I received a fascinating email from a close friend of mine and SBC, Mr. Dan Guenzel, which he has given me permission to share with our readers. Poor Dan, were it not for Braveheart, he might be on his way to fulfilling his dream of directing good wholesome family movies.
I was very happy to see you mention the passing of Patrick McGoohan, for he was, indeed, a very fine man. I am writing a brief appreciation of him for a website. Within twelve months we lost two great actors, Paul Scofield (Thomas More in “A Man for All Seasons”) and McGoohan.
Just to bore you a little, when I was a teen-aged boy Patrick McGoohan (thanks to “Secret Agent”) was the embodiment of every manly virtue I ever wanted to cultivate. Funny thing, television. It can be a source of such foulness and yet could also be (at least in “the old days”) somewhat inspiring. “Secret Agent” was – and still is – an excellent tv series well deserving of its high reputation. It had good writing, good acting and good stories.
Back in 1994 I was preparing a short film project and, perhaps somewhat recklessly, wanted McGoohan to be involved. I called the Screen Actor’s Guild in Hollywood and, surprisingly, they gave me his home address. I sent him a copy of the script along with a letter. A few weeks later his wife called me on the phone, thanked me for thinking of her husband, and said she’d show the script to her husband.
Weeks passed by and I began to start thinking about how stupid it was for a nobody like me to importune such a respected actor. It now seemed a perfectly silly thing to do even though his wife was so kind about the matter. Hopefully the whole thing would blow over without causing any undue embarrassment.
About a fortnight later the phone rings and one of my daughters answers it. We heard a gasp coming from her voice and then she said to me, “Dad, it’s Patrick McGoohan.” With quivering legs I took the phone and spent the next hour and a half having the most pleasant chat with this wonderful man. Yes, he was interested in doing the project. Yes, he would like to talk more about it, etc. We spoke of many, many things. After that conversation you could have knocked me over with a feather. He promised to get back to me in several weeks time to see what his schedule would permit. Wow.
Then the next call came, several weeks later. “Dan,” he said. “I’ve got a dilemma. I’ve been asked to do two projects at the same time: yours and a $50 million Mel Gibson epic, ‘Braveheart’. Which should I accept?” He was so charming about it, teasing me in this way, and I said, “Of course, obviously mine.” We had a good laugh over that. In all seriousness he thanked me for the interesting offer but thought he’d better do the Gibson film. It broke my heart, because we were that close to getting him.
A month or two later he called me again, just to chat, telling me how worried he was over the Gibson picture, specifically its historically inaccurate portrayal of the part he was to play, Longshanks, and the overall tone of the film which McGoohan felt was in many ways misguided. He told me he was flying to London forthwith to try and sit down with Mel and attempt to change his mind, even with little hope of success. I never saw “Braveheart” but might look at it now, just to see another McGoohan performance.
We had a few more conversations after that and when he started to become busy again on stage and screen I thought it better not to pester him anymore. “Fate” intervened to prevent our working together, sad to say. But I sent him a Christmas card every year after that.
An amazing, original actor and a Catholic. I’ll miss him terribly.