SCUM 1979 WIKI: THE MICK FORD INTERVIEW
In July 2012, we made contact with Scum actor Mick Ford who played the eloquent Archer character.
Mick got back to us very quickly and soon completed our Q&A session below - he's quite a guy!
SCUM WIKI: Here's another great Scum Wiki interview with the man behind intellectual inmate Archer, Mr Mick Ford! Mick, thanks kindly for answering our questions here today!
MICK FORD: My pleasure.
SCUM WIKI: You were a new face in the 1979 remake, having replaced David Threlfall who was unavailable at the time of filming...what can you tell us about your original audition for Archer?
MICK FORD: It's interesting - David was unavailable because he was in the Royal Shakespeare Company - and I was writing the music for one of the plays he was in, called Savage Amusement. We never spoke about me going up for Archer - I didn't even know he was in the original; it had never been shown at that point - and the subject never came up - but that's when I went up for it. As I remember, it took them a while to decide on me - I think partly because I was a lot older than the rest of the boys - in fact: I had two children at this stage; I was 26 - I just looked young - so Alan (Clarke) and the producers had a long hard think before deciding in my favour.
SCUM WIKI: Archer's dialogue was obviously one of the most important factors of Scum in exposing the corruption and failure of borstal systems...what was it like working with Alan Clarke, and what was expected of you in your interpretation of the character?
MICK FORD: Alan Clarke was the best director of young actors I've ever come across: he would sit beside the camera and watch you like a hawk - he didn't want a performance, he wanted you to just be the character - and would tell you to f*** off if he spotted any acting going on - and he was always right - although I wasn't always good enough to stop doing it. As for what was expected of me: I think he was keen to let the weight of my age set me apart from the other boys.
SCUM WIKI: How did you prepare yourself for Archer's character, and what influences did you use?
MICK FORD: I wanted this part as soon as I read the script: it was a dream character; you're in this story with everyone else kicking the shit out of one another - and you sail through it, using your brain. I saw this as how I'd love to be if I was brave and smart enough - so: I just lived out that fantasy for six weeks filming.
SCUM WIKI: Describe Archer in one sentence.
MICK FORD: He's the spanner in the works; a spanner with wit.
SCUM WIKI: In your opening shot, and in many other parts of the film, Archer was required to be barefoot, even outside in snowy weather or on hard, stony ground...was this difficult and uncomfortable for you?
MICK FORD: Polishing bare feet is obviously okay. Oddly, walking around in the snow with no shoes on for a couple of hours is fine - plus, you know it will look great. But when your feet thaw out...that is unbearable - that hurts - that is a very particular pain probably best not experienced...
SCUM WIKI: Some great scenes we'd like to discuss now, starting with the ones with Peter Howell (The Governor)...was it hard to keep a straight face during the plastic boots/Mecca scene? Archer was clearly enjoying himself here!
MICK FORD: I think they used the first take. But we did maybe twenty takes - this was a scene where Alan must have spotted me acting - cos I got quite a few "f*** offs" and when you repeat a scene because you're not getting the tone right, the pressure quickly builds - which is tricky when you're meant to be relaxed! But I remember Alan coming up to me the next day when he'd seen the rushes and saying "we used take one".
MICK FORD: Opposite experience - a very long scene which somehow Bill and I did very speedily - we were done by lunchtime. (I should put "if my memory serves me right" at the end of every answer!)
SCUM WIKI: Archer was lucky enough to escape violence for the most part, except at the finale and also the hard shove into the cell from warden Taylor (Nigel Humphreys)...were there any accidents or minor injuries during filming?
MICK FORD: Not to my knowledge, no - one of the amazing things about watching the violence being filmed is how well rehearsed and exact it was - it was very skilfully done.
SCUM WIKI: You had many other great scenes of course, your reading the letter to Woods, your battle of wits with the Matron, your comradeship with Carlin, to name but a few...what Archer scene was your personal favourite?
MICK FORD: I liked the walking in the snow - and the final image of Archer, unconscious and bloodied, being thrown into his cell. And, of course, the riot. I can say I've been in a riot - it was extraordinary - and if you watch it again, keep an eye on the actors playing the screws...
SCUM WIKI: What did you get up to inbetween scenes, and do you have any interesting or amusing memories during filming to share?
MICK FORD: Well, as I say, I was older than the rest of the lads - I drove myself to work - they came in a coach or minibus - which I seem to remember they stole one day. They were high-octane, energised, mischievous, smart and very funny teenagers - my friends were the screws; they were nearer my age.
SCUM WIKI: Did you enjoy working with the rest of the cast?
MICK FORD: Completely - Scum remains one of the most satisfying jobs I've done. Alan Clarke didn't just cast actors brilliantly, the whole crew were fantastic - it was perfect.
SCUM WIKI: Do you keep in contact with any of them or see them on other productions from time to time?
SCUM WIKI: When did you last watch Scum yourself?
MICK FORD: A couple of years ago - two of my sons watched it - and I thought it stood up well - I'll tell you what makes it powerful for me: there's no music - well, there's some on the radio in the first scene as they arrive, but after that, nothing - and I can't think of any other films that builds up so much tension without a film score. That's impressive.
SCUM WIKI: Have you seen the 2010 film Dog Pound, a Scum remake set in a North American youth correctional facility?
MICK FORD: I haven't, no - haven't even heard of it. Dog Pound...will have to look it up.
SCUM WIKI: Another notable performance from this era was your lead role in Taxi driver drama The Knowledge....what are your memories on this production?
MICK FORD: I did these two films pretty much one after the other - and, again, the part was a gift - and, again, I was surrounded by brilliant actors. Believe me, it makes life easier.
SCUM WIKI: As an actor, playwright and screenwriter, what have been your personal best so far?
MICK FORD: In acting: Scum, a play called Singer at the RSC, a film called Light Years Away. In writing: probably William and Mary, and Single Father.
SCUM WIKI: What upcoming productions can you tell us about, and what hobbies and interests does Mick Ford like to pursue?
MICK FORD: I've got a three-part thriller coming out on ITV later this year called The Last Weekend - which is my adaptation of a Blake Morrison book - and I think they've done a terrific job on that, so look out for The Last Weekend. As for hobbies, writing takes up a lot of my time - too much of my time, because you can never say you've finished - but, in the past, I've always done music as well, so that's an interest. Otherwise, it's my family.
SCUM WIKI: Mick, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and memories with us today, and we wish you all the best in all your current and future projects and assignments.
MICK FORD: Pleasure - thanks for asking me.