SCUM 1979 WIKI: THE IAN LISTON INTERVIEW
In late 2015, we tracked him down to his theatre company - he was extremely busy at the time - but come New Year, he very kindly gave us an interview after his holidays!
SCUM WIKI: It's a great pleasure for Scum Wiki to be interviewing Mr Ian Liston today, who played Mr White in 1979's Scum....Ian, many thanks for joining us today!
IAN LISTON: Thank you ever so much, but first of all my apologies for taking so long to reply...life has been very hectic of late!
SW: No problem at all! Ok, so first of all, how did you first become aware of the role, and what was the audition process?
IL: We’re going back a long way and my memory is not what it was, but I recollect being asked to audition/read for Alan Clarke at a dingy Soho office; I only had the one audition and was contracted very speedily.
SW: What was your impression of Alan Clarke and your experience of his direction techniques?
IL: I took to him straight away as we were both ‘scousers’ and he seemed to take a liking to me because I hadn’t been formally trained as an actor - and had also acquired a good list of TV credits. He’d also seen a TV play I was in called Joey (directed by another brilliant director, Brian Gibson, also sadly no longer with us). Alan had also learned his craft ‘on the job’ and I don’t think he had much time for ex-drama students!
SW: How did you approach the character of White, and what creative input did you have?
IL: There was no backstory that I was told of, but I wondered if Mr White might have been an ex-offender who’d ‘gone straight’? I never discussed that with anyone, I just learned the lines and got on with the job! Alan directed me not to be 'too posh'.
SW: Describe Mr White in one sentence.
IL: First proper job from catering college and very keen to make his mark and impress; a bit disconcerted by his environment.
SW: What part of the filming was the most memorable for you, and why?
IL: The Riot. Without a doubt. We were told that on the given cue we (the actors) all had to get out of that hall pronto as the lads in there – actors with some real life thugs and genuine hard knock villains amongst them – had a brief to destroy the building without necessarily destroying each other. We (Philip Jackson, John Judd, Bill Dean and myself) fled for our lives, and you could see the damage that was eventually done. It was a brilliant result but it could only ever have been a one-take scene.
SW: Did you enjoy working with the other actors, and who stood out for you in terms of performance and professionalism?
IL: I knew Bill Dean, I’d worked with him on the film of Gumshoe (with Albert Finney) and got on well with him (another scouser!) and I liked John Grillo, a very methodical actor, but I didn’t have much interaction with the other people. The ‘actor’ screws and the ‘actor’ villains seemed to keep a distance.
SW: What did you think of the completed film and how does it hold up today in your opinion?
IL: It has deservedly become a low budget classic and it still stands up well today as a record of how life was in the late 1970s - awful! I still get lots of people (mainly at Star Wars conventions) telling me how much they enjoyed it.
SW: Have you encountered any of your co-stars or worked with them again since 1979?
IL: Oddly no, although I worked with Bill Dean for a third time when I did a few episodes of Brookside in the early 1980s.
SW: You have been busy since with theatre and also with the Star Wars circuit - do tell us more about those.
IL: For twenty-five years I’ve produced pantomimes all over the UK, but I recently sold up and downsized to enjoy an impending retirement. I love the Star Wars jobs; they get me out of the house, and I get the chance to travel to various conventions. I’ve been to Norway, Poland and France in the last two years, and prior to that, the USA (5 Times) and - the best ever trip - Japan. That was brilliant.
SW: What were the initial beginnings of your Star Wars castings?
IL: I was originally cast to play a costume part, face unseen in Star Wars:The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and managed to squeeze in both the 'Snowtrooper' and the 'AT-AT Driver', even though they are both in the same scene! Faces weren’t seen, so it didn’t matter what outfit you put on, you just had to ‘act the part' - and there were several actors involved. On the second day after we’d finished shooting, I was about to leave the studio when I was called back to the sound stage....thinking to myself “lovely, another day”, the assistant director surprised me and asked if I could do another week as a ‘cast character’. The actor who was originally cast to play the part of 'Wes Janson' (one of the Rebel pilots) was ill - jaundice I think - and couldn’t play the role, so it was offered to me along with a hefty salary increase and my name on the credits for evermore; one week turned into two with a few odd days after that whilst they got the blue screen process just right...the rest is history.
SW: What has been the highlight role or era of your career to date?
IL: I most enjoyed fronting, for over 30 years, my own stage production - The Hiss & Boo Music Hall Show...stand-up comedy for beginners! We toured it throughout the UK and made several trips overseas; we were very big in Dubai during the mid-1990s!
SW: What are you currently working on at the moment?
IL: I have recently become a globe-trotting Prostate Cancer Patient Advocate, going to all sorts of places and meeting all sorts of people to talk about survivorship with cancer in general, and prostate cancer in particular. I was in Detroit at the end of last year and will be off to a big cancer conference in New Orleans in April (2016). I’m also getting back to acting after a long (30 months) illness.
*Please see the link at the bottom of this page
SW: What does Ian Liston like to do for leisure and interests when offstage and off-camera?
IL: I live in the Sussex Weald and we have a house with a big garden which takes a lot of looking after. I also enjoy creative writing, which I indulge in with my collection of many fountain pens, inks and journal books with nice paper. I also collect train sets – six so far - in the hope that one day I’ll have a space big enough to lay them all out...has anyone got a Hornby TPO (Travelling Post Office) set for sale?
SW: Ian, thanks ever so much for sharing your thoughts and memories with us today, and we wish you all the very best in your future projects and endeavours!
IL: My pleasure. I’ve enjoyed the look back! Best wishes to everyone!
~ Ian Liston ~
* If you'd like to help contribute to Ian's chosen charity or find out more about Prostate Cancer, please visit this link: http://prostatecanceruk.org
UPDATE: It is with great sadness for all here at Scum Wiki to announce that Mr Ian Liston passed away at The Royal Marsden Hospital on October 1st 2016, after a long, strong fight against Prostate Cancer.
He was 68.
We are very grateful to have got to know him a little in our interview earlier that year, and we send our heartfelt condolences to his family, friends & colleagues.