Ginger Nuts of Horror
For the benefit of the younger audience who may be unaware of the work of Françoise Pascal I will begin by making a brief introduction to her career. Françoise Pascal, originally from Mauritius, stood out clearly in the London of the 'Swinging 60s' and soon became a dancer in the British TV show 'Top of the Pops', by the age of 19 she had a first film role in 'Loving Feeling'. From that time on Françoise has had a quite remarkable career on stage, in films and TV on both sides of the pond, acting with the likes of Peter Sellers, Lee Remick, Rex Harrison, Goldie Hawn, Frazer Hines, Barry Evans and Mickey Rooney. In a world in which 'National Treasure' and 'Sex Symbol' are all too often misused I believe I can refer to Françoise Pascal as being both with absolutely no doubt that they apply to this film star and former Penthouse Pin-Up. Her charm, sense of humour, and obvious beauty put her in the forefront of the entertainment industry for decades. Although having a significant body of work on stage and screen she is perhaps best known to UK viewers in her standout role as 'Danielle Favre' in the hit sitcom 'Mind Your Language'.
Françoise is currently working on several projects which I will shamelessly plug with info and links following this interview, not because I have been asked to, as I haven't, but because they are well deserved. I recently watched 'The Horrors of Burke and Hare' (aka 'Burke and Hare') in which Françoise has the lead female role and that inspired me to contact her for this interview. Françoise graciously agreed, so here we are:
GNoH: Your first appearance in the horror genre was an uncredited role in 'Incense for the Damned' ('Bloodsuckers' US) in 1970; it was somewhat brief but memorable. The film starred several of the top names of the day such as Patrick Mower, Edward Woodward, Patrick Macnee and of course one of the all-time-greats of the genre: Peter Cushing. What access, if any, did you have to these stars and what were they like to work with?
Yes I had been filming small roles for numerous film productions and as usual (a 70s trait) the 'sexy French girl' roles. I certainly was not a newcomer on the showbiz scene, as I was acting since I was 12 years old on the stage and then turned to film acting since 1966 in 'Loving Feeling'.
In 'Bloodsuckers' as we know it, I did not work with these wonderful actors, they brought me in to supply excitement to the film as it turned out to be a very dull film. I was working with extras and made a good addition to the film, sadly the film got panned from the critics and I ended up without a credit. I knew Peter Cushing, Edward Woodward and Patrick Mower as colleagues in the business. I did work with Patrick on a show called Cluedo and Give us a Clue too.
GNoH: The same year as 'Incense for the Damned' saw you working in 'There's a Girl in My Soup' with Peter Sellers, whom as I am sure you will agree was something of an international superstar, and Goldie Hawn, famous at the time for 'Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In'. That's absolute A-Lister territory, were you nervous to appear in such a high-profile film?
Yes, that was the highlight of my career. When I was interviewed for the role, I was actually interviewed at Shepperton studio with Peter Sellers and Roy Boulting, the Director. They both had put me at ease and it was wonderful to be in their company. So I knew Peter before I started and knew Goldie when I did a stint on Laugh-In. So it wasn't a big deal for me. I just adored them and was thrilled to be in a film with them. Although my scenes were not with Goldie but she used to be on the set sometime. You forgot to mention the lovely Diana Dors who I have worked with three times in my career, and the ever so fab Tony Britton who starred in Robin's Nest.
GNoH: It certainly was an all-star cast. In 1970 you had a role in a TV series 'Go Girl' about a Go-Go-Dancer/Detective. It sounds like a great idea and looked to have something of an 'Austin Powers' vibe to it. Sadly (in my opinion) the series didn't make it beyond the pilot episode. Can you tell us more about that?
This was a project for Luanne Peters and she also wanted to produce it without Sue and I but I guess she messed it up and nothing came out of it. When you behave like a Diva, you don't get anywhere but if you were a good business woman in the first place, you could get everything. The script was very light and there was no substance in it. I think they should have had a better writer that could have done it as an Austin Powers kind of TV series. Susan Shiffrin who is now David Cassidy's wife and I were the unhappiest people on that Pilot. Luanne Peters was horrible to us and did not want us in a lot of scenes so we decided that we were above all that and Susan and I excelled in our dancing choreographed by Matt Mattox of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Arlene Phillips was supposed to do it but if memory serves me right she had another job so gave it to Matt who found Luanne as difficult to work with!
GNoH: In 1971 you made the horror/comedy 'Burke and Hare' with Derren Nesbitt and Glynn Edwards. There is one scene in particular set in a brothel with you being chased around a bedroom by a rather large soldier; it looked as if you were having a lot of fun, what are your recollections of that scene and the film in general?
Whilst I was filming 'Bloodsuckers', The Exec of Twickenham Studios came on the set during our lunch break, suddenly I heard this shout 'I found my Marie, I found my Marie' at the top of his voice, astounded I looked around and there was Guido Cohen pointing at me. "Wow", I said to myself, "who is this Marie and most of all what is he going on about?" I found out that he has been looking for his Marie for quite a while and now found her in me. How lucky was I?
GNoH: One of those fortuitous moments for sure, by the sound of it something you needed after your prior upsets.
Early in your career you played several roles in which you were mainly the object of sexual desire, do you generally regret having done nude scenes?
Yes I do, I wish I had done a James Bond or a Hammer Film, but this was not to be. Looking back on it, they were all exploitation films be it a Bond Film or a Hammer Film. I regret doing the rubbish that I did, that's for sure.
GNoH: You have many projects you are currently working on as well as promoting your recent autobiography 'As I Am', did you write it all yourself or did you as many celebrities do, employ a ghostwriter?
I wrote it all myself. I had to, but got a bum deal with the Publisher. They never marketed my book properly so therefore it did not make a hit on the market. It was a good book, no longer available as I sacked my Publisher and never got a penny from them. I am at present writing another one and a Children's book.
GNoH: Has there ever been an acting role you would have loved to have been offered, if so, what and why?
Yes I would have loved to have been asked to do a Hammer film as a main role. They never asked me! I don't know why? I guess I will never know!
GNoH: Do you see being a celebrity as being a 24/7 job or would you say that you have a normal lifestyle?
No being a Celebrity is only when it is needed to be, I like my life being normal and spending it with my grandchildren and then going home and having 'Me time'. These days I like my anonymity as it is not a life of celebrity that I lead but a life of a jobbing actress.
GNoH: You've been for dinner at 'The Ivy', who were you there with and what did you eat?
I mostly eat fish in restaurants as I cannot stomach meat. My digestive system will not allow it. The Ivy has great wine and I like a good Pouilly-Fuissé white vintage which they seem to stock.
GNoH: You have said on occasion women in general don't care much for you; can you share an example of the animosity?
Many times in my career in the 70s, there have been many women who were either jealous of me or envied me. I never could understand that kind of feeling, if I see a beautiful woman I would not envy her or be jealous of her, on the contrary I would applaud her and admire her beauty as well as respect her. I had a woman once at a party who was glued to her husband because she was afraid that I would be admiring and chatting up her husband.....Please.....Not my style, but she looked at me as if she would have killed me if I had said boo to him! She was an idiot!
GNoH: What things wouldn't you leave the house without, things other than the obvious clothes, money, keys et cetera?
I cannot leave my house without my everyday Jewelry which consist of my watch, an Egyptian gold chain and my rings as well as my lucky chain. I just don't feel dressed without them.
GNoH: Who was the last celebrity to chat you up?
Oh My Gosh! What a question! I don't remember, I guess the last Celeb to chat me up was Danny Dyer at a party after his play! I think he was a bit drunk! Not much to say there is there?
GNoH: Have you ever had any obsessive fans or stalkers?
Oh Yes! Several over the years! I now have them online! Trouble with some fans they think they know you and then they think they own you! NOT! I own me! I am just doing a role on screen not the real person, and I wish they would understand that. When I was doing Mind Your Language, they called me Danielle, now they still call me Danielle specially the fans overseas. It's ok though. I like them a lot trolls et al!
GNoH: Who've been the celebrities who were not what you thought they were for good reasons or bad?
I met a few in my lifetime that were not what I thought they were some good and some bad.
GNoH: Sensibly tight-lipped eh? Wise move.
What is the best thing that's ever happened to you, not just in the entertainment industry but in life?
The Birth of my son! The best thing ever that happened to me!
GNoH: The world of horror movies has changed a lot in the technical aspects yet they're still arguably exploitative where women are concerned, even if they are in a starring role. What are your views on this and what warning would you give to potential actresses seeking an inroad into the entertainment industry?
I think horror movies are being done independently with independent money. More and more creativity is added and they don't have big studios behind them anymore as the audience has also changed. Unless you have big names in your movie, you can bet that it will not be marketed properly. Some independent Horror movie producers are in it for the glory, some for the gory effect, some for the money and some for the sheer joy of just doing a horror film. Saying that, Dani Thompson is an inspiration to all of them, she makes films to make money and to be creative. I like that lady very much, not only beautiful but savvy.
Yes they are still exploiting women, women have been exploited for over a century in the Cinema, it is not new. Nowadays, there are not many great parts for women. The young ones if lucky can get a juicy role, the over 30s corner the market for that age but as for the middle aged and the older generation NO CHANCE!
GNoH: We now live in a world where Andy Warhol's prediction of everyone having 15 minutes of fame has potentially come true, there are more Internet celebrities than real ones and people are far too willing to do far more for far less. As a genuine celebrity, what do you make of 'Reality TV' and would you ever go on 'Celebrity Big Brother'?
May I correct you, now I am not really a celebrity in this day and age, I am an Actress. I hate Reality shows and what they represent for the minorities with no brain. Most of these poor saps become celebrities without doing a piece of work in the business. They have appeared on Reality shows so therefore they are STARS according to the Sun or The Daily Star or The Daily Mirror. Models are becoming actors because they have a name on the catwalk. No I am not envious not jealous as I had my days but there is no dignity left in this business. I feel ashamed sometime to be called a CELEBRITY!
GNoH: I still regard you as one, maybe because I'm from a generation which recognizes true celebrity, not the manufactured 'Kardashian' type trashiness we're palmed off with.
What are the questions and topics you hate being asked about in interviews?
My Private Life!
GNoH: Moving swiftly on…. Please tell us what's been the most difficult role you've ever played and why?
The Girl in La Rose de Fer. It was a very demanding role and I felt very vulnerable in that role. I had to carry the film on my own back because I had a very difficult and uncooperative co-star.
GNoH: What would be your dream role?
My dream role would have been to play Cleopatra on Stage and on TV. Unfortunately, I miss out on both counts.... Age too young and now too old! Story of my life!
GNoH: If you could do something illegal knowing for a fact that you can get away with it, what would you do?
Oh I always do things by the book, but walking into Buckingham Palace and visiting the Queen in her private sitting room would be just awesome. Of course, that is if I could get away with it. Met the Queen Mother at a lunch that her Grenadiers gave for me, I was their pin up! The Queen Mother came in for a drink and me practically drunk had to behave.
GNoH: Do you currently have any hobbies, if so, what do you do? If not, have you ever had any?
I had many hobbies when I was young including knitting. Nowadays I like cooking, and when possible being with my grandchildren.
GNoH: You have 24 hours in which you can be anything, do anything, have anything… A complete fantasy. Describe your fantasy day?
OK! Easy, I dream that I would be a Bavarian Princess as the sister of Elizabeth of Austria for a whole day and be presented to the Court of Austria in Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna. Dance the Waltz and be admired by many suitors as well as a Prince Charming rescuing me to his palace where we marry and have many little princes and princesses, but then the dream broke and I am back on hard soil!
GNoH: Who are your biggest celebrity crushes past and present, and why them?
Never had celebrity crushes in the past. Now it's Jason Statham and Stanley Tucci. One a hard man, the other a funny man and a great actor...Go figure! xxxx
GNoH: In 1973 you starred in the previously mentioned Jean Rollin film 'La Rose de Fer' (The Iron Rose), which was a somewhat Gothic romance and most certainly your film as you stole every scene. You're on record as saying your co-star Hugues Quester didn't get on with the director. His acting appeared (to me at least) to be very over-the-top, do you think that was why the film was relatively unpopular with critics?
La Rose de Fer was a very difficult film for Jean Rollin to do let alone having a very uncooperative actor on the set. Hugues Quester was a fine actor but decided that the script was shit and did not want to be associated with the film. He hated Rollin and did not want to accept any direction from him. So he directed himself and did what he thought was right for himself. I, on the other hand was very happy to cooperate with Rollin and work with him as best I could. The film was unpopular not because of his acting but because Rollin's fans wanted a typical Rollin film of vampires and gory happenings such as blood and nudity as well as vampires. They did not accept Rollin to be artistic. Rollin sank all his money in La Rose de Fer and it is now that the film is being recognized as a cult movie. I for one am very proud of the film.
GNoH: 'La Rose de Fer' (The Iron Rose) largely takes place in the beautifully creepy Amiens cemetery, there is a certain amount of desecration of the graveyard happening throughout the film, were they props or genuine funereal objects and how did it feel to be filming there?
They were generally genuine all of what you see was genuine. The graves etc. The Cemetery genuine, we filmed at night and finished at 6am. We filmed when the cemetery closed and finished at dawn before it would open. We did not desecrate any of the graves, some were just empty and we used it. The bones were not real. They were put there in the cemetery for the film. It felt very eerie and I use to be scared come midnight that a spirit would appear. I knew that Jules Verne (Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Around the World in 80 Days etc) was buried there and use to call his name for protection. I loved filming at night it was great fun too.
GNoH: What type of film or TV roles would like to be offered in the future and what would you definitely turn down?
I would not turn down parts nowadays as they are far and few between. Too old for nudity and would not do it either.
GNoH: One of your more recent projects was narrating an episode of the upcoming horror series 'Fragments of Fear' (2015), what was that like for you?
I loved it because it was acting a narration. I loved it because I was able to go overboard with it. I loved it because I was working with young people who have a vision of what the film should be. I enjoyed working on Fragments of Fear very much.
GNoH: More independent film makers are making horror than ever before, would you be happy to do more work in that genre?
Yes, since I missed a lot of the Hammer films, I would welcome more horror films or TV for me. I have a penchant towards the unknown or the gory.
GNoH: You have one personal message to give to the world, what would you like to say?
Just as Marilyn Monroe said:
I'm selfish, impatient, and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I'm out of control, and at times hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best.
GNoH: Françoise Pascal thank you very much, it's been a pleasure talking with you.
Images supplied courtesy of Françoise Pascal/Marc Tracy
These images and many more including autographed images from Françoise's personal private collection available to purchase direct from her website:
Many thanks to both Françoise and Marc for their help and co-operation.