Thursday 12 December 2019

Richard Hammond: The crash changed me

Richard Hammond
Richard Hammond

Sherna Noah

Top Gear star Richard Hammond has told how he became difficult to work with after his high-speed car crash.

The presenter (44) sustained life-threatening head injuries and was in a coma for a fortnight following the 2006 accident, which occurred when he was behind the wheel of a jet-powered car for the BBC programme.

Talking to Radio Times magazine about the impact of the crash, he said: “For years I thought of it especially around now, in the autumn. “It was a lot to deal with. I had a pretty tricky few years. The knock-on effects of the injury meant I was susceptible to depression, obsession, compulsion and paranoia, although I wasn’t aware of that at the time. “It gave me an unnatural platform from which to observe my own mental state, which was exhausting.

“For a time I lost the ability to connect emotionally. I began picking away at my own personality and that was dizzying.”

The father-of-two added: “I don’t think I was very easy to work with for a good while.

The team were very patient. I was difficult on shoots, losing my temper, feeling threatened by everything, very defensive.

“I massively needed to know if the crash was my fault, because I’d risked the girls growing up without their dad.

“The telemetry showed I’d done everything right and it was an accident.”

Top Gear has provoked controversy recently, with a row in Argentina over the programme’s use of a car number plate that appeared to refer to the Falklands War. It came after British TV watchdog Ofcom ruled that the programme’s Burma Special used a racial slur.

“No one on the show had any misgivings at the time,” Hammond said of the footage found in breach by Ofcom.

“As a unit, we tried something which the BBC chose to broadcast, and enough people complained that it was deemed to be wrong, so we went ‘sorry’. “There’s a Top Gear DVD where Jeremy and I point at the sign for the French town of Bra, and snigger. But the joke wasn’t that we were laughing at the name of an essential female undergarment; the joke was that two middle-aged men with responsibilities would point at such a sign and laugh – and viewers got that distinction completely.”

He added: “In society as a whole, we love to be offended and have a scapegoat. But at Top Gear we’re the first to put our hands up and say we pitched it wrong.

“We’re not in the business of genuinely upsetting or offending anyone. We’re in the business of entertainment, and if it fails to entertain, it’s wrong. If the public says we stepped over the line, then we have.”

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