and probably they were 

Rodney Giesler  33:46  
Were those the ones presented by Barry  Westwood? 

Mike Hodges  33:49  
Barry  Westwood. That's correct. Absolutely. So you remember. And they were kind of they were all right. Actually, I thought they were variable needless to say, and so- but we did have a period where we would do open ended programmes for example, I did, we did a whole series of four on love sex and marriage where I'd have a group of young people in the panel and they would just spill over and then we would involve listeners' letters and so many, and during this period when we started and was responsible for really quite a lot of people getting a leg up: young people like Polly Toynbee at the time, Gus McDonald started on it, Joan Bakewell. Richard Lindley who was really struggling- 

Rodney Giesler  34:35  
As interviewers 

Mike Hodges  34:36  
And as fronting people who fronted the programme because Barry didn't always do it. And I started here and I think he left towards the latter part of the programme. I don't know what's ever happened to him. And so I did this for for a couple of years actually. During this period sorry - [pause]. During this period, then I'd been sharing a flat with a cameraman from ATV it was in Fitzjohn's Avenue. The rent was I mean, it was four bedrooms, 25 quid a week. Production Designer at ATV an advertising executive, all of us, you know, I suppose [aged] 25,26, 27. And we had one other room, which we want to let because it was a box room and it's pretty dark. And we advertised for a fifth person, this very strange Australian gentleman applied and he was given the room and he didn't have two pennies to rub together. I mean, literally, it was always difficult to get the rent out of this gentleman at first. And he ran a small agency which is filled with strange, strange people, strange [laughs] artists, often a lot of them were in advertising, magazines I seem to remember. Anyway, so his name was Robert Stigwood. And Stigwood, as you may or may not know, then became the managing creator of the Bee Gees. And I mean, his money just went through the roof eventually. So we - the flat - split up and his life had changed and, and we're now in the middle of the Profumo crisis. So it's just coming to an end. And I got a phone call from Stigwood saying, his press man, because now Stigwood was already on his way as a big time agent, manager, entrepreneur. And would I go and see him, so I went to see him he said he wanted to do a documentary. On - who's the the chiropractor who committed suicide? 

Rodney Giesler  37:07  
Stephen Ward. 

Mike Hodges  37:09  
A documentary on Stephen Ward, because his public relations man who was part of his, now part of his corporation, had known Ward and had an inside track on everything that been going on. And he put me together with a director who was very successful at the time called Jimmy Hill, James Hill, who, who done a lot of documentaries and a lot of features. He did the ones with Virginia McKenna, you know, "Born Free". And Jimmy did "The Kitchen" after anyway. So Jimmy and I were put together to do this documentary on on Stephen Ward. And the more we worked on it, the more we realised that, in fact, we couldn't do it because it was too soon, was much too close to the period of it happening. I mean Ward had only just committed suicide. And there was nothing that we could say or do or you know, it just didn't feel right. So we both went Stigwood and said, "Look, this is not a feasible thing to do there just isn't enough of the inside information. And we haven't got we can't look at it, we can't get it in perspective it's much too soon yeah." 

Mike Hodges  38:22  
So Jimmy, and I now become friends. So he said, "Is there anything else you want to do?" So I said, "Well, I've got this obsession with, with funeral directors and the business of death. That from being probably a lapsed Roman Catholic but also Jessica Mitford book had just come out, called the American Way of Death. And I always find them rather humorous, funeral directors, right? Because I didn't know quite what it was. He said, "I'm absolutely the same." He said, "I'm absolutely" so he said, "I'll tell you what, I'll go to Tim Hewat," who ran World In  Action, "and see if they're interested in doing a {"World In  Action" called "The English Way of Death," right. And they've, you know, periodically, I think at the time that was probably one of the first, periodically, they're always doing documentaries on the way, funeral directors ripped, everybody, ripped everybody off. And they ... you still hear them. Like every four or five years, somebody decides in the media that they feel - the current one is the Americans are taking over, which is perfectly true. And they've sort of big combines of [?] are sort of moving into the country and so on. But in those days, it was not quite like that. However, there was already this sort of shift. I suppose going back actually it was to do with Evelyn Waugh actually, that I'd find it so that I'd read The Loved One. And I just thought it was an extraordinary book, and albeit it was about animal funerals. The whole business of of making a business out of dying, it's always - and the sort of the kind of funeral presents that they want to give themselves and their sort of pretensions in the way that they deal with death hass always amused me, I always find it sort of rather comedic actually as much as anything. So Jimmy had done two, three, documentaries with Tim Hewat on Cuba, I think it was called "Cuba Si!" they were extraordinary. They were really amazing at the time. So Jimmy went to Tim and said, "Mike Hodges and I," he didn't know who the hell I was, "want to do a film on the British way of death, you see." To sort of coincide with the with Jessica Mitford book which is causing a big stir at the time because she had been, she was a communist, and she lived in America. And of course, the whole of the Mitford connection with the fascism and the rest of it. But in America, this caused a big stir, and of course, that just sort of rubbed off over here. 

Mike Hodges  40:52  
So Tim said "yes", so we did this "World In  Action". My first "World In  Action", which I wrote and Jimmy directed. So not only did I learn a lot from working with him about directing. And I also incidentally, during the" Sunday Break" period, I'd directed quite a lot of street interviews and various inserts. So I vaguely knew my way around the cameras and the extent that they-

Rodney Giesler  41:16  

Mike Hodges  41:16  
Yes, they were they were terribly primitive sort of stuff, you know, how you started. And so I learned a lot from working with Jimmy on this one. And as a result, Hewat then said, "Would you like to join?" Well "World in Action" was my dream. I mean, just in those days, it was [an] absolutely extraordinary programme and they never told you what the subject matter was. So you tune in I think it was a Monday night, still is. And you never knew what you're going to see every week. Your we were blown away. I mean, they were absolutely extraordinary, because, and everything in that field, current affairs was very staid. In those days, you have "Panorama" with Richard Dimbleby. And you had, I think "This Week" was operating in there as well, and those, but they were very bad beside the "World In  Action" they were terribly ponderous and Tim of course being an old tabloid editor, he worked with Beaverbrook and, and being an Australian, all the rest of it, would sort of blast his way through all of that, and I'd always and they always seemed so radical, the programmes, you know, they were they were really going for it when I met. So I, being a sort of socialist myself, I'd always thought this is this is my programme, you know. But I met Tim because he was a real reactionary, extraordinary sort of rough Australian, wouldn't send any kind of liberal nonsense at all. But although the programmes were in fact, so I went to see Tim, and I said, "[You're] kidding, yes I'd love to join "World In Action". By this time I was married, and I had one son. I'd married an actress called Jean Alexandra. And we had one son, Ben, and another one's under way, and I resigned from "Sunday Break", and was now waiting to be confirmed on "World in Action". And Tim  decided to stand down from from being the editor because he was going to start another big series with [?] which he did eventually, but took a couple of years to set up. And a man called Derek Grainger had taken over, but Derek was a completely different bag of tricks to

Mike Hodges  43:38  
Tim Hewat. And Derek was very effete. And, you know, he had been the theatre critic in the Financial Times. He's very, very English. And he, he was he was, and he'd been very successful within Granada. Granada was very, like a family actually, it was really, you know, the proprietors were Jewish. And it was sort of it was actually you could be working for Fortnum and Mason's. I mean, they were very protective about their employees. I loved working for them, I found them extraordinary. And of course, they they were socialists, it's nice to be a socialist millionaire socialist slightly incongruous to be to be a socialist millionaire. So it's certainly nice to be a socialist millionaire. Alright, so they were, and I became very fond as Sidney Bernstein in particular anyway, so Grainger then said he sort of found my name on the list and said Would I go and see him and I'd now resigned my, from from my- I had no income at all when I went to see Derek and I Derek, so we talked about everything..., Whatever he didn't know what I was there for. He thought I didn't, he thought I was a researcher Derek is deliciously and delightfully vague. I mean, so we talked about everything. I mean, except World in Action except you know, I mean, he didn't last in the job because for, for, very long he only lasted about six months because he - it's not his kind of metier, wasn't his kind of - decision making was not one of his major fortes. And he kind of must, you have to make decisions as you well know. Immediately, you know, you're gotta go with your instinct boff and that's it , but his other talents were basically I mean he'd done "Country Matters" wonderful dramas, and he went on to do "Brideshead"? Did he do?

Rodney Giesler  45:26  

Mike Hodges  45:26  
 I think Derek did do Brideshead. Yeah. So he, I mean, Derek, that's much more his his field. Anyway so I went to see Derek and at the end of the interview, which wasn't an interview at all, he said, well he came out, he said, I've never had anyone else said to me, "we'll ring you, don't you ring us" [laughs]. So I went home, I said, to Jean "This is a disaster." So I got hold of Hewat. And I said, "Look, I don't think Derek knows, that I meant to be working on " World in Action". Tim obviously, then ran Derek and I was then employed as a writer-director on " World In  Action", where you got the princely sum of 60 pounds a week. So this was the beginning of another extraordinary period of my life, because I then had two amazing years on, on "World in Action". Ironically, the first programme that I did, I went back to see because I sailed on a boat called the Mi Amigo, which was the second pirate radio pirate ship to move into place. And the experience was amazing because as the director-producer, you would go, you would deal with subject yourself, you'd have a researcher who prepare you before you started. And then you go and you do everything I mean, you do all the financing, you write the scripts, you contact, make all the contacts virtually, if you're on a foreign location or anything like that, so it became an extraordinary sort of experience in terms of the all encompassing role that you you had to fulfil my accountancy training course came into it's own. It's always been quite useful in the film industry actually, in a sense, the knowing what the costs involved are and how you will bring something in on budget which is part I sent to me part of your responsibility as director.


Mike Hodges  was an English screenwriter, film and tv  director, playwright and novelist. His films as writer/director include Get Carter(1971), Pulp(1972),  The Terminal Man(1974),  and Black Rainbow(1989); as director, his films include Flash Gordon 1980), A Prayer for the Dying (1987), Croupier (1998) and I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead (2003).

He  worked in television in the 1960s, producing and directing hard-hitting tv documentaries for World in Action  Grenada TV,  then making profiles of European directors for the arts series Tempo  on ITV.

Mike  wrote and directed two television thrillers, Suspect (ITV, tx. 17/11/1969) and Rumour (ITV, 2/3/1970)

His theatre plays include Soft Shoe Shuffle (1985) and Shooting Stars and Other Heavenly Pursuits (2000), which was adapted for BBC radio. Other radio plays include King Trash (2004). His first novel, Watching The Wheels Come Off, was published first in French by Rivagse/Noir (Quand Tout Se Fait La Malle) in 2009 then in English in 2010. In 2018 his trio of novellas ('Bait', 'Grist' & 'Security') was published by Unbound. A pdf copy of  Mike Hodges filmography/cv complied by Rodney Giesler is below.

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