On May 28th, 2005 The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse was screened to a packed-out FrightFest audience introduced by two of the film's main stars, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton.
After the film, Reece and Steve returned, along with rarely-seen 'other writer' Jeremy Dyson to discuss the film with the audience. What follows is a transcript of the best parts of the resulting Q&A session. Thanks to Ghoul Drool for the help in compiling this article.
Q: Steve, you said you weren’t going to do the noses question, but how do you do Herr Lipp, because with the eyes and everything, it looks more than just padding on the lip. It looks incredibly painful.
SP: Er. Yeah. It is fairly painful. Well, we’ve always preferred to use our own faces instead of stick things on prosthetically, so the Herr Lipp palate began with Sellotape when we were doing the original stage shows, which went across here [indicates mouth] like a ‘The Joker’ effect. And then for the series, it’s like they clip in across the teeth and they just push my lip out. But, you know, it’s made to fit me, so it’s not uncomfortable.
The eyes are glued down onto my cheeks just with spirit gum, er, you can all do it at home. And then lots of sweat and redness and rawness to make him look sort of like, he needed a bit of Germolene on.
Q: Was there ever an argument between you about who would get the exploding head effect?
RS: We’d always wanted to have an exploding head. It was all right wasn’t it because we both did separate versions of the ending, and in both versions, accidentally Steve died first.
JD: Yeah, I don’t know why that was.
SP: It’s because I wrote it.
JD: Yeah, but I also killed you off in our version.
SP: Oh, did you?
RS: Yeah you were killed first. You fell, I think, off a tightrope in a completely different ending.
SP: Oh, I didn’t remember that.
RS: Yeah. And it was just a happy accident and it just made sense that he would get his shot off. So he got the exploding head. It was quite scary the day the head arrived
SP: Yeah you have to do a head cast, which sort of, you’ve got your head and shoulders in putty. But (to RS) you used to work with Chris Tucker didn’t you?
RS: I did!
SP: Well, you can explain this from a technical point of view.
RS: Well, yeah. I used to be Chris Tucker’s assistant really. Chris Tucker is this make-up man. And for a few months I worked for Chris Tucker and slept in the same room as the Elephant Man’s head and Gregory Peck’s head from The Boys From Brazil, with the neck ripped out (laughter).
SP: Is it any wonder he turned out how he did?
JD: Didn’t you do Michael Caine’s nose in Bullseye!?
RS: I did! Yeah, so, his head was cast in alginate and on the day it was exploded, they took your eye out didn’t they? They were frightened these glass eyes would come out like bullets and shoot everybody.
SP: That would be a great death though, a great screen death, you know, killed by one of your own eyes.
JD: A sort of a Theatre of Blood, murder on a horror film.
SP:That’s the sequel. We’ve got it. Good night and thank you.
Member of the audience dressed as Papa Lazarou (in character).
Q: Hello Dave (applause)
(Still as Papa Lazarou) Q: Is it strange.. to meet your fans? (laughter)
RS: (As Lazarou) Yes. That wasn’t me doing Lazarou, that was me doing you doing Lazarou. Umm.. well.. it’s flattering. Especially when you’ve made the effort like that (points at Lazarou in audience), because I don’t look as good as that. On tour, yeah, I mean people would turn up, and you’d stare out and see a Pauline or a Lazarou, and it could be quite scary. You know, are they the real ones, come to see us? It’s like all beginning to come true with people like that sat there.
No of course it’s flattering. We’ve got lots of fans, or so we like to still think, and if they’re still interested, then that’s great, because we’ve not been on telly for two years.
Q: This is probably a very boring question, but have you all got respective favourite characters you like to do?
RS: Yes, it’s very boring. (laughter)
SP: No it’s not. I like urmm… playing Pauline, because it was the first character we came up with and it was actually Reece’s idea, and Reece was going to do it, but then you bottled it…
RS: I bottled it.
SP: And I was going to be Papa Lazarou, and we switched. We switched very early on and because of that, and because it’s the first character we did, that’s for me, probably still my favourite character.
RS: Yeah and I like Geoff. I really like playing the suppressed rage of his. Although he’s quite jolly in the film, he’s not quite the same as the TV. But there’s a lot of me in Geoff, I am Geoff really and it comes very easy for me to play him. But I love doing Ollie as well, Ollie from the Legs Akimbo Theatre Company. Terror and hatred in the same breath.
JD: Did you see, it was in one of the papers yesterday, and they said the version of you that you played in the film, was obviously derived from Ollie Plimsolls.
RS: Oh really! Somehow that’s flattering. That’s how I’m taking it anyway.
From left: Jeremy Dyson, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith
Q: You had Simon Pegg and Peter Kay do cameo’s. Was there anyone else that you would have loved to have been able to do a cameo, but wasn’t able to make it?
SP: We did want Alan Bennett didn’t we as the King, and he said he would be too terrified. But what a great coupling Alan Bennett and Victoria Wood would have made.
JD: But having said that, Bernard Hill…
SP: Bernard Hill was absolutely brilliant, yeah. But apart from that, we were very lucky in that the people we asked generally said that they would do it. Christopher Lee was always talked about…
RS: (Adopts Christopher Lee voice) I’ve never done a horror film. Ever.
Q: Have you ever been on the dole, like me? And what’s your favourite Harryhausen film? Two part question.
RS: It is.
JD: Well, we’ve all been on the dole at different times haven’t we?
SP: Yeah of course we have.
RS: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been on the dole longer than anyone in this room.
SP: Still is.
RS: Shh. I’ll lose my ‘no claims’. Oh, that’s cars isn’t it. (laughter)
SP: He’s given himself away. It’s probably not even called a Restart Course any more. But, yeah, I mean you have to. If you’re going to do what we did which is, you know, do these kind of shows, these live shows where five people will turn up and at a small fringe theatre, and then you go to Edinburgh where it costs, you know two and a half to three thousand pounds just to put a show on. And you have to be, you know, flexible and take your little bits of, what was it £50 a week we used to get, £90 a fortnight.
RS: What, on the dole?
SP: Yeah. That’s what I remember anyway.
JD: I remember Mark Gatiss saying, quite recently actually, that he’s never been happier than when he was signing on…
RS: Yeah, that’s cos he’s a complete scrounger. (laughter)
JD: He lived in a squat in Leeds, and he used to do the crossword every day, and he says he’s never been happier.
RS: He’s happy with his lot isn’t he?
SP: (to JD) You were probably the only one who had a regular job.
JD: Hey, I was on the dole, I was on the dole before…
SP: We believe you. (laughter) Leeds public Grammar School! No, cos, you were working at Waterstone’s weren’t you?
JD: When we were doing the League, yeah.
SP: But you had that flexibility.
JD: Yeah. Built-in. Steve, you were working at Variety. Doing a very glamorous job.
SP: I was, yes. Yeah, I was working on the International Film guide, I don’t know if anyone knows it? No…
RS: And you’d throw me tidbits, and really help me out with £50 or whatever it was I got for it. But, Harryhausen… Golden Voyage..?
JD: Golden Voyage for me.
RS: Golden Voyage…
SP: Jason and the Argonauts?
RS: And yeah, we obviously we wanted a ‘Harryhausen’ monster, Jeremy in particular…
JD: I can remember saying that it had to be stop-motion, and never really believed for a second it would be. But yeah, it was.
RS: It cost more than half the budget of the film, but worth it.
SP: It got more than we did.
RS: It did. Yeah, he was a bastard that monster. Knock on the door, “Come on, you’ve got to come to work.” (Adopts monster voice) “Oh, Ok..”
I was just wondering if you were doing any follow-up on The Cicerones? (Jeremy Dyson’s short film)
JD: Well.. There are things in the offing. I can’t really talk about it. But, hopefully. Hopefully.
RS: Jeremy’s got another film for us, but he won’t tell us what it is.
JD: We’re waiting for the right time.
RS I hope it’s not tails again. (laughter)
Q: Yours is a very English type of grotesque humour, how are you expecting it to travel to other countries?
RS: We don’t know. Well, the series travels very well, it’s very popular all around the world, and we see that because of the money we get back (laughter). But it’s like Blackadder, the quirkiness of the place we set up somehow appeals. Not sure how the film’s going to do. I mean I hope, I’d like to think, that the triumph of it is managing to achieve.. that you can watch it as a film regardless of having seen the series, and you know, if that’s the case, then I think then we’ve succeeded. And I think that will help it abroad. But you know, who knows. We’ve got to see how it does her first. Fuck knows.
Q: It keeps on keeping me awake at night and I just can’t sleep, but what is the special stuff? Can you please tell me, or make something up, so I can get some sleep.
JD: If you knew what it was you would never sleep again. We’re sworn to silence, we cannot say.
SP: We’re doing a book on it like The Da Vinci Code. (laughter) There are these clues you have to follow…