Nothing’s forgotten. Nothing is ever forgotten.
Celebrating 35 years of
Robin of Sherwood.
Exclusive Guest Interview with the fabulous
There have been many retellings of the story of Robin Hood, but one of the most enduring has to be the 1980’s television series Robin of Sherwood. Today I am joined by the fabulous Clive Mantle, who fans of the show will know played the down-to-earth and extremely memorable, Little John.
Hi Clive, it is such an honour to have you on Myth’s, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots today. Little John was such an integral part of the Robin Hood story. How did the role of Little John first come to your attention?
Esta Charkham, who cast it, knew me from the National Youth Theatre, and got in touch with my agent. As far as I knew it was going to be the normal process of dozens of actors trooping in one by one until they got who they wanted. How wrong was I !!
I walked into a small office at Pinewood and was immediately hugged by Paul Knight, the producer, and more or less welcomed aboard. I was flabberghasted. He and Kip Carpenter had seen me play Little John in a glorious stage production at the Young Vic Theatre in London, completely unbeknownst to me, and had practically decided there and then.
So I was the only person seen for the part amazingly. It was my luckliest break. Great men both, with the brilliant Esta championing my cause. I owe them all a great debt of gratitude.
You had the part before you even auditioned, that must have been an amazing feeling, but I am not surprised. No one could have played Little John as you did. Did you do any background research into your character?
I had been a part of a superb stage version directed by David Toguri, and written by Dave and Toni Arthur. It bore very little resemblance to the TV series, but the voice and the headstrong emotional side of the character I’d worked on already.
You were born to play Little John, then! How much influence did you have on how Little John was portrayed?
Kip listened to us and wrote to our strengths as he got to know us. We had regular meetings in various hotel bars and suggested things to him, most of which emerged in one form or another.
What was the atmosphere like on set?
Never before or since have I had such a wonderful time at work. A constant joy and a pleasure from beginning to end. I wish we were still making them today. The cast and crew were very special and an unbreakable bond united us all from in front and behind the camera. It was set up by the great Ian Sharp, who laid down the way things would be done, and with our social secretary, Ray Winstone, in charge of japes and wind-ups, life was never dull.
There is a real sense of Good vs Evil in Robin of Sherwood, and there were some very memorable villains. Who was your favourite villain and why?
Anthony Valentine I think, although they were all wonderful. Anthony was the stillest and most frightening and the greatest pleasure to work with, as I had quite a lot to do with him.
As a child I was terrified of Anthony Valentine’s character, ‘Baron Simon de Belleme,’ but not enough to stop me from watching! He was the most deplorable villain — very sinister.
Little John’s choice of weapon was the quarterstaff. How long did it take you to learn to use a quarterstaff and were they any accidents?
Terry Walsh, our supreme stunt coordinator altered my approach from the word go, and said I should use it like a rifle and bayonet and not let people with swords near me. It was a great thing to say and I responded well to it. It sparked my imagination and many Norman soldiers got a taste of the sharp end.
Always little knicks and cuts, and I put my back out once, but we escaped largely unharmed.
You certainly looked very impressive on the television with your quarterstaff. My siblings and myself used to play Robin Hood in the woods, and we always ended up making quarterstaffs out of small branches we found on the floor. We all came away with bruises too!
Who was the best shot with a bow and arrow? Who was the worst?
Praedy was pretty good I seem to remember, or maybe he just tells me that a lot, and the mists of time have obscured the truth.
Ray actually broke a lens by loosing an arrow at an automatic camera set up alongside a target, but I wouldn’t call him the worse shot to his face I can tell you that for nothing.
|Ray Winstone (Will Scarlet), Clive Mantle (Little John), Mark Ryan (Nasir).|
I am sure Michael doesn’t exaggerate his prowess with a bow and arrow, at all, and I am sure Ray meant to hit the camera lens!! What was your most memorable scene while filming?
It’s so long ago now, I enjoyed every minute, but ‘The King’s Fool” and the argument with Robin probably stands out for me.
The King’s Fool was such a great episode. Did Robin of Sherwood change your life in any way?
Completely and utterly changed my life and my standing in the business. It was a remarkable show to be part of and I’m the luckiest actor alive to have been part of it.
Do you still keep in touch with any of the cast?
No, as you can tell, I hate them all !!!
We all still see a lot of each other even though some of our number spend great chunks of time abroad. We see each other at events like conventions and sadly now funerals, but the last time we were all in the same room, apart from Phil who was sorely missed, was at my 60th Birthday party 2 years ago.
|Jason Connery (Robin) , Mark Ryan (Nasir) , Clive Mantle (Little John), Peter Llewellyn Williams Much), Phil Rose (Friar Tuck).|
|Mark Ryan, Clive Mantle, Jason Connery.|
Thirty-Five years on and Robin of Sherwood is still enjoyed by so many people. What kind of legacy do you hope Robin of Sherwood will leave for future generations?
It’s a heartfelt telling of the tales of Robin, told with love and passion, and the absolute need for justice running like a spine throughout.
Other people have tried since and have offered pale imitations of what we all achieved. Sooner or later a new version will eclipse ours, but only when a writer of Kip’s compassion, moral strength, drama and vision tackles the sagas. Not many of them about.
Happy Days all of you.
Thank you so much Clive for the special insight into Robin of Sherwood.
As well as a brilliant actor, Clive is also a children’s author. Check out Clive’s first book, in what promises to be a very exciting, series:
The Treasure at the Top of the World
(A Freddie Malone Adventure Book 1)
When Freddie Malone is given an ancient map for his birthday by his eccentric Uncle Patrick, it seems an odd gift, but Freddie is thrilled. Little does he realise that the mysterious map is about to turn his world upside down. Plunged into a perilous adventure between two worlds, and pursued in turn by a ruthless bully and a determined adversary who will each go to any lengths to get what they want, Freddie must fight for what’s right – and for his very life…
Clive Mantle brings all the drama of his TV, film and stage career to the first in a thrilling series of incredible time-travel adventures.
The Treasure at the Top of the World
is available to purchase:
Or, ask your local bookstore.
Clive Mantle is a much-loved British actor, a star of both stage and screen for over 40 years. He is perhaps best known for playing Little John in Robin of Sherwood, Great Jon Umber in Game of Thrones, Simon Horton in The Vicar of Dibley and Mike Barratt in Casualty. His voice is also well known from his work on over 180 audio books, and voicing animated characters, including Gator in Thomas the Tank Engine...
...And, he is now a published Author.
...And, he is now a published Author.
'The Treasure at the Top of the World' was released on 24th May 2018.
All images have been supplied by Clive Mantle.