Article published on March 2, 2016.
Reg Seward’s review of MGM: Hollywood in Borehamwood on nudge was spotted by its author, Derek Pykett, who emailed me to thank Reg for his interest – at which point Reg and I wondered if we might interview Derek via email and below is what transpired!
Q1) Derek, let’s start at the beginning with the blindingly obvious – who are you? i.e. Brief history, career so far etc.?
For most of my life I’ve been a professional actor. It was, I think, born in me. I
didn’t want to do anything else. Where it came from, I don’t know, because apart
from my Grandma (on my father’s side) who was an occasional professional singer,
there is no other link to the stage. So it must have come from her. My mother and
father though were very supportive during this period in my life. I’m indebted to
them. They knew nothing about the business in which I worked, but they encouraged
me all the way. It was an interesting time, and I’ve met some fascinating people. I
even had the chance to run my own theatre company, which was enormous fun.
Q2) You have lots of rare pictures in your book plus even rarer anecdotes, where did you source it all?
The idea for the book came about because me and my partner, Ruth, were living quite
near to Borehamwood, and I read a few articles about the studio in the library there.
I thought it would make a good subject for a book, so I started to gather information.
The main source for the book, as far as I was concerned, was anecdotes. Memories from
individuals who had worked there. I’ve been lucky enough to know a few people who worked
in the movie business, so with their help and various other contacts I started to collect
the material. The rare photographs mainly came from the people I interviewed.
Q3) How long did it take to write?
I started work on the book in 2007, and completed it in 2014. The interviews taking
up most of that time.
Q4) Are you the only writer in your family ?
No one else in my family has ever written a book. To be honest, I didn’t think I ever
would. I was bottom of the class in English at school. It was actually a lovely old
character actor friend of mine, Michael Ripper, who gave me my chance. I wrote a
biography about him in 1999, and it started from there.
Q5) Where do you actually write ? i.e. Shed, spare room, office.
Most of this new book was typed in the bedroom. In fact I think nearly all of my
writing, book wise, was done in a bedroom.
Q6) What is your day to day schedule when involved in writing ?
I have to admit that out of the three books I’ve written, this was my most difficult.
I struggled to write it. Didn’t know where to start, as I had piles of material. But Ruth
gave me the best advice. She told me to write a page a day. Didn’t have any more
problems after that. My mind went totally relaxed.
Q7) What next, or is that giving away trade secrets ?
I’m very proud of the book. I’m so proud in fact, I don’t think I will write anymore.
I don’t consider myself a writer you see, but I’m delighted with what I’ve achieved.
My next project is a twelve episode DVD series to raise money for charity. Each
episode is an interview with a veteran actor of stage and screen. This will be
followed by an eighteen episode DVD series featuring interviews with behind the
scenes movie people (once again for charity).
Q8) What do you do about critics ?
I always read reviews and comments. If people are unkind, you just have to accept it.
You certainly won’t please everyone. I’ve only ever been hurt once, and that was
when someone made a personal remark about me on the internet while mentioning
a DVD I had produced, and they had never even met me. There are some strange folk
living on this planet, especially nowadays.
Q9) Why choose writing, specifically film and film biographical books ?
I wouldn’t write about anything else. I couldn’t write about anything else. The
film world is where my knowledge is.
Q10) What genre of books do you like to read personally ?
I’m not an avid reader, but if I do read, it is most certainly film related books or
actor biographies / autobiographies.
Derek is the first of our interviewees to have a profile on IMDB – http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2175757/
And on June 16th, 2016, Derek advised us:
On July the 3rd I’m releasing a limited edition DVD box-set on amazon.co.uk (please see the attached ‘press release’). It is a specially produced series to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society and All Dogs Matter charities. I do hope you may be able to help me to promote it (either on your news or reviews pages), as I do think it will be of interest to your readership.
The DVD is a series of twelve intimate face to face interviews with veteran actors who have made an impression on my life and whose performances I have enjoyed.
It is a celebration of some wonderful careers spanning seven decades in theatre, television and films, and many of the faces featured I feel are also greatly underrated.
Their stories are both funny and moving, but also give a fascinating insight into the theatre and film industry over the last 70 years.