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A&E's 2001 Interview w/ Paul Copley

How does it feel to be back?

It's very exciting to be back. It's like joining the family again, really. Lots of people have returned, and some great new people have joined us so it's great to be back.

Have you found it easier to get into your role since you have the experience behind you?

Certainly, and I think the fact that some of us know the ropes also helps the new people- I hope it does anyway. We know how to load a cannon and how to hold a pistol and we know not to drop the pistol so the gunpowder doesn't run out and things of that sort. Yes, it helps, no doubt about it!

Is it very different from last time?

Yes. We're not actually out on the sea this time. We've got a stationary set of a ship that overlooks the sea. The experience of actually being out on the ocean helps you represent that experience really well. It's easier to imagine yourself on a ship because we've actually been out on the sea. We were filming in the Black Sea and the Atlantic. [Now we are] hovering on a cliff over the Mediterranean.

Which location do you prefer?

I think I'd rather be on the sea. We just had one day out on a ship; the Gaditana that Hornblower and Matthews take over as a prize. There was a big swell running and some people got really ill, but none of the actors. For filming purposes, of course, there's much less control over the light and the angle of the deck, which makes the set very good for filming. But for the actors, the experience of being out on the sea bears no comparison.

What have been your favorite scenes throughout all the Hornblower films?

One night comes to mind, during the time we spent out at sea. I had left for the set at 6:20 that morning and got back at half past ten in the evening, so it was a long, long day and everybody was exhausted. But, nevertheless, to be out at dusk on a big swell on a sailing boat was terrific. We filmed a nice couple of scenes between Hornblower and Matthews, which were well written. The scenes contrasted -- one was very peaceful and quiet, we were watching the billowing sails -- and the next scene showed us in a state of panic. So we had a bite of both cherries, and it was very enjoyable.

Have you found that the cast is very close? Have you made friends with the other actors?

Yes, some of them I had met before. Phil Glenister, who plays Hobbs, is a personal friend. I've known him for a long time so it was great to have him aboard. I think he's enjoying himself-most of the time! I had never met Terence Corrigan, who plays Wellard, before-he's terrific. I think he is going to be absolutely smashing. Sean, of course, I've known from the other episodes and we get on very well indeed. And Jamie's a good friend. I knew Paul McGann's work and he's proved to be a real shipmate, and he's a good actor as well.

Do you visit the AandE.com Web site?

Certainly. When it all kicked off, I was quite a regular visitor. It was interesting. I didn't actually contribute, but it was quite interesting to see how it was being received and what sort of comments there were. I was also impressed with the [fans'] sheer knowledge of Forester's work, apart from anything else. Their in-depth knowledge of the script just astounds me. I think they know it better than we do now. But, we've got a few surprises in store!

Why do you think there is this close following of the Hornblower movies?

I think it's the romance of it. We'd like to think that we would be loyal in that way in those circumstances. We'd like to think that we could carry ourselves in that sense. And I suppose, in a sense, we'd also like to think we were cocooned with a sort of a safety shell, because our hero ain't gonna get killed, and those nearest to himsome of themare going to survive. I suppose there's an element of fantasy about it and certainly an element of romance. But the basic human qualities of loyalty and courage and honor are things that we all really aspire to. Plus the fact that there's a historical element to it, and it rewards a little bit of research. And if your research bears out what you've seen in the Hornblower films, that's great; if it doesn't you can write to the Web site [on AandE.com] and complain!

Have you read the Hornblower books?

There's a compilation of Hornblower stories that I had when I suppose I was about 11long ago, in the '50s really. And I think it was called "Mr. Midshipman Hornblower." And it was a series of stories. And I really liked the stories in the book. But the only thing, when I first got the script, that I could honestly say I remembered about it was that the midshipmen were called "Midshipmen Snotties" because in the high wind their noses ran. They wiped it on their sleeves. But that's the sort of thing you remember when you're 11. I don't think I remember how to tie knots and things from reading it. I think they're damn good stories, and good reading for a kid of 11 upwardsthrough 111, really.

Can you tell us about any upcoming projects you're involved in?

I do a little bit in a film called Never Better, also known as Blow Dry. I'm not actually sure what it is going to be called when it comes out. It's set in Yorkshire and stars Josh Hartnett, an American actor, and a lot of English actors including Alan Rickman, Natasha Richardson, Hugh Bonneville, and David Bradley, and various others. It was written by Simon Beaufoy, the author of The Full Monty, and it's directed by Paddy Breathnach, an Irish director whose got a good ear and eye for comedy. It will be out somewhere around Christmas. I've also been in the theater for about eight months.

Okay, I've got to go back on set now. So apart from the kids series The Worst Witch on television, the only other thing coming up is Never Better.

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