Will Sigourney Weaver – and a new waggy tail in the house – cheer Doc Martin up?
Sigourney Weaver’s not the only A-list fan of Doc Martin. She enjoyed her cameo role as American tourist Beth Traywick two years ago so much that she pops up again in the new series, but might there be another Hollywood star heading for the Doc’s home town of Portwenn? Tinseltown veteran Harvey Keitel – best known these days for playing a suave gangster in those TV insurance ads – is said to be itching for a part in the ninth and final series of the comedy drama that’s due to be filmed next year.
‘I was chatting to Sigourney when she was filming and she said Harvey’s very keen to be involved,’ says Ian McNeice, who plays handyman- turned-whisky maker Bert Large. ‘Imagine that! Harvey in full gangster mode like in those TV ads, wandering through Portwenn. It’s a hilarious idea.’
Art Malik and Caroline Quentin also guest in this eighth series of the show that’s become a global hit since it began filming in the Cornish village of Port Isaac 13 years ago. Thousands of people from all over the world descend on the village to watch filming and discussion groups spring up across the globe, earnestly debating the latest storylines after an episode has aired. Fans of Martin Clunes, who plays the curmudgeonly Doc, call themselves Clunatics, while Ian McNeice has the Bert Large Lovers Group. They held a dinner at a Port Isaac restaurant in Ian’s honour while this series was being filmed.
The Doc is in full- on work mode as the series begins. In the opening episode alone he has to deal with a fisherman caught in a sticky situation on the beach, a highly infectious virus, policeman Joe Penhale in excruciating pain ahead of his wedding and a fresh-faced female curate with a potentially fatal medical condit ion. Then there’s his occasionally turbulent home life too.
‘ The Doc is sensible enough to realise he has to be attentive to his marriage and try and make things work between him and Louisa after they had counselling during the last series,’ says Mar tin. ‘He also wants to be a good father to their young son James Henry, who says his first word in the new series.’ Martin, 55, is a well-known dog lover and often brings his three dogs to the set – in fact visitors to Port Isaac are pretty much guaranteed a chat with him if he spots them with a four- legged friend. Aside from the Doc’s pet Buddy – played by ten-year- old mongrel Dodger – the new series will see another mutt making its mark. Bob, a stray played by Paddy, ar rives on the Doc’s doorstep and stakes a claim for a berth on his sofa. ‘My wife Philippa, who produces Doc Mar t in, s aw Paddy with the dog trainer Sonia when she’d just got him two years ago and knew we had to find a role for him in this series,’ says Martin. ‘Sonia has such a lovely way with Dodger and Paddy. She trains them so kindly and they just love doing stuff on the show. You can see all this youth and exuberance in Paddy’s eyes.’
It was an altogether more dangerous animal that almost did for the show’s leading lady Caroline Catz during filming though. Taking a walk along the cliff path near Port Isaac, things almost went disastrously wrong. ‘I rounded a corner and came face to face with five enormous bullocks that had escaped from a farmer’s field,’ she explains. ‘They were coming towards me, it was terrifying. But I managed to crawl under a fence and through the field to safety before the farmer rescued the cattle. It was a very scary episode.’
Sigourney as Beth and (above) Martin with Paddy and Dodger