'Face to Face with' ~ Geraint Ellis

Ioan Gruffudd:

Yes, the idea for playing with the ‘Rags to Riches’ theme came in 1999 when he first saw the BBC TV David Snodin/Julian Jarrold version of ‘Great Expectations’. That’s where the narrator’s voice comes from – but he’ll come to Ioan Gruffudd in a moment. Ioan Gruffudd! An alarm bell brings you back to life. (You’re going to ask the boss to add a company car)  Apparently the casting of the film was perfect (As was the impressionistic soundtrack). But he soon felt that Miss Havisham (Charlotte Rampling) despite playing the part superbly, simple couldn’t really jettison her sex-appeal. (He thinks about her so deeply you almost wonder how long his marriage will last) She’ll still have the sex appeal when she’s one hundred and ten he concludes. You couldn’t agree more, says your nod. (But in your head you think ohmygad! You’ve never even heard of this woman! You conclude she’s from silent movies … or ‘Sunset Boulevard’ maybe?) 

But the film got him thinking about a totally different scenario. And to make the triangle of ‘Pip’/’Havisham’/Wife work, he had to make it a story where love reigns supreme. And to make that work he had to bring in two ways of falling in love. Love that happens at first sight, and love that happens over a long period of time. It happens in the story. And it could happen in real life. Everyone in life who claims to be in love should ask themselves one question: Did they fall in love at first sight? Or were they perhaps not truly in love at first but, now, after many, many years, are? (At school you failed maths so many times, you can’t count. Even so, your gut tells you that was two questions) But he has to zip it! He’s telling you too much he says. Anyway; it’s all in the book … 

       

You’re still waiting for Ioan Gruffudd: You’re sunk unless you get it. He reads your mind. Ioan Gruffudd, he asserts, is the ultimate Mr. Nice-Guy. (You picture him in Hitler’s uniform. The halo ruins it) It comes over in his voice, his eyes and his body language. For the narrator of ‘It’s Never Goodbye’ he needed that kind of person: that kind of gentle innocence – something that’s so often absent in today’s society. It’s time you asked a question. So he had the Ioan Gruffudd voice in mind all the time when he wrote the book?

Absolutely! (One of his favourite words) He needed no time to think about his answer. You meanwhile are getting somewhere at last! (Two of your favourite words) You need to follow this up with more questions. So what about the other five characters in the story: Who are they based on? Who has he cast in their parts? He’s not going to tell you. He doesn’t want to make it too easy for David Snodin or Steven Spielberg he quips. They have to be given something to do …

Theatre Play:

It turns out he’s just written a one-act play, ‘Unintended Consequences’. It’s totally unlike anything he’s written before. It’s dark: Very dark. And it has a really huge twist at the end. Set in a Mental Health Clinic in the USA, it concerns itself with the causes which led to the suicide attempts of the main player. He pauses, perhaps wondering whether he should tell you anymore. Should he leave you on a cliff-hanger? he murmurs quietly – or, more appropriately, a bridge-hanger? (The Golden Gate Bridge) His straight face breaks into a provocative smile. And while all this is going on he’s rubbing that non-existent itch behind his left ear again. He gives you an ok to be going on with. He waits two beats. He gives you another ok to be going on with. (This guy’s not mean with his ok’s) You mustn’t laugh, he starts … (Laugh? He should hear what the boss thought of your last article. You’ve already got both legs over the bridge railings. You’re just hanging in there by your fingernails) because the role was written for one of the most un-theatrical American voice around. It’s not an insult but a compliment to the actor he assures you. The voice he had in mind for the part needed to have a special ‘emotional texture’. The voice quality had to be weak, sometimes apologetic. Fragile; and often trembling. The slightest thing could make this guy cry: the slightest thing would take him to the moon. He’s bi-polar perhaps (Manic) … But the play will be a satisfying challenge for the theatre lighting man he says. He could have a field day. He has two moods to work within: The blinding dazzle of the rainbow for some scenes, or the disquiet of darkness, where everything is grey lustreless shadow – unfamiliar, raw, grotesque … This is when you most need the fragility of a trembling voice, he claims. This is why in his mind the whole thing was written around the voice of David Swimmer. (‘Friends’) … (Wow! Ohmygad. Da-vid Swimmer! You’re already on volume 29 of your ‘My Friends the Stars’ chart-topping encyclopaedia) But he’s up, standing. (The comma is essential) He’s stretching upward even. (You half expect an encore: Salute to the Sun maybe?) But it’s your cue. You’ve got to leave.

Departure :

He sees your red Mk 1 Golf Clipper Convertible parked outside. He comments on the 1990 number plate. He’s not particularly keen on the personal number plate fashion. Never has been. But he’s got the perfect registration number for a young guy like yourself he says: DI LOL - In Welsh, ‘No Nonsense’. (You try to imagine the speed-cop with attitude who pulls you up for speeding and asks for your registration and you reply, No nonsense, please officer) At the door you’re given a bag of Welsh cakes (still hot) which Mk 1 wife has left for you to take back to the office. (Nail-manicure can wait, girls) You’re also given a complimentary copy of ‘It’s Never Goodbye’. A typed sheet slips out as he hands it to you. (Hand on the handle again?) Oh, that’s just some information about the King Arthur connection he says. (King Arthur? What is this? You’ve travelled from a 1990 Mk 1 Golf to Welsh cakes (still hot) to King Arthur (Long cold) and back to the present within the space of 10 seconds – that’s faster than his Golf R. His, not King Arthur’s) But this stuff is like really interesting! Even a connoisseur of indifference – like your clapped-out vacuum cleaner, would pick up on it, fast. (Maybe a follow-up article, sometime?)

The King Arthur connection:

His first name, Geraint (pronounced with a hard G) was apparently chosen by his mother because of the King Arthur connection. (Prince Geraint inherited the throne of Dunmonia – now Devon, in post-Roman Britain, c480. Geraint died fighting the Saxons with King Arthur at the battle of Llong Borth (Welsh: ‘Ship of the port’, now called Langport) This is recorded in an epic poem entitled, ‘Elegy for Geraint’)

He holds open the door for you. He looks happy. (Yeah, yeah: he’s only happy etc. etc.) As you place the sheet and the book in your briefcase you ask him again about the title, ‘It’s Never Goodbye’. You’ll discover the reason for the title two pages from the end of the book he says. But the subtitle of the book should perhaps be, ‘Six Characters in search of Themselves’. We need each other, always … So he had all this in mind when he first started writing the book? No; not at all. He only knew what he was writing about when he finished writing the book.