What’s up, Doc?:

Why Martin Clunes loves Van­ity Fair.

The TV Guide - - CONTENTS -

It boasts a glit­ter­ing cast and glam­orous set­tings but TVNZ 1’s pe­riod drama, Van­ity Fair, held a very par­tic­u­lar ap­peal for Martin Clunes, who plays the dis­taste­ful Sir Pitt Craw­ley. It was the chance to work with an­i­mals.

Clunes, best known as TV’s grumpy Doc Martin, lives on a farm with his pro­ducer wife, Philippa Braith­waite, in Dorset, Eng­land.

He has pre­sented sev­eral pro­grammes about an­i­mals such as Martin Clunes: A Man And His Dogs, Horse­power and Man & Beast. So when he read that he would be work­ing with horses and dogs in Van­ity Fair, he ea­gerly looked for­ward to it.

“The high­light of Van­ity Fair for me has been the an­i­mals, as much as I ap­pre­ci­ate the other cast,” he says. “I’m very happy work­ing with the horses or play­ing with the dog.

“Page one of the script said that Pitt drives his own car­riage and I was over­joyed when I read that be­cause I also do. I’m a mem­ber of the Bri­tish Car­riage Driv­ing So­ci­ety so I did all my own car­riage driv­ing for the part with two black Friesian horses, which are lovely.

“Back home I have a cou­ple of cart horses and an old cart. I hadn’t driven my horses for years be­cause it’s much sim­pler just to ride them but now I am rein­vig­o­rated and I have or­dered a rather smart wagon from Ger­many.

“Pitt also has a dog, called Gorer, who is a deer­hound and he was ac­tu­ally in an episode of the last se­ries of Doc Martin. He’s re­ally good and a plea­sure to work with.”

Clunes, 56, is also fond of his char­ac­ter, even though the book’s au­thor, Wil­liam Make­peace Thack­eray, de­scribes him as “foul-mouthed and mean”.

“I quite like him. I like his sat­is­fac­tion with his es­tate and with his world. He is an MP and has got a bit of at­ti­tude. His clothes are quite run­down. He will dress up if he is go­ing to a ball or some­where but, other than that, he’s not both­ered. He’s one of the few

char­ac­ters in the story who isn’t a snob and try­ing to bet­ter them­selves.

“He also to­tally ‘gets’ Becky Sharp. She takes what she wants from him – a help up the so­cial lad­der – and when he knows how ca­pa­ble she is he ap­points her as his sec­re­tary so that she can deal with his fi­nances and pa­per­work. And then the minute his wife dies he tries to pro­mote her to his wife but she’s hav­ing none of that.”

Although Clunes has not read Thack­eray’s novel, he had seen a per­for­mance of it on stage some years ago and it had struck a chord with him. “It re­ally grabbed me be­cause it’s not the ‘stock’ char­ac­ters of cos­tume dra­mas go­ing on about how and who a wo­man should marry and a bit of fan work. There is so much more to this. It’s so rich

and no­body is who they ap­pear to be. Even the bad­dies are good and the good­ies are bad and Becky Sharp is pos­si­bly the great­est wo­man in Bri­tish lit­er­a­ture.

“She is a hero­ine in my mind. It was ex­tra­or­di­nary at that time to have a wo­man be­have in that way and be the cen­tral char­ac­ter in a book with­out sort of be­ing damned to hell and back.”

Much of Clunes’ act­ing work – although not Van­ity Fair – comes cour­tesy of his wife Philippa who, as well as pro­duc­ing Doc Martin and Arthur & Ge­orge, in which he played Arthur Co­nan Doyle, is also re­spon­si­ble for his an­i­mal and travel doc­u­men­taries.

“I do work with other peo­ple though,” he says. “She kicks me out of the house.”

There is a half-hour com­edy se­ries that he will be work­ing on later this year called War­ren, about a grumpy driv­ing in­struc­tor, that he is ex­cited about and a new travel doc­u­men­tary se­ries called Is­lands Of Amer­ica.

The ever-busy ac­tor has also fin­ished film­ing an­other of his wife’s pro­duc­tions – a drama called Man­hunt about a real-life se­rial killer, Levi Bell­field.

Clunes plays the dogged cop, Colin Sut­ton, who even­tu­ally tracked him down.

“I felt a huge re­spon­si­bil­ity play­ing that role and I was quite daunted by the idea,” he ad­mits.

“It couldn’t be more dif­fer­ent from Van­ity Fair. But it’s a story worth telling.”

“She is a hero­ine in my mind. It was ex­tra­or­di­nary at that time to have a wo­man be­have in that way.” – Martin Clunes on Becky Sharp (played by Olivia Cooke, above)

Martin Clunes as Sir Pitt Craw­ley

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