Piers Haggard Obituary | TV

Piers Haggard Obituary | TV

Dennis Potter‘s 1978 BBC sequence Pennies from Heaven launched audiences to the rugged appeal of Bob Hoskinswho performed a pre-war sheet music salesman, and following the behavior of its writer, later featured in The Singing Detective and Lipstick on Your Collar, of blending crudely lifelike scenes with fantasy interludes that includes characters lip-synching by nostalgic previous requirements are.

The fabric’s mix of playfulness and foreboding was masterfully dealt with in Pennies from Heaven by director Piers Haggard, who has died aged 83. Write in this paperNancy Banks-Smith known as the sequence “fairly extraordinary”.

Haggard thought this system was “a really rewarding mixture of issues that I am fairly good at. I really like utilizing music dramatically. I’ve a substantial amount of empathy for the streak in Dennis Potter of the non secular and poetic, and the ethical depth of his writing.” He later directed Potter’s one-off BBC tv drama Guests (1987), about two {couples} on vacation, which the writer tailored from his personal play Enough Carbohydrate.

He has spent most of Haggard’s profession on tv, though he has directed a handful of movies. Marriage ceremony Night time (1969), starring Dennis Waterman and Tessa Wyatt, was a story of sexual repression set in Dublin. Largely ignored, it nonetheless led to an invite to direct a portmanteau horror movie. Haggard persuaded the movie’s producers to let him sew collectively the three separate tales in Robert Wynne-Simmons’ script into one, therefore his co-authorship of “extra materials” to the completed movie The Blood on Devil’s Claw (1971).

Piers Haggard started out in theater but thrived in the world of television from the 1960s.
Piers Haggard began out in theater however thrived on the earth of tv from the Nineteen Sixties. Picture: Administrators UK

Not being a horror fan hardly mattered. “Since this was a narrative about folks uncovered to superstitions about life within the forest, the darkish poetry of it appealed to me,” he advised Fangoria journal in 2004. “I used to be attempting to do a people horror movie, I suppose. No Campy.”

He succeeded. The movie, which begins with an unknown “fiend” being unearthed in an 18th-century English village, has transferring Dick Bush cinematography, compelling performances and a penchant for enduring concern over low-cost horrors.

Amongst his admirers was US filmmaker Joe Dante, who described it as “top-of-the-line British horror movies of the Seventies”. Jonathan Demmewho later signed Haggard’s utility to the Administrators Guild of America together with Martin Scorsese Alan Parker. Critic Vincent Canby praised the movie’s “model and intelligence” and in contrast it favorably to HP Lovecraft.

Much less spectacular was The Fiendish Plot of Dr Fu Manchu (1980), an unfunny farrago that Haggard did his finest to create coherence earlier than ultimately being fired by wayward star Peter Sellers. “Peter obtained sicker and sicker, began hating me, began hating the film, and it simply went downhill from there,” he mentioned in 1981. (It will be Sellers’ final movie.)

Subsequent, Haggard was a last-minute alternative for Tobe Hopper, director of The Texas Chainsaw Bloodbath, on the ludicrous thriller Venom (1981), by which a lethal black mamba is on the unfastened throughout a kidnapping. Haggard’s tales of off-screen tensions between his stars Oliver Reed and Klaus Kinski, which he later divulged in a DVD commentary observe, proved extra attention-grabbing than the movie itself.

He additionally directed A Summer time Story (1988) with the lead function Susanne York and set in turn-of-the-century Torquay, and Conquest (1989), a unusual small-town romantic comedy described by Selection journal as “successful sly”.

Linda Hayden in The Blood on Satan's Claw, 1971, directed by Piers Haggard and praised for her
Linda Hayden in The Blood on Devil’s Claw, 1971, directed by Piers Haggard and praised for her “model and intelligence”. Picture: Ronald Grant

The nice-grandnephew of H Rider Haggard, writer of King Solomon’s Mines, Piers was born in London to Morna Gillespie, an assistant stage supervisor, and Stephen Haggard, an actor. He was evacuated along with his mom and brother (who later died of diphtheria) to stay along with his household in New York throughout World Struggle II. His father killed himself in 1943 whereas on an intelligence publish in Egypt, apparently after the tip of an extramarital affair. “I hardly knew my father, however I used to be advised that Corin Redgrave and I used to be pushed onto the stage by him in our stroller as soon as,” he mentioned.

His mom remarried and the household moved to a farm in Clackmannanshire. Haggard was educated at Greenback Academy and claimed to have had no contact with theater till his time at Edinburgh College. There he not solely discovered English but additionally took up appearing and directing and in 1958 he co-founded the Edinburgh Competition Fringe Society. “All of a sudden the previous household custom prevailed once more,” he mentioned.

George Devine, a buddy of his father’s, gave him a directing internship on the Royal Court docket in London, the place he assisted Lindsay Anderson. A stint directing at Glasgow’s Citizen Theater (which he held in excessive esteem as a result of it “hardened me rather a lot from a relatively sheltered middle-class childhood”) led to him leaving after repeated arguments Ian Cuthbertsonthe overall supervisor and manufacturing supervisor there – however not earlier than he had directed Albert Finney in Pirandello’s Henry IV.

He took a job as an assistant director at Laurence Olivier’s Nationwide Theater within the Outdated Vic and was additionally employed as an assistant Michelangelo Antonioni – who he discovered “somber, introverted, brooding” – on the set of his enigmatic thriller explosion (1966), the place he translated the director’s directions to the principally British solid.

A scene from the 1979 TV miniseries Quatermass directed by Piers Haggard and starring Simon MacCorkindale (second left) and John Mills (second right).  It was later released in theaters as The Quartermass Conclusion.
A scene from the 1979 TV miniseries Quatermass directed by Piers Haggard and starring Simon MacCorkindale (second left) and John Mills (second proper). It was later launched in theaters as The Quartermass Conclusion. Picture: Fremantle Media/Shutterstock

Haggard had beforehand assisted one other Italian filmmaker, Franco Zeffirelli, throughout his manufacturing of A lot Ado About Nothing on the Nationwide in 1965. Annoyed that Olivier would by no means grant him full director standing, he switched to tv, the place he thrived. He didn’t direct for the Nationwide till 1981’s Nineteenth-century melodrama The Ticket-of-Go away Man.

His tv work has included episodes of the 1966 cleaning soap opera The Newcomers, the starring crime sequence Callan Edward Woodward (1967-70), a 1976 BBC model of the Chester Thriller Cycle which introduced him to the eye of Kenith Trodd, producer of Pennies from Heaven, and Nigel Kneale‘s sci-fi horror Quatermass (1979) with John Millswhich was re-edited and launched cinematically as The Quartermass Conclusion.

The 5 have been the perfect Alan Bennett Performs he directed for the BBC, broadcast beneath the collective title Objects of Affection (1982), and the 2 Jack Rosenthal Items, Eskimo Day (1996) and Chilly Sufficient for Snow (1997).

Within the early Eighties, Haggard began his personal promoting company. He provided his companies freed from cost to make partisan packages for Shirley Williamsand spent a lot of his profession campaigning for the rights of his fellow administrators.

He directed his daughter Daisy Haggard, now an achieved comics actress and author, in her first function at age 16 in a two-part episode of The Ruth Rendell Mysteries, although not with out protest. “The story goes that he did not wish to solid me, however the producers overruled him.” she told this newspaper in 2015. “He needed to admit that I used to be completely proper for the function of a whole psycho.”

She credited him with being her mentor. “He all the time says, ‘Create the circumstances the place you’ll be able to shine with out being an asshole.’ and maintain. Your. Nerve’, in a really deep voice.”

He was first married in 1960 to Christiane Stokes, with whom he had 4 kids, Sarah, Claire, Rachel and Philip; the wedding led to divorce. In 1972 he married stained glass artist Anna Sklovsky they usually had two kids, William and Daisy. Haggard leaves behind Anna, his kids and 13 grandchildren.

Piers Inigo Haggard, movie and tv director, born March 18, 1939; died January 11, 2023


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