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Playing dead

Updated Tuesday, 29th September 2009

Richard Wilson reflects on the actor’s experience of death on stage and screen

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Richard Wilson

What was interesting was that I did get a lot of letters from people, a) that were angry, and b) that they were in a sort of mourning for Victor. So I think the public were more upset than I was, in a sense.

Well, of course, you don't die because you're acting it. [Laughs]. It doesn't actually happen. I haven't died that many times in my theatrical career, but I have died in the past, and I think the thing you think about dying when you're an actor is dying well.

You know, you see death so many times in film that you just want to make it as believable as possible. I mean there's always a famous shot; I don't think they actually did it in One Foot, but there's the famous shot of the moment of death, as it were, where as an actor your character goes from living to dying and the main thing to try and do is concentrate really hard so that your eyelids don't flutter. That's one of the first things you think about. But it is a very, you know, it's such a common scene.

I mean that's one of the things that is interesting about talking about death, that we see it on television all the time. Death is cheap on television, people die at a tremendous rate, one death after another, and yet we as a society tend not to be very keen to talk about it when it touches us.

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