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A wee Paul Daniels story


#1

I was reading an interview with Paul Daniels about eighteen months back and he always struck me as a really interesting guy. The interview went into his childhood and how his father was a cinema projectionist and this left him with a massive love of the Golden Age of Hollywood. He’d accomplished most of the things he’d set out to achieve in life, but his one unfulfilled ambition, he said, was to appear in even the tiniest role in big, old school Hollywood movie. Not a kitchen sink drama or a British gangster flick. His dream, as an older man, was a chance to appear in a big, American Hollywood picture like the ones he grew up with.

I’ve always felt that if you can do someone a good turn you should and since I really loved his shows as a kid, having the annuals and the Christmas magic sets, this seemed like a little karmic payback. So this stuck in my head and I got in touch with a pal of mine (now producing the Chrononauts movie) who was putting together The Mummy reboot for Universal. He’s a lovely dude and he appreciated the sentiment, confirming what I heard about the movie shooting in London a year or two down the line. So I got in touch with Paul Daniels and told him I’d set this up, which he was incredibly sweet and grateful about.

In the meantime, I dropped he and his lovely wife Debbie a note and invited them along to the Kingsman premiere last year (picture below), but never got a chance to speak to them as our London baby-sitter had an early start and we sadly weren’t able to make it along to the after-party. So Paul and I never properly met, except the weirdest thing when I walked off the stage from the big introduction before the movie in Leicester Square and in an audience of 2000 people there was Paul sitting with Debbie at the end of a row halfway up the cinema EXACTLY where I was being escorted. The whole place was in darkness as the lights had gone down, but the cinema lit up for a fraction of a second with a bright flash of light on-screen and there was Paul, looking around at me from his seat as I was briskly walking past and he put out my hand and shook it. Like a magic trick.

We kept in touch over email and Twitter afterwards and as Tom Cruise and Sofia Boutella gear up for The Mummy shoot this Spring he was very much looking forward to his cameo role so I really was very sad to hear how ill he’d taken a few weeks back and of course to hear he passed away a couple of days ago. I got an email from Chris Morgan, the Mummy producer, late last night saying he’d just heard the news and it was such a shame. My condolences to Debbie and the rest of his family. I saw and loved the guy as a live performer and he seemed like a very nice, very funny person in private too.

RIP


#2

Lovely story Mark.


#3

Great story Mark.

I’ll repost what I wrote in the RIP thread:


It was announced today that British magician Paul Daniels has died.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-35829251

In recent years he’s had a bit of a reputation as an outdated has-been, and a bit of a figure of fun, but I don’t think it was ever really deserved. He was a very talented magician and hugely popular in his day (I watched his show every week as a kid and I loved his stunts), and he carved out a successful career for a long time after as a TV presenter too. He seemed like a genuinely decent guy who was happy, good-humoured and self-aware enough to play up to his naff image from time to time.

But the reason I really wanted to post this thread was to draw attention to one of my favourite tricks of his - possibly my favourite bit of Halloween TV this side of Ghostwatch:

It caused quite a stir when it went out (without people knowing in advance what was going to happen). He even had to write in to national newspapers to address his critics (which I thought he did very well):

RIP.


#4

I was so sad to hear about Paul Daniels, a huge loss. Thanks for sharing that lovely story. I adored his magic shows on tv and those Christmas magic sets were great fun. He was a great entertainer who brought real wonder and magic to my childhood. Created some fantastic illusions. That Halloween show was amazing. And the lovely Debbie McGee seems so lovely.
RIP


#5

I met him once when I was on a scout trip to his show in the Cork Opera House at the height of his TV magic show fame. Our Cub Scout pack got to go backstage and meet him and The Lovely Debbie McGee.

I came across his slightly iffy politics a couple of years ago. However I will always think fondly of the nice man who made time to talk to us and give us signed photos (which I no longer have I’m afraid).