Peter Sellers interviewed by Michael Parkinson 1974.
He became known as the best English comedian since Charlie Chaplin. He was an actor, comedian, singer and an incredible impersonator.
One thing about Sellers though is that he did not like interviews. He was not your ideal chat show guest and beforehand his nerves often got the better of him.
Michael Parkinson was not aware of this until he was booked on the show in 1974 and here is what happened.
The man turned up – but as they were being made up, he suddenly turned to Parky and said, “I can’t go on.”
“What?” said the Yorkshireman.
“I can’t do this. I’m an actor. I NEVER go on as ME.”
“Look,” said Parky, “You’ve GOT to go on. The studio is ready – the audience is ready and I’M ready. We’ve advertised your appearance – and anyway, it’s too late to find a replacement.”
“But I do FILMS, not stage.”
“What about The Goons? You were on stage then.”
“Yeah, but I was with Harry and Spike. And I was playing CHARACTERS – loads of them. I can’t do ME.”
Parkinson said, “Look – I don’t care WHO you come on as – just so long as you COME ON.”
To accommodate BBC Wardrobe Department took Peter aside while Parkinson went on with the show. Eventually, someone gave Parkinson the heads up that Sellers was ready, who introduced him not knowing what was coming next.
What came on stage was Sellers dressed in a leather greatcoat and a WW2 German “squarehead” helmet. On seeing this Parkinson couldn’t help but laugh and relieved that the show was going ahead.
The interview above is the result of what happened.