Three Stitches In Time
Leicester Mercury; August 13, 1992; Pat Lidiker
Even as a schoolboy in Leicester, Michael Kitchen had set his sights on a stage career. With dozens of successful film and TV roles under his belt, he tells Pat Lidiker of his latest part as a Whitehall Mandarin in Hostage which has its world premiere on ITV on Saturday.
Definitely the flavour of 1992, actor Michael Kitchen seems to have cornered the market in world-weary smoothies, invariably up-market and with more than a shade of sinister undertones.
But, he told me, "I wouldn't even be here if it weren't for Leicester City Council who gave me a grant to go to RADA in the first place. Who knows what would have happened if I hadn't?"
His current stardom is indeed, a far cry from his schooldays at the City of Leicester Boys Grammar School where he gleaned his first taste for the stage in a production of Shakespeare's Cymbeline
. It was an ignominious beginning as Michael was accidentally hit over the head by a young fellow-actor and ended up having three stitches in his scalp at Leicester Royal Infirmary.
Still the former Church of the Martyrs cub scout who is now 43, has never looked back and has seldom been out of work since his acting career took off.
His parents, Arthur and Betty Kitchen, live in the city. Betty said: "Obviously we're thrilled to bits to see him so often on television, even if it does mean we can't get together so often."
Michael and his brother Jeffrey, now married and running a licensed restaurant near Dulwich, have remained great friends and the whole family see each other whenever possible.
Michael, close to actress Joanna Lumley for a while some years ago, now lives happily in Dorset with the "lady in his life", Rowena (she was working in a theatre wardrobe department when they met during one of Michael's plays), and their adored four-year-old son, Jack.
After one or two bad experiences in the past he tells me he tends to shun publicity nowadays, though he has to face up to it when making a smash hit series like The Guilty
earlier this year.
The West End beckoned him from Leicester when he was 15. From 1,300 young hopefuls who auditioned for 80 places in coveted roles in the National Youth Theatre's productions of Coriolanus
and A Midsummer Night's Dream
, the young Kitchen won through.
After working backstage at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry, he won a place at RADA - with that vital grant from Leicester City Council. Since then his very successful career has included a great many stage roles, films such as Out of Africa
and television epics like Caught on a Train
and The Guilty
"I never set out to be the bad guy or upper class official, it's just the way it's turned out," he says. "Not that I'm complaining because it's great to have the work."
Michael's latest role is in the two-hour, high tension film for Tyne Tees Television, Hostage
based on Ted Allbeury's novel No Place to Hide
, and due to be shown at prime time this coming Saturday.
True to form, he plays a senior civil servant from the dirty tricks brigade, alongside the equally smooth James Fox, Art Malik and Sam Neill. Not to mention Talisa Sota, once voted one of the world's ten most beautiful women.
Filming was not without its own dramas. "It was almost all on location in Buenos Aires, where all the cars are ancient, the word "manana" conveys too great a sense of urgency and the electricity supply leaves much to be desired. Nothing is earthed, so we didn't dare film in the rain in case the equipment blew out and even the main steamy love scene was a hoot. Because of the heat, in a scene where Sam Neill and Talisa Soto were trying to get to grips between the sheets Sam's wife (also chief make-up artist), had to keep running in to attack them with a powder puff!"
Michael Kitchen's next appearance will be equally impressive, when he stars in a new film, due out next year, with Anthony Hopkins and Juliet Stephenson (of Truly Madly Deeply fame). Entitled "Trial
" filming for this has just been completed in Prague.
"It's not exactly the lightest of plays but it was a great experience," says Michael Kitchen.
Many thanks to Tess and Lynne for sniffing out this interview.