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Press Archive
Fabulous 208August 16th 1969
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William Gaunt: The Exception
William Gaunt
Playing a dormouse in our school play was enough to turn me swanky for weeks, so two big parts in two major telly series (Sergeant Cork and The Champions) would understandably turn anyone’s head. Once actors reach the big time, it’s difficult for them to be satisfied with anything smaller, but like all rules there’s an exception… WILLIAM GAUNT.
“When I was doing The Champions, they treated me rather like a god,” said Bill. “You get a dressing-room suite, the works, which is so ridiculous really. It’s very easy to turn your head.
“A lot of people get inflated ideas about their position in the business and wait around for the ‘right’ jobs, but I believe you’ve got to have humility. After all, you’re in a very insecure position when there are four people for every job, and I’ve never thought the theatre owed me a living.”
From the age of sixteen, acting has been Bill’s only thought. Born in Pudsey, Yorkshire his father a solicitor, his childhood wasn’t particularly happy because he didn’t fit in with the respectable Yorkshire scene.
“I rebelled against it until I was fifteen, but I didn’t know then what else there was. I used to go off on my own, the first time was when I was twelve. My parents thought I was youth hostelling on my bike in East Anglia, but I left the bike at Leeds station and took off for London for the weekend. They’d have been horrified if they’d known.
“I had about 3 saved from birthday and Christmas presents and the first night I stayed at the Regent Palace Hotel. The people there were terribly suspicious, but I made up some story about being the son of a millionaire (I was ambitious even then!).”
Bill has always kicked against authority and the only kind he respects is his own. Ideally he would like to work day in and day out, and he’s really unhappy when he isn’t working.
“I just like to work. I’ll go anywhere to work.
“I went to America for a year in 1957 and loved it there. It was at a privileged time because in Dallas they loved the theatre and especially British actors. We were so well looked after and had plenty of money.
“I like Hollywood and New York, too. The Americans have such a sense of purpose and dedication. They throw themselves into things completely. Often you have to do banal things (like a friend of mine who played a wood louse in Dr. Who) and if you couldn’t do them with enthusiasm you’d kill yourself.”
Provided his work is going well, Bill can relax enough to enjoy his beautiful 17th-century cottage in the Cotswolds.
“It’s nice to go to the cottage because in London all my friends are theatrical. There, nobody cares whether you’re an actor or not and they take you as they find you. You have more real friendships in the village.”
Most of Bill’s time, however, is spent at his flat in London’s Pimlico and his main hobby is golf.
“I started playing golf seriously two years ago. It’s marvellous because it’s so absorbing, that’s why a lot of actors like the game. I belong to The Stage Golfing Society, and at the moment I feel very chuffed because I was second to one of the King brothers in a tournament. I won 8!
“I also like cricket and hope to play for the village team. They’ve promised me I can.”
At the moment Bill is starring in the West End production, The Boys in the Band. At thirty-two it doesn’t bother him that other, younger actors like David Hemmings, with whom he once worked in rep, have gone on to bigger and better things. He admires actors with enormous talent like Albert Finney who have not sold out to commercialism and do exactly what they want.
But then Bill, too, is doing exactly what he wants—he’s ACTING.
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COLOUR by Bryan Allen
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