Ken Coombs

Ken Coombs

How did you get into acting?

My very first acting experience was, like a lot of people, in school plays and I realised at a very early age that that was what I really wanted to do.  Also one of my close friends at prep school had starred in a few films and I kind of figured that if he could do it then so could I!

When I was still at school, age about 17, as a holiday job (now called work experience), I got a job with the Peter Haddon Rep Company, based at the Wimbledon Theatre.  I did a tour of the Arthur Miller play  “ A View from the Bridge”    playing the parts of a Stevedore and a New York Cop for 3 weeks at Wimbledon, Streatham Hill and Golders Green theatres.  It was a great experience, and taught me a lot watching experienced stage actors working close up.

I really wanted to go on to drama school but because of parental persuasion, I got a job in the City instead.  I did however continue to act on stage in amateur productions regularly whilst pursuing a business career.

It wasn’t until  I was approaching my 40th birthday  that I came to the decision that unless I didn’t break into films and TV on a professional basis I would spend the rest of my life regretting it.  So I made a concerted effort, got my union card (it was very much a closed shop in those days), and started working in films. The first film I worked on was “Eye of the Needle” followed soon after by “Return of the Jedi” which when we were making it was called “Revenge of the Jedi”.

You have appeared in a number of my favourite childhood films including Batman, Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom and many more. How does it feel to be part of these iconic franchises?

I consider I have been extremely lucky to have appeared in so many iconic films over the years.  With Batman I appeared in the first  Michael Keaton / Jack Nicholson film directed by Tim Burton playing a Gotham City Policeman as well as a party guest  and last year was again lucky to appear in final film “ The Dark Knight Rises” which we filmed at Stanstead Airport.  With Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom I was in the Shanghai Nightclub scene. Sadly I didn’t work on any of the others in the series. I was also lucky to have appeared in 4 James Bonds films with three different James Bonds.   Octopussy & View to a Kill with Roger Moore, Living Daylights with Timothy Dalton and GoldenEye with Pierce Brosnan. I also did “Willow” and “Superman 1V”.  More recently I worked on the two Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes films and of course I played an Imperial Officer in “Return of the Jedi” episode V1 of the Star Wars saga.  I have appeared in over 600 films and TV shows over the years. On TV I have had parts in The Bill, Eastenders, On the Up, Inspector Morse, Minder, two episodes of the long forgotten “Space Precinct” and more recently “Lewis”.  I have also appeared in a number of commercials over the years and still do.

Your career in acting has spanned over thirty years. Are there any big projects you’d like to have a go at?

I am just happy to be able to continue working in films and television.  I am sure I will never retire.  So long as I am able to get up in the morning I will keep working if I am lucky to be asked!  I would like to do more ‘voice over’ work which I have always enjoyed.

If you could have any film, theatre or television role what would it be?

I remember seeing the Alfred Hitchcock film “Strangers on a Train” many years ago and remember coming out of the cinema wanting to play the part of Bruno Anthony, the psychotic killer.  Every time I see the film I get the same feeling. I’m sure I would be terrible in the part but it is such a great part as played by the late Robert Walker.

 What director (living or dead) would you most like to work with?

I have been lucky to have worked with a number of great Directors.  Steven Spielberg on “Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom” and “Empire of the Sun “Tim Burton on “Batman” and recently Ron Howard on “Rush “but I think it if I had a choice then it would have to be Alfred Hitchcock.  I know he considered actors to be cattle but he made some of the really great films.  Rear Window, North by North West, and of course Strangers on a Train!

Who would your dream dinner guests be?

I may be showing my age here but   I think Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy would really make fun dinner guests with may be Marilyn Monroe to add a bit of glamour.  Now that would make for an interesting dinner party full of laughs.

What are your plans for the future?

I don’t have any set plans as such.  I just hope that I will still be able to continue working in the industry I like so much.   I started appearing at Star Wars conventions a couple of years ago which I really enjoy. Last year I did shows in Germany and Holland as well as The NEC in Birmingham.  This year I was lucky to go to Japan for a number of appearances in Tokyo & Yokohama as well as shows closer to home in Swindon and Cheshunt and next year I already have shows booked for France, New York,  Spain and Germany.   Its great meeting and talking with fans of the Star Wars films who are truly worldwide.  There is a very large Star Wars community on Facebook and I have friends all over the world because of appearing in Return of the Jedi over 30 years ago.

What advice would you have for people who want to go into acting and have a long term career?

The advice I would give is if you really want to be an actor you ideally need to go to a reputable drama school to learn your trade.  You have to have a strong belief in yourself and be able to accept rejection which sadly is fairly common, but if you have that belief in yourself you will be able to succeed.  There is a phrase which I have always believed in and which I would recommend to anyone – “If you really want something you have to go out and make it happen”

 

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