Sunday 8 December 2019

Q&A: Charley Boorman

On being a TV adventurer and escapades in Iran

Ed Power

Be honest -- did you and Ewan McGregor nip off to a comfy hotel after you'd been filmed putting up your tent in the middle of a godforsaken desert somewhere?

When we were in the middle of Mongolia, we camped for 18 days in a row. The only town we saw had a guest-house, where three of us shared a room.

Not many Travelodges in Outer Mongolia then...

No... and then we were in Africa once and stopped at what looked like a half-decent hotel. We got a room and ended up pitching a tent on the bed, the floor was so disgusting. It was full of mosquitoes. Half the time you would almost be better off driving through the town and camping on the other side.

For your last travel series, By Any Means, you passed through Iran. That must have been a bit on the hairy side?

You have this impression that Iran is very dangerous. In fact, the people are very funny. They have quite a dark sense of humour, a quite vulgar humour. The funny thing is that, when we left Iran to get a boat to Dubai, I remember seeing this buoy that was travelling very fast. I said to the cameraman, 'Wow, there must be a strong tide -- see that buoy'. He said, 'That's a submarine periscope'. It was an English or American sub doing the rounds.

A reminder that you're actually in a conflict zone?

You totally forget that. Most of these places... Iran, Libya, Sudan. People are all the same. It's the government and politicians that fuck it up. It's Gaddafi that makes people think Libya is a dangerous place. The politicians are the ones who fuck it up for everyone.

I read that the jackets and helmets you and Ewan wore for your second season of Long Way Down were stolen recently.

Yeah... the fuckers. It was really upsetting. When you live in a jacket for a long time, you've gone through all those experiences and it has kept you dry and safe, you become a little bit attached.

Did you have to ring up Ewan and tell him the bad news?

Yeah -- 'Some bastard has stolen our gear'.

You grew up in Ireland. So do you travel on an Irish or UK passport?

I'm English. I was born in England.

You do know that your Wikipedia entry claims you're Irish?

Well, I went to school here. My father [movie director John Boorman] moved over when I was very young, about three years old. I wouldn't believe everything on Wikipedia, mate!

Well, I'm getting to the stage where I don't believe anything on Wikipedia. Anyway, to play amateur psychologist for a moment, your father's career meant you travelled around the world a great deal as children. Were you...

What, psychologically scarred?

Well, one might wonder if all of that upheaval left you feeling a bit rootless and if that perhaps explains your choice of career?

As a kid you get on with it. It's a normal thing to travel around. That was dad's job. You'd come on the film set and it would feel totally normal.

Of course, your father cast you as the small boy at the end of Deliverance.

I appear at the very end sitting on a sofa with John Voight. Dad said, 'Look Charley, if you sit on the sofa I'll give you this tricycle'. So I sat on the sofa with this bloke, looked at the tricycle and thought, 'This is a long day, I'm not allowed to ride the tricycle until the end'."

Were you allowed see Deliverance afterwards?

Definitely not, that's not a film for little kids. It's more than slightly disturbing, to put it mildly, especially when you consider it was made in the early 70s. Dad's career -- Point Blank and Deliverance in particular -- changed the course of film-making. Point Blank was the first Tarantino film in a way. It was the first film with proper violence. It changed movies forever.

The Charley Boorman Show is at Vicar Street, Dublin, on March 28

Irish Independent

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