Friday 19 January 2018

The Man from UNCLE pops into Rovers for pint

Chrissie Russell

There's been a new face in t'Rovers lately and Coronation Street producer Phil Collinson is said to be tickled pink about it. Hollywood legend Robert Vaughn has joined the ranks of celebrity guest starts, playing love interest to Roy Cropper's mum Sylvia.

According to reports, Collinson reckons the Man From UNCLE actor is "the most famous person" he's ever met. Quite an accolade when you consider the legions of stars to have graced the cobbles over the years.

Vaughn confessed he'd never seen the show prior to appearing on it, but for some screen legends, picking up a paper from Rita in t'Kabin and ordering one of Betty's hotpots has been the stuff of career dreams.

In 2004 Ian McKellen revealed he only had two acting ambitions left -- to play a pantomime dame and to appear in Coronation Street. In May 2005 (having spent Christmas as Widow Twanky in Aladdin) he played 10 episodes as conman Mel Hutchwright.

It's the one part that he says left his thespian chum Derek Jacobi "apoplectic" with jealousy.

Serious actors love to get grubby in the backstreets of Weatherfield. Laurence Olivier had a part written for him but was prevented by illness from seeing it through. While more recently, Chariots of Fire star Nigel Havers revelled in his role as a male escort to Corrie crimper Sue Nichols.

But it's not just Shakespearean luvvies longing for a bit of rough who sign up to the show.

Small-screen star Andrew Sachs, best known as Fawlty Towers' Manuel, appeared as Norris's brother in the aftermath of the Russell Brand/Jonathan Ross scandal.

Phoenix Nights comedian Peter Kay enjoyed a stint as the love interest for hapless barmaid Shelly, and Maureen Lipman enjoyed a spell behind the Newton and Ridley pumps as a relief manager for the Rovers Return in 2002.

Lately, Ireland's own Keith Duffy has done several encores on the cobbles as lovable rogue Ciaran McCarthy.

Avengers star Honor Blackman, Dynasty diva Stephanie Beacham and Carry On favourite June Whitfield all held brief roles.

Typically famous faces plump for comedy parts on the soap. Blackman's appearance was part of a laughable swinging storyline while Whitfield's role was the darkly humorous harbinger of bad news, informing Deirdre of Blanche's death.

A smattering of celebrities have had the pleasure of appearing as themselves, including Joan Collins, Bernard Manning, Status Quo and Prince Charles -- who joined Trevor McDonald and 70s rocker Noddy Holbert in a 40th anniversary special.

As for who we might be seeing next, there's enough high-profile hopefuls to fuel another 50 years of the treasured series.

Former cricketer Andrew Flintoff recently revealed it would be his "dream job" to own the Rovers Return, while Tony Blackburn would be happy just to set foot in the celebrated bar.

"I'd love to appear, just once," he says, "even if it's just walking into the Rovers and straight back out again."

Julie Walters hopes to one day get the call, saying: "I'd love a little something in Corrie. Someone once asked if it was true I was going to play Audrey's sister and I thought 'what a good idea', but nothing came of that."

Requests have even come from more bizarre quarters. Rapper Snoop Dogg is said to be keen to appear, having been an avid fan of Corrie for over a decade.

He said in a recent interview: "Eleven years ago one of my friends turned me on to it. I love the whole dynamic, the way it's put together. I had my agent reach out to them to see if they could try and get me on."

Seeing whether the rapper pops up as the next knicker-stitcher or server in Roy's Rolls is certainly one reason to keep watching ...

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