Terry Pratchett?s Going Postal is available on DVD and Blu-ray from 23rd August. Released by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, the much-lauded satirical adaptation stars David Suchet and Richard Coyle. We at Scifind have been fortunate enough to have some thoughts from the cast. Below are the answers to some questions posed to Richard Coyle (Moist Von Lipwig), Andrew Sachs (Groat), Charles Dance (Claud Vetinari) and David Suchet (Reacher Gilt)
How did you feel about landing the role of Groat?
I was so pleased to get this. I?d just done Coronation Street and then I was offered this, but the dates clashed. But then the producer Sue De Beauvoir spoke to the Coronation Street people, pulled a few strings and they very kindly let me go. It was a three-month slot on the programme and I was very keen to do it, as are a lot of actors, because it?s good for the career ? except you do lose your anonymity, which is something I treasure as a character actor. I don?t like to be recognised. When, for instance, I did Manuel [on Fawlty Towers] no-one knew who I was in the street. I could go on the tube and nobody recognised me because I didn?t look like a Spanish waiter in private life. I didn?t have a white jacket and a moustache, and I spoke better English. So I got away with it, but on Coronation Street I was more or less myself. I wore glasses but that?s all that was different, and since then it?s just changed. I walk along the street and people go ?I saw you on TV?. Then my family had this awful year ? I don?t know if you heard about it ? and again that boosted my profile, which is all very nice but? If you?re a leading actor people will say ?Oh, that?s Charles Dance playing a beggar, isn?t he good?? but when you?re a character actor and you?re not recognised they?re more likely to accept you as any character, provided you play it right. That?s something that?s now gone for me a bit, but I?m not complaining.
Do you still love the job?
Oh absolutely, although the older you get it takes longer to learn the words. When you?re working at a fairly fast pace, the pressure is to get it done and if you make a mistake you?re holding the whole unit up. I never used to feel that pressure but I do a bit now. It?s harder work, more stressful than it used to be, but that?s inevitable.
Have you chatted with Terry about the character?
He?s a fascinating guy who has this extraordinary imagination. He created this world which is quite Dickensian and he writes in a Dickensian way. He has rich characters with onomatopoeic names ? names like Moist Lipwig are amazing ? and this world he?s created that?s kind of pseudo-Edwardian/Victorian is a weird nowhere place. My god he?s prolific, and it?s terribly sad he?s now afflicted with Alzheimer?s. He?s still up and buzzy. I expected him to be about 6ft 3ins for some strange reason, then this little guy comes in with his black hat, his black shirt and his big beard ? he?s like one of the characters out of Discworld himself, really. But in terms of chatting about the character, the books are very clear, the script is a really good adaptation, so there aren?t many questions to ask. It?s all there on the page.
Do you take the traditionalist line on letter writing?
Every now and then I think it?s nice to use snail mail, to put pen to paper. I quite like receiving letters, and I think most people do. This instant thing of emails, you feel compelled to reply immediately, but instant isn?t always a good thing. We?re kind of obsessed with speed.
Do you enjoy disappearing so deep into a character?
That?s what I do. If I?m given anything, if I?m given a talent at all, it would be the talent to disappear and become somebody else rather than being a personality actor. I?m not really interested in that form of acting, I?ve always been a character actor from the early days of rep. If you have a voice like mine and if you have a shape like mine, at age 20 you look 40. I?ve always sort of looked the way I am from a very, very early age ? I haven?t really changed that much ? and in the days of rep I automatically played middle-age roles. I?ve always disappeared, I?ve always had to find a way of changing myself to become somebody else, and that?s really what I do.
Are you an enthusiast about anything yourself?
I?m not a great cult fan of anything that I would go that far. I suppose I do that in my life anyway. I?m very grateful to all those people who do go that far, though. When you?re doing a period piece like Poirot where would we be without those people who collect old cars?
How?s it been filming in the leather suit?
Really hot. It has a nylon lining so it?s like being wrapped in clingfilm, like having a condom all over your body. I?ve been drinking lots of ice cold water to help cool me down and they?ve set up lots of fans for me. But Marnix [Van Den Broeke] is in the Mr Pump suit and I always look at him and think ?Actually, I?ve got it quite easy?. Plus I did a film last summer in Morocco and that was twice as bad so I swore I?d never complain. The main problem, though, is I feel a right penis in it. I think of myself as Elvis in his gold lame suit – that helps.
How is it playing Moist Von Lipwig?
It?s really fun because I get to play and create and I haven?t done anything comic since Coupling. Moist is very inventive and things just come to him, he?ll go into confidence trick mode and create a character or he likes to put on a show. One of the best things is I have a lot of public pronouncements outside the post office to the people, and it?s all a show for Moist. I wanted to treat them as commercials, like TV commercials, so they have a beginning and an end. Every time I make a pronouncement to the public it?s a bit of a show, a bit of pizzazz.
You?ve invented a lot of unusual characters in your own work so are you a Pratchett fan?
To be honest I hadn?t read any of his books before so this is my introduction to Discworld. The amazing thing is it?s all the invention of one brain and it?s such a detailed world, and the fact it?s fantasy but it has that period element to it, and it?s a fully realised world? If you?re going to do something like that it has to be one person?s vision. What I really like is that it?s very pro the post office and the satire is there but it?s not heavy-handed, and it sticks up for good old-fashioned values ? it?s got a love story and a hero we?re rooting for working for this post office.
Have you done anything on this scale before?
No, and it?s phenomenal. I went on set and felt like I was in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It?s a big production and there are some brilliant locations here in Hungary and Budapest. You just get a sense of scale – there?s a lot of history they?ve been able to use as well as adding to it. We?ve filmed on complete sets, but we also filmed in what was once a fort ? for when Lipwig is thrown into prison and also a treasury scene – and you couldn?t tell what was real and what was a set. There were huge long corridors and very tall imposing buildings. They have some amazing architecture here.
The themes in Going Postal are very interesting?
They?ve very contemporary. I?m with Terry on his views about the post office. I still write letters, but nobody answers them of course ? that would mean writing on a piece of paper, signing it, sticking it in an envelope, finding a stamp. That?s all too much for modern life, but I still do it and I don?t mind if I don?t get replies. I write a lot by hand, I type sometimes and I have an assistant who sometimes types for me. My wife and I wrote many, many letters to each other over 40 years, when either of us was on tour or filming something, and I published my lot of letters. They are your immediate reaction and the idea is to get them off as quickly as possible. They were what you were thinking at the time and you can?t alter them. That?s the central theme of Going Postal, I think. It makes you go ?Do we really love emails and texting?? I do a bit of texting; I have a son who loves it so I text him a lot. The thing that really gets my goat about the death of letter writing is greeting cards shops. You can now get a card for every message under the sun for anybody you like without ever having to put pen to paper. It?s appalling. ?Sorry I couldn?t be with you on Tuesday? ? you can get a card for that without having to write it yourself. Well, you might have to write in ?Tuesday?. Sadly all you get through the letterbox now is charity applications and credit card offers.
It?s interesting it?s being made by Sky rather than a film studio?
I do think this would do very well in cinemas, but cinema is such a polarised business now. You have reasonable-budget films being made about human beings and human situations, relationships and emotions, but they don?t get much in the way of distribution. Or you make your mega, mega CGI picture which costs god knows what and recoups god knows what across the world because you can play it in countries where they don?t want dialogue. They?re like two different industries.