Hilarious, charming and self-effacing, meet Edmund Pegge, one of Australia’s most prolific supporting actors.
Travelling between England and Australia and working on stage, in film and on television for over fifty years, Ed Pegge knows all the tricks and all the trials of a working actor’s life.
In this guest post, Ed writes about the nuances of fame, and the benefits of taking a brief rest every now and again from being a star.
Being a Comet, not a Star
I have been writing recently about what makes a real star as opposed to a celebrity. The term is thrown about like confetti; I liken it to a bowl of Smarties, colourful but not much to chew on. Real stars are those who shine from the rest and have achieved that status through their peers. They have a quality which is compelling. It is called charisma.
However, in the hierarchy of the acting profession there are actors who possess various degrees of that quality. I had an unfortunate outcome from a radio interview with Philip Satchell on the ABC when he asked where I stood in this hierarchy. Sporting metaphors got mixed up between cricket and football. I deemed myself a second eleven player but then explained that the top stars were in the Premier Soccer League like Russell Crowe and Brad Pitt. I was working with Charles Dance filming Black and White and said he was a league down where very well-known leading actors are. He ignored me for the rest of the shoot. Charles did have starring quality – he had a commanding presence – but had not quite reached that ultimate accolade.
The real stars I have known or worked with have that something else. It’s hard to define but the Oxford dictionary gets close with Charisma:
1) compelling attractiveness or charm
2) a divinely conferred talent. This phrase for me is the ultimate distinguishing one.
Even though I am well down from that top league, I have experienced a little something of the accolade. Throughout my long and varied career, whenever I have returned home to Adelaide, I have been fêted with trappings of little stardom – interviews, articles and speaking engagements. Indeed Boomer quoted from my memoirs in a long article after its launch.
But I can also claim some status with a UK fan club. Initiated mainly from being in the most sought after autograph-hunting TV credit – Dr Who. It is a world-wide cult and anyone vaguely connected with the making of even only one episode has currency. Autographs are collected like old fashioned stamps and even traded. The local Adelaide fan club were excited to find an actor who played a part in a well-known episode. Playing Meeker in The Invisible Enemy conferred star-studded status for an hour. A young local actor interviewed me and asked me three questions:
Q: How did you approach your part?
A: Probably learnt my lines and hit my marks. It was a long time ago.
Q: What did you think of being in Dr Who at the time?
A: Nothing, it was just another job.
Q: How did being in Dr Who affect your career?
A: It didn’t until now.
With those curt answers I successfully destroyed any star status I might have had for a minute.
I had an amazing experience last year on my annual trip back to London. I was commandeered through a fan to appear for a fee at another cult convention. This was based entirely on all the Carry On movies. I appeared so briefly in the opening sequence of the one Carry On movie not called ‘carry on’ something: Follow That Camel starring Phil Silvers.
My credit as ‘The Bowler’ came right at the end of the credit reel. All you see in a medium shot is me bowling a ball and yelling ‘Howzaat’, as you can see in the photo with Peter Gilmore (Oneden Line). No matter, I found a head shot as the bowler on every poster that was put in front of me to sign.
It took place in a large ballroom in an old hotel in Ealing, appropriately not far from the studios. About 80 fans were sitting at tables. There were about ten actors who had had proper roles, though I only recognised one name. Most had retired. I dressed for the occasion in a white jacket with dark glasses. Playing the part of a star I placed myself in the centre of the long table behind which we would sign away our lives and get paid for it.
Actually, as it turned out, I was probably the second-best known actor from all the other shows I had been in. Some fans had brought my memoirs for me to sign, and I sold six more. Here’s the amazing part – every time I signed my name I was paid £5, more for a photo of me bowling, £20 for buying a signed copy of the book and a fee for having my buddy-photo taken with the fan. A few hundred pounds for a few hours work including lunch.
You see, it is worthwhile being a comet, experiencing moments of brief glory, but it is hard on the writing hand.
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