I'm going to get even with you
TV CHAT: Cracker sidekick
Jane still gunning for rapist (Published 21/10/1995)
had the gun and she had the motive. DS Jane Penhaligon had been
raped and humiliated and was ready to kill. At the end of the
second series of Cracker the sweet-faced detective was moments
from murder - the barrel of her gun jammed into the mouth of the
man she was convinced had raped her. But it never happened.
Jimmy Beck is back and Jane Penhaligon must live with the fact.
If Cracker creator Jimmy McGovern had had his way the latest -
and final - series would have opened with Beck as dead and
bloody as the murdered prostitutes who litter Sunday's 75-minute
special. "Penhaligon was going to kill Beck," he
reveals. "That's how the second series would have ended.
But the powers that be didn't like that - we had to find a
compromise." That compromise means that Penhaligon - played
with emotional intensity by Geraldine Somerville - must wait for
her revenge. "I always knew she wouldn't shoot him,"
Geraldine insists. "When she puts the gun in his mouth she
probably thinks she's going to - but she may as well have shot
herself if she had. It's much more interesting that he doesn't
die and that she has to deal with working with him again. A
character who has undergone such an horrific rape cannot
suddenly, miraculously, recover." The hardest part was
after the rape - working out how Penhaligon coped when
everything was taken away, she says. "It was very hard to
imagine how she would react. It's like being happy and smiling
and then something horrible happening," says Geraldine.
"I lost a lot of sleep thinking about it and I discovered
that a lot of victims know their assailants - that's
still has been the task of Irish actor Lorcan Cranitch who has
had the unenviable job of playing Jimmy Beck. "He is a dark
character, pretty scary," he says with an uneasy laugh.
"I don't think I would like to spend much time with him.
But as the new series goes on he does get his comeuppance - and
it's not pleasant. "I felt we had a moral responsibility
not to let Beck get away with anything. "There had to be
retribution - this guy must be made to pay." And pay he
does, in the climax to the first three-part story in the final
series, Brotherly Love. The trauma for Penhaligon gets worse as
she is caught up in a brutal sex killing. A prostitute is
horribly murdered and mutilated - somewhere out there is a
sexually-obsessed killer, a killer who could strike again. The
appalling horror of murder is not played down on Cracker. The
series is awash with blood; it is gruesome and shocking and
likely to cause complaints. But it will still draw a massive,
appreciative audience. Robbie Coltrane, who has made the
drunken, gambling-mad, adulterous psychologist his own is
unapologetic. "I suppose it is grizzly," he concedes.
"There is certainly quite a lot of blood in the first
episode. But the bottom line is that the violence in Cracker
will not make people think: 'Oh, that's a good idea - I think
I'll go and hit someone with a brick'. It doesn't happen. There
are vulnerable people with a psychiatric history - but they will
have had a psychiatric history long before watching Cracker. We
do discuss this at length and I think the criticisms of the
violence on the programmes are all unfounded. "In Cracker
it looks as ghastly as it is - and the people get caught and
banged to rights."
insists that this is the very last series of Cracker - but fans
can breathe a sigh of relief when he adds that Fitz could rise
again on the big screen. Plans are already advanced for a
Cracker film, probably set in Hong Kong - it's just a question
of waiting for the money men. "The danger always is that
other people may want to alter Cracker," Robbie explains.
"We have to make sure that we retain the integrity of the
piece. There is a huge hunger for honest, intelligent drama,
despite some TV bosses arguing that the nation wants programmes
about Celebrity Underpants or whatever. That is very
encouraging. " And people can now use Cracker as an example
of success when they are asking for money for other drama
projects." Geraldine Somerville will be seen again soon in
the BBC2 Performance series with After Miss Julie, while Lorcan
Cranitch has gone home to Dublin to star in a play at the Abbey
Theatre. Robbie Coltrane pops up as a baddie in the new James
Bond film Goldeneye, but admits that the "Fitz Factor"
may play a negative part in getting new roles. Not that he cares
much. "I was called 'Mr Roly-Poly comedian' for 15
years," he observes wryly. "After the first episode of
Cracker they didn't call me that anymore."
ROLE IS JUST THE SOLUTION
Seriously, Coltrane is top doc (Published 25/09/1993)
from the shadows of a grim corner in a mean part of the city he
looks moody and malevolent. But this hulking menace of a man is
on the right side of the law. This is the very serious side of
Robbie Coltrane in ITV's stunning new detective thriller
Cracker. He is Dr Eddie Fitzgerald, a hard-drinking,
chain-smoking, gambling-mad clinical psychologist. He makes the
most of the plum role in the seven-part series which hits our
screens on Monday. It's set around the underworld of Manchester,
where the good guys are as hardbitten as their foes.In reality
Coltrane could not be more different. The 42-year-old actor
puffs the occasional ciggy - but otherwise follows a rigorous
health regime. He ditched drink last Christmas - and is no
longer the man he was after shedding seven stones. "Fitz
knocks back double whiskies so there was a bit of drunk acting
for me to do,'' he says. "But I haven't had a drink since
before Hogmanay - and I can't actually remember what it's like
to be sloshed." Forging "You can't drink and lose
weight - and I've lost a ton of it. I'm getting into clothes now
I haven't worn for seven years.''
got no time for gambling - unlike his sozzled TV character, who
attends a Gamblers Anonymous meeting, then tricks his fellow
addicts into an illicit game of poker. "Compulsive gamblers
like Fitz do terrible things,'' adds Robbie. "He raises £5,000
cash on the mortgage by forging his wife's signature for a
bathroom extension, then bungs it all on a gee-gees. He loses an
awful lot of money that way.'' Fitz's wife Judith, played by
Barbara Flynn, eventually walks out on their misfiring marriage.
Off screen, Coltrane is blissfully happy with his wife -
22-year-old sculptress Rhona Gemmell. The couple share a remote
cottage north of Glasgow with baby son Spencer. Says Coltrane:
"Having a kid certainly makes you feel like you've joined
the human race, doesn't it? "We're very happy in our home,
a converted old stone barn. We just mind our own business in the
place and everybody has got used to us being there.''
by contrast, has a stormy relationship with his screen son Mark,
played by Kieran O'Brien. "He and the boy have a terrible
time together because they are very alike,'' says Coltrane. In
Monday's opening episode, Fitz is called in by police to track a
murderer after a woman's corpse is found on a train. In the
second half of the two-hour mystery - to be screened on October
4 - a bloodstained man is found slumped by the railway track.
"Kids discover him days later and police are convinced he's
the killer,'' says Coltrane. "But the man claims he's
suffering from total amnesia and it's up to Fitz to find out if
he's telling the truth. "Fitz is a real maverick - a
brilliant but dangerous man. And he spends a lot of his time at
loggerheads with the police. But he's the kind of off-the-wall
guy who always gets away with it because he's so entertaining
is a policewoman with a hard exterior but a soft spot ... for
Fitz. The attraction between DS Jane Penhaligon and the
psychologist is obvious right from the start as she goes out on
a limb to help him solve the first mystery. "She's a feisty
piece of work,'' says actress Geraldine Somerville. "But
Fitz susses her out immediately and she likes that because most
men can't see past her efficient and stern exterior. He knows
she has a vulnerable side that needs to prove she can hold her
own against the boys. When she's with Fitz she forgets about the
rules. I just love the wrecklessness in her character brought
out by Fitz. I wish I had a bit more of that myself.'' The
relationship between the pair heats up as the series progresses
and goes from gently frying to sizzling. "Fitz is a really
attractive character. He's witty, caring and funny,'' she adds.
"They fancy each other's pants off not just physically, but
mentally - and they flirt like crazy.'' The air is
electric but we never see any hanky panky on screen. Fitz,
meanwhile, never gives up fighting to win wife Judith back - but
as time goes by becomes increasingly torn between the two women.
THEY met at a Sweet pop concert
back in the Seventies - but it's turned sour after 20 years of
marriage. Barbara Flynn, who plays our hero's long-suffering
wife Judith in Cracker, gets sick of her life of strife - and
does a runner. The couple were married after Judith became
pregnant - but dreams of domestic bliss are destroyed as
spendthrift Eddie gambles away almost every penny. "My
character begins where most shows would end,'' says Barbara, 44.
"But that's Cracker all over, it's full of unusual twists.
Judith adores Fitz because of his huge capacity for life - but
his obsessive personality drives him over the top, and in the
end she's had enough of bailing him out. "She still loves
him to distraction but things will have to change if their
marriage is ever going to get back on track.'' During her
separation from Fitz, Judith falls into bed with her marriage
counsellor - but once is enough. "Judith realises what she
had with Fitz was strong stuff,'' adds Barbara. "After 20
years with someone as different as him, everybody else pales by
comparison. But she makes it very clear what her conditions
would be for a reconciliation.'' The only time Judith encounters
her love rival - detective Jane Penhaligon - is across a crowded
restaurant. Judith is there with her marriage counsellor and a
slanging match soon flares. Fitz is drenched with water thrown
by his wife.
Fitz my bill (Published
fat, he smokes, he bullies his wife, chases women, and gambles
away the housekeeping. Yet women adore Fitz, the hard-drinking
hero of Cracker. Judging by the number who fall at Robbie
Coltrane's feet in the new series, and the sackloads of fan mail
he receives, his sex appeal is as big as his waistband. His
status as a pin-up comes as no surprise to co-star Geraldine
Somerville, the redheaded detective with whom Fitz has a
passionate fling. Geraldine, who plays DS Penhaligon, is in no
doubt about the attraction the outsized star holds for women.
"He's just plain sexy," she says. "I know some
people will think it odd that a girl like Penhaligon should fall
for a bloke like Fitz but it seems totally credible to me. He
sees her for what she is and that's something women find a
turn-on. He can see through the image she has created at work.
He really understands her and he also has tremendous belief in
her ability." In future episodes the relationship between
Penhaligon and Fitz becomes passionate and intimate.
"Robbie was brilliant doing the bedroom scenes. He made it
a great laugh," says Geraldine. "And it's perfectly
easy to see why women love Robbie too. He's an incredibly warm
and funny person."
the opening episode Penhaligon is still fuming about being stood
up by Fitz on a planned illicit holiday trip. At the end of the
last series she was left waiting at the airport when Fitz failed
to show. "Although he stood her up and she's angry and
humiliated, she still feels for him. She just can't resist
him," says Geraldine. Fitz's fascination for women is also
the reason his long-suffering wife Judith has stuck by him for
so many years. But in the new series, she finally throws in the
towel and leaves him to his philandering. Barbara Flynn, who
plays Judith, says: "They have so much history together
it's not easy to walk away. But she realises she can't rely on
him for anything - he's just so terrified of being
ordinary." In spite of all his faults Barbara also
understands the magnetism of a man like Fitz. "Judith knows
Fitz will be a tough act to follow." The only person
surprised by all the adoration is Coltrane himself. "The
only thing I can think is that women like Fitz because he is
very vital. He is alive. He is not really afraid of
anything," says the 44-year-old Scot. "He is a brave
man and women like brave men. The brave get the beautiful as
they say. Smart Coltrane claims similarities to Fitz are
limited. "We are probably about the same weight but he's
not as handsome as me," he says with a smile. "I also
hope I'm not as intense or obsessive as Fitz. But I'd like to
think I am as smart as him."
the first story in the new series Fitz tries to unravel the
profile of a man who embarks on a spate of killings sparked off
by memories of the Hillsborough football tragedy. He also has to
tackle his increasingly out of control private life. "Fitz
is a man who doesn't try at all - he doesn't feel obliged to get
on with people," says Coltrane."He behaves so badly to
his wife that I am amazed she stayed with him as long as she
did. Most women would have left him years ago." As in the
previous series, which won a host of awards, the show doesn't
shirk difficult and frequently violent themes. Coltrane defends
the sometimes shocking scenes. "The first story is very
powerful. Writer Jimmy McGovern doesn't make light of the
Hillsborough tragedy and he doesn't exploit it. It's not
sensationalist. The bottom line is whether or not you make the
murders seem attractive and I don't think there's any attempt to
do that." A third series of Cracker is already planned, and
so too is a feature film for cinema release.
between, Coltrane will take a holiday at home in Loch Lomond,
Scotland, where he lives with his partner Rhona and their baby
son Spencer. "Spencer and Rhona have both been down with me
for some of the filming but I do miss them when we're
apart," he says. Also lined up is a trip to the States
where Coltrane is hoping to get some projects off the ground.
The way has been paved by the success of Cracker over there.
It's been shown on one of the smaller channels and is scheduled
to go on a major network channel later this year. It's no wonder
TV bosses have assured Coltrane's continued loyalty to the show
with a £1.5 million "golden handcuffs" deal, making
him one of the highest paid actors in Britain. Hollywood chiefs
are also keeping an eye on the Cracker film. Rude The attention
Coltrane getting is no mean feat in a country where big-screen
heroes are usually expected to be a cross between Jean Claude
van Damme and Keanu Reeves. "I've been very lucky to get
Fitz. There isn't an actor in the country who wouldn't pay to
play him," says Coltrane.
Cracker Star Coltrane Faces Up To The Pressures of the TV
in his trademark black suit and puffing on a ciggie, Robbie
Coltrane strides on to the set and booms: "Where do you
want me then?" It's a busy day for him. A photo-session for
his new award-winning Cracker series is followed by some serious
filming. The crew are running around like people possessed but
the big man looks unruffled. He plonks himself down in front the
photographer, and a make-up girl bustles round him trying to
make sure he looks his best. "This is my favourite
bit," he jokes. "I don't enjoy having my picture taken
but I like being pampered." Everyone laughs. It's a great
atmosphere and Coltrane - who plays Fitz - knows how to make
people feel at ease. As the flashbulbs pop he starts playing up
for the camera. "Do you want me looking moody?" he
asks, pulling a serious face and drawing heavily on his
cigarette. "Or do you want me looking surprised?" he
offers, quickly changing his appearance so his eyes bulge
with Robbie is a real experience," explains producer Paul
Abbott. "One minute he's playing the fool and has everyone
in stitches, but as soon as the director shouts `action' he can
switch off just like that and start acting, while everyone is
left holding their sides." The photographer is laughing his
head off as Robbie goes through an alarming range of
expressions, providing a running commentary for each. "This
is the only way I can handle having all these pictures
taken," explains the actor as he goes from high jinks to
high camp. "I hate sitting down in front of the camera and
just pulling faces while everyone pretends it's the most natural
thing in the world. "It's such a stupid job you have to see
the funny side and laugh, or you'd go mad." The
photo-session lasts about 45 minutes and by the end of it
Coltrane has charmed everyone. When it ends he gets up, shakes
hands with the photographer and walks on to the set where he
greets everyone by name. Watching him it's easy to see why he's
so well liked and respected - he may have a BAFTA on his
mantelpiece but he doesn't demand star treatment.
big scene is being shot in the police station - a set which has
been constructed inside the empty building. Fitz and DS
Penhaligon (Geraldine Sommerville) will be confronted by DS Beck
before the criminal psychologist storms into the DCI's office.
The scene is complicated but Coltrane seems perfectly at ease.
During breaks he puts on silly voices or gently tease
Somerville, and every so often makes suggestions about how he
can contribute to make the scene better. I manage to catch him
for an informal chat. After all the hype which followed the last
series, Coltrane has made it clear he doesn't want to do
interviews. "It was crazy", he says. "I wanted to
talk about Cracker but everyone wanted to psychoanalyse me. Why
are you wearing black shoes? What does your suit say about you?
Tell us about your childhood.' It got out of hand." Instead
I congratulate him on his BAFTA triumph where his role as Fitz
scooped the award for best actor. "Thank you darling,"
he laughs, putting on a luvvie accent. "That was certainly
a night to remember. Normally, you spend the evening nervously
drinking as you wait for the result so by the end of the night
you're blind drunk and forget everything that's happened. But it
was nice to be sober when I discovered I'd won before going off
to celebrate properly", he adds wickedly. Although, he
doesn't want to discuss the series he does let slip that he's
extremely pleased with what's been filmed so far. "I think
these adventures will be a lot darker, a lot more psychological.
We saw that Fitz can get things wrong in the final adventure
last year and I think there will be some ghosts to be exorcised
this time round."
Sommerville who plays DS Penhaligon and provides the `will they,
won't they?' love interest is still on a break so I ask her what
it's like to be working on Cracker again after all the success.
"It's great," she enthuses. "You feel as though
the pressure is on but I think that makes us determined to make
this second series a success." Clinch Will she and Robbie
finally end up in the clinch that 12 million viewers were dying
to see? "Oh, I can't tell you that," she laughs.
"I think their relationship matures but this time
Penhaligon has a better idea of what she's taking on, which
means she's less willing to let Fitz walk all over her." A
new member of the team is ex-Brookside star Ricky Tomlinson, who
plays tough boss DCI Wise. He's as pleased as punch to be there.
"I've known Jimmy McGovern who created the series for years
so it was a real honour to get involved," he says.
"Wise is a policeman who's been though the ranks and worked
his way up. He's a copper who's graduated from the university of
life and I think that gives him street cred. "I hope the
series maintains the high standards it achieved last year."
Fitz of anger for Robbie in a new series (Published 29/07/1995)
tartan army is beating a path to telly's top crime drama,
Cracker - and they're set to make an arresting sight as they
size up to big Robbie Coltrane. Not only that, the Cracker
likely lads are set to make merry hell in Fitz's love life.
Hunky Robert Cavanah - new cop Temple - makes a move for his
lover, Penhaligon, when the award-laden show returns to ITV in
the autumn. And man-mountain Clive Russell - all 6ft 6ins of him
- casts a giant shadow over Fitz's relationship with his wife,
Judith, when he joins Cracker as his brother, Danny. After just
two series, which have won the show 28 awards, Cracker has
established a reputation for pulverising, pull-no-punches drama.
The third and final run will send it out on a high, with stories
about a foster-kid killer, a serial murderer who slays
prostitutes and, most gripping of all, a female stalker
obssessed with Fitz. The stalker has a unique way of getting
noticed - she entices students into bed then electrocutes them
to get big Robbie's attention.
in Manchester, the pounds 5 million series has taken over a
former newspaper office and turned it into a police station.
And, as Robbie and the rest of the cast play out scenes in the
incident- room, the simmering tension between Fitz and Temple
suddenly explodes - with the usual acid humour. When DC Alan
Temple (Robert Cavanah) chips in with a theory, the crimebuster
snaps: "You have one sausage-roll in the psychology
department canteen and suddenly you're Sigmund Freud!"
During a break in filming, Edinburgh-born Robert, 29, explains
the attraction between Temple and Penhaligon, the rape-victim
tec played by Geraldine Somerville "Penhaligon has been
left traumatised by her ordeal. Fitz isn't there for her and
Temple is a shoulder to cry on." The role is a dream job
for Robert, a latecomer to TV after being chucked out of drama
school. "I had a personality clash with one of my
lecturers. "So I did my own thing before joining another
college and graduating last year." He played a jailbird in
ITV's The Governor but Cracker - with its 15 million fans - is
his big break. And the part gives him bags of scope for tense,
in-yer-face scenes, as he and Fitz square up to each other. And,
of course, Penhaligon doesn't stay meekly on the sidelines,
who lives in London with his Danish girlfriend Malene, adds:
"Temple comes from Edinburgh and Fitz is a Glaswegian so
there's a bit of aggro between them right from the start. And it
never really gets a chance to let up threoughout the entire
series." Meanwhile, TV success has come late to dad-of-four
Clive Russell, who will be 50 in December. But the Fife-born
actor, who also has upcoming roles in Ruffian Hearts and the
second series of Roughnecks, is making up for lost time. "I
suppose I've been as anonymous as a 6ft 6ins man can be. But
Cracker will probably change all that," says Clive.
"It's a great show because it tackles controversial issues
head-on. But, unlike other series, it's never pious."
Meanwhile, the conflict between Fitz and his brother, Danny,
goes deeper. And it flares again when the two are thrown
together by the death of their mother. "Danny is the older,
taller, duller brother while Fitz is the famous one - and the
favourite son," explains Clive . His character develops a
relationship with Fitz's wife Judith (Barbara Flynn) through a
common bond. "She and Danny have both suffered at the hands
of this very problematical man. They have dinner together and
become very close. Needless to say, Fitz doesn't like it,"
said Clive. Now there's a cracker of an understatement ...
Unofficial Guide To Cracker 1999-2006