May 1986: Withnail demands cake and fine wine – and an enduring cult classic is born

The much-loved Penrith tea room scene from Withnail & I (actually filmed at a chemists’ in Milton Keynes)

Unspecified cake it was, which for this publication is a rarity. “Just bring out the cakes.” “Cake, and fine wine.” The context was all. A couple of wastefully drunk and filthily arrogant unemployed actors bumbling into the Penrith Tea Rooms at closing time. And Richard E Grant’s unimprovably bonkers follow-up, somehow both slurred and royally, commandingly, articulate: “We want the finest wines available to humanity.”

It was 1986 and the filming of Withnail and I. Yet the writer and director Bruce Robinson, for whom this was pretty much autobiographical, was back in 1960s Camden. Railing as ever against an unestablishable establishment: and moving the setting to the Lake District effectively moved the decades. The distaste on the face of the proprietor, the fine character actor Llewellyn Rees, surely echoes the pursed lips of all who had dogged Robinson’s 60s days with twitching curtains and long noses when all he was trying to do was … have some fun.

Robinson is thankfully very much alive, as I found a few years ago. As are of course Grant and Paul McGann, the “I” of the film’s title. Rees died in 1994. But I managed to catch up with photographer Murray Close, who took this still. Did anyone, I ask, have an inkling of what a success, a cult, that film would become, with its timeless celebration of simple friendship and generational differences?

“Not at all. Bruce had to fund the last reel himself. We didn’t have a clue. It was a great script, of course, but everyone was an unknown – though I believe Bill Nighy read for the main part. But slowly, slowly, videos and then DVDs came out, and … yes, in hindsight, it’s a great film, but I just remember it as truly tremendous fun, with a UK crew of a certain age and propensity to laughter.”

Murray’s website has many more extraordinary outtakes. The “Penrith tea-rooms” location was in fact what is now a chemists’ shop in Stony Stratford, Milton Keynes. The last few lines of Robinson’s script, with Grant doing Hamlet by the London Zoo wolves, still enthral. “What a piece of work is a man … [yet] man delights not me, no, nor women neither, nor women neither.” [The wolves are unimpressed. Withnail exits into the rain.

Source: May 1986: Withnail demands cake and fine wine – and an enduring cult classic is born

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Watch it Again! Withnail and I (Bruce Robinson, 1987)

Pop reviews and in-depth analyses of current and classic films from around the world.

Living disillusioned in a post-Brexit Instagram-filtered age, standing at the periphery of the job market in a state of horror as the surplus of impressive graduates wander by, it is easy to feel alone. Marwood is the voice of reason when he reassures Withnail “we’re in the same boat”; we are all Withnail when he fires back “Stop saying that! You’re not in the same boat. The only thing you’re in that I’ve been in is this fucking bath!”

When Robinson wrote and directed this largely autobiographical low-budget film in 1987, he did not anticipate that the trials, tribulations, and hilarious mishaps of Withnail and “I” (played respectively by Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann) would leave such a legacy. A coming-of-age comedy based on two hapless drunken out-of-work actors struggling through the bleak aftermath of the swinging sixties, the film offers a nostalgic yet ultimately unappealing portrait of the 1960s bohemian lifestyle. Living in squalor so intense they feel “unusual” when they enter the kitchen, the eccentric self-deluding thespian Withnail and the slightly more low-key narrator “I” (Marwood in the screenplay) are both disenchanted with life.

The appeal of Withnail and I lies in its ability to reflect our flaws and fears whilst making them indisputably funny. In the documentary Withnail and Us, Robinson himself sums up the timelessness of Withnail and I as a movie that “touches the moment we’ve all had when we’re all broke, all starving, all aspiring, and all knowing that it might not work in our lives.” As a final-year student I rejoice in the bleak realistic portrayal of a kitchen filled with unidentifiable matter, an unwavering belief in the curative powers of alcohol, and the general unease of aimless direction. Marwood’s maudlin realisation that they “are indeed drifting into the arena of the unwell” in tandem with Withnail’s “I feel like a pig shat in my head” are sentiments embarrassingly yet undeniably relatable.

“I have some extremely distressing news. We’ve just run out of wine.”

Withnail’s first utterance in his iconic sophisticated slur sets the perfect tone for Bruce Robinson’s unbeatably British, ingenious tragicomedy Withnail and ILast year marked the film’s 30th anniversary, and like a fine wine, Withnail and I has improved with age.

When Robinson wrote and directed this largely autobiographical low-budget film in 1987, he did not anticipate that the trials, tribulations, and hilarious mishaps of Withnail and “I” (played respectively by Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann) would leave such a legacy. A coming-of-age comedy based on two hapless drunken out-of-work actors struggling through the bleak aftermath of the swinging sixties, the film offers a nostalgic yet ultimately unappealing portrait of the 1960s bohemian lifestyle. Living in squalor so intense they feel “unusual” when they enter the kitchen, the eccentric self-deluding thespian Withnail and the slightly more low-key narrator “I” (Marwood in the screenplay) are both disenchanted with life.

The appeal of Withnail and I lies in its ability to reflect our flaws and fears whilst making them indisputably funny. In the documentary Withnail and Us, Robinson himself sums up the timelessness of Withnail and I as a movie that “touches the moment we’ve all had when we’re all broke, all starving, all aspiring, and all knowing that it might not work in our lives.” As a final-year student I rejoice in the bleak realistic portrayal of a kitchen filled with unidentifiable matter, an unwavering belief in the curative powers of alcohol, and the general unease of aimless direction. Marwood’s maudlin realisation that they “are indeed drifting into the arena of the unwell” in tandem with Withnail’s “I feel like a pig shat in my head” are sentiments embarrassingly yet undeniably relatable.

Continue reading at BRIGHTLIGHTSFILM: Watch it Again! Withnail and I (Bruce Robinson, 1987) – Bright Lights Film Journal

Happy Birthday, Eighth Doctor Paul McGann!

Paul McGann

Happy birthday, Paul McGann! Born in Liverpool to a metallurgist and a teacher, McGann is one of five children—four of whom found their way into showbiz.

A member of the so-called “Brit Pack” (alongside big names like Tim Roth, Gary Oldman, and Colin Firth), the Liverpudlian actor turned his attention to television. It wasn’t until 1996, though, that McGann’s nerd credit was established. [ . . . ] More: Happy Birthday, Eighth Doctor Paul McGann! – Geek.com

Thatcher’s Legacy In British Culture

As regular readers will know, I have been following the footsteps of British writer and director Bruce Robinson in recent weeks. His name is not well known, but he is the creative genius behind cult 80s movie Withnail & I, its ‘follow-up’ How To Get Ahead in Advertising and, more recently, Jennifer Eight and The Rum Diary. The latter saw him coming out of exile at the request of producer Johnny Depp, who remembered Withnail and wanted him for Hunter S. Thompson’s memorable story about a journalist in Puerto Rico. In fact, my Robinson journey began with the fabulous but long book about Jack The Ripper.

What I realised yesterday evening, while chuckling through How To Get Ahead In Advertising, is that Robinson belongs to a group of 70s and 80s British creatives which includes people like Roger Waters and Ken Loach. What they all share is an instinctive disdain or even hatred for Margaret Thatcher and her vision for Britain. As a child of the 80s, I can only say that Thatcher was a peripheral figure at home. Appearing on the news, invariably to cries of ‘that bloody woman’ from the men in whichever house I was watching TV in, she was our most popular leader, yet absolutely nobody admitted to ever voting for her. This is not a piece about Thatcher, but about Thatcherism. [ . . . ]

More: Thatcher’s Legacy In British Culture | The Z Review