Mark Gatiss: ‘I’d be the first naturist Doctor. That would scare away the Daleks’

11 months ago 72

You have taken on the roles of Bamber Gascoigne, Malcolm McLaren, Peter Mandelson and Larry Grayson. How do you deliver believable portrayals of such well-known figures? VerulamiumParkRanger

I’ll start with the voice. Some are easier than others. I’ve just finished at the National Theatre, playing Sir John Gielgud, who sits very well in my voice. Larry Grayson was quite difficult. He’s deeper and rustier than you’d expect. The key to Malcolm McLaren was realising that he sounds like Larry the Lamb, strange and croaky. Mandelson has this underbite, which changes the shape of your face. The way he speaks is deliberate and laborious. Bamber Gascoigne is all about the glasses. I try to get glasses into any part. They’re very useful props. I just did [the Netflix sci-fi series] 3 Body Problem with Reece Shearsmith. When I got there, he was wearing glasses. I said: “You bastard, you’ve got the glasses.”

You’re a noted Bond fan. Why haven’t you had a role yet? Even just as Smithers in the back of Q’s lab smashing a dummy’s head apart with a fake plastercast? Mikebhoy

You tell me. It’s a disgrace. Obviously everyone wants to be a Bond villain. I was excited when they brought Blofeld back. I favour my Bonds outre, with one foot in reality, which is why From Russia with Love and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service are my favourites. They’re bigger than life, but not too cartoony or grim. We live in such grim times, I think we all could do with a bit more Roger Moore, don’t you?

 Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One premiere in London.
Mark Gatiss and Tom Cruise and the Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One premiere in London. Photograph: Anthony Harvey/Shutterstock

I’m in Mission: Impossible, the other biggest franchise in the world, so I’ve got nothing to complain about. Tom Cruise is there every day, so you get quite used it to. Every now and then, you glance around and think: “Fucking hell, it’s Tom Cruise.” It’s amazing to be part of such a vast machine. Rather nicely, I was approached to play the head of the National Security Agency. So, take note, James Bond producers.

What are your predictions for the horror of the future? Would you like to write and direct a full-length feature horror? I can only imagine it would be terrifyingly amazing! BarbeloLVX and writeronthestorm

It’s funny, I never get offered horror films. Never. I don’t know whether people assume I only want to do my own things, but every time some lovely folk horror comes up set in a Danish fishing village, nobody asks me.

I wrote a horror film in lockdown, which I’d love like to direct, but the scariest thing about horror is trying to get the funding. It’s extremely British, a wet Wednesday Britain, which may not have international appeal, so I might just have to sit on it for a while. The exciting thing about horror is that it moves around the world like a virus. When it feels as if it has worn itself out, it will pop up in Korea or somewhere with a fresh and exciting new approach.

How much is your interest and use of Edwardian weird fiction in your scriptwriting an attempt to explain history repeating itself in contemporary society? bongiben

HG Wells invented great swathes of science fiction: the time machine, alien invasion. Nigel Kneale, my other great hero, had a similarly prophetic vision, peeking around corners at what might happen. It’s speculative fiction but the broad strokes are staggeringly accurate. It’s interesting to look back at old sci-fi and fantastic fiction to see if what they were wrestling with remains relevant. The possibilities of technology throw up an awful lot of new terrors that are exciting to play with, because you look at the dark underside. Like the internet, information has never been more accessible, but people have never been more stupid. That’s the title of my autobiography!

Given the opportunity, would you like to become one of the Doctors? Localgatiss

Of course I would! I think that ship may have sailed. I can’t tell you how excited I am about shooting [new Doctor, Ncuti] Gatwa. Apart from the fact that he is clearly one of the sexiest, most talented men on earth, he can wear anything. He posted on Instagram how much he admires Jon Pertwee’s dress sense, and I was so thrilled. Pertwee was my doctor and I adored him. If I was the Doctor, I’d wear nothing. A radical new approach. I’d be the first naturist Doctor and that would scare away the Daleks.

Why have you been more interested in turning Sherlock, Dracula, etc into miniseries rather than films? TopTramp

People think you can just wave a wand. It’s incredibly difficult to get people interested and get films made. I remember talking to Edgar Wright about Ant-Man, into which he put eight years of his life and then didn’t make. Eight years is not short of a decade. Add a few of those up, you’re dead and you’ve made four films. But, also, we were genuinely interested in making them for TV because we love TV. We would love to make a Sherlock movie. It’s the natural thing to do.

I saw The Unfriend at the theatre in Chichester. What is it like to direct longtime colleagues such as Reece Shearsmith? Stubob

It was delightful. It’s not without its challenges, because you cross a line in terms of your working relationship. We’ve worked in such close collaboration over the years, but there’s a difference when you have the demarcation of being the director. I’m now directing The Way Old Friends Do, the play by my partner [his husband, Ian Hallard] about two old school friends who meet up after 20 years and decide to form the world’s first drag Abba tribute band. It’s a very funny, very touching and full of joy.

Deep down, how do you feel about the success of Inside No 9? arcaneenchanter

Gatiss photographed in 2010.
Gatiss photographed in 2010. Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian

I remember Michael Palin, famously the nicest man in show business, said that, whenever a friend had success, a little part of him died. I’ve never felt like that. I’m thrilled, because it’s utterly brilliant. I’m lost in admiration for Steve [Pemberton] and Reece [Shearsmith]. They’re on to the ninth and final series. Steve said to me: “I wish we called it Inside No 5. We would have finished by now.” The range of invention is staggering. I was thrilled to be in it. I’m in the one about a college reunion. We had a great time. We just fell straight back into it, as if we’d never been apart. The four of us, [writer] Jeremy [Dyson] as well, certainly have no League of Gentleman plans. But as to working together again? Never say never.

Paul McCartney say he enjoys Homes Under the Hammer. What’s your guilty pleasure? herrdobler

Naked Attraction. I hate myself for it. I think it’s not only the end of television but probably the end of the world. I’ve been doing the play at the National Theatre for three months and I would come home about 12.30am, totally unable to sleep, and have become totally hooked. It’s disgraceful. My two great takeaways are: a lot of people have awful tattoos nowadays and pubic hair has gone away. Channel 4 could have called it Butcher’s Front Window. There’s a lot of very grim tackle out there.

What was Hilary Briss’s “special stuff” [in The League of Gentlemen]? TopTramp

Red herrings.

What’s the best nightmare you have ever had? Ficklemislike

You can’t have a good nightmare. There’s a difference between a fear dream, where you go on stage and don’t know your lines. The ones where you’re peering into the darkness at something and see someone looking back at you are terrifying, as if they’ve been designed like a script.

I’ve been having this thing like in the film The Eyes of Laura Mars, where she can see through the eyes of a murder victim. Sometimes, when I’m half asleep, I can see other rooms, look around, and I make myself wake up because I’m afraid of who’s going to turn up and look at me. Obviously my worst nightmare is to wake up and find I was actually a naked Doctor Who or, worst still, a contestant on Naked Attraction.

Read Entire Article