Mr Flibble Talks To... The Gunslinger
With a love of Westerns and a suitably sinister presence, Denis Lill was the ideal chance to play a killer simulant and his deathly gunslinger counterpart. Just don't mis-spell his first name.
11 May, 2001
Denis Lill
Mr Flibble's right hand provided by
Andrew Ellard

Mr Flibble emerged from his cowering position to ask his first question: How do you find the DIFFERENCE between film, TV and theatre?

I like them all for their own reasons. Theatre work is much more of a commitment than anything else, I think. It's the sort of job where you wake up in the morning and your main concern is your performance that evening - it does tend to take up a certain amount of your thinking time.

Television and film work I like because…well, because of the hours. Also because of the possibilities for travel - as with the episode of Red Dwarf. You're down in the country with your horse! I prefer film and television work - mainly because of the money. I sound very mercenary don't I?

You were involved with The 10%ers pilot, which led to the role in GUNMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE

That's how I met Rob and Doug. We shot a pilot for The 10%ers, and we'd had a bit of input from Rob and Doug - but mainly it was pure rehearsal with the director - and we went to a viewing of the latest in television comedy at the time [the Carlton Comedy Showcase]. We watched those, and The 10%ers seemed to have legs and be a good little prospect... apart from my character! (Laughs)

During the course of that, I was talking to Rob and Doug and I said, 'I'm a big fan of Red Dwarf, what are you doing with it at the moment?' They said, 'We're having great fun because we're doing a Western sequence.' And I grabbed either Rob or Doug by the lapels and said, 'I would kill to be in a Western!' They said, 'Can you ride a horse?' I said, 'Yep.' 'Can you do the accent?' 'Yep.' It was tremendous - I got to be Lee Van Cleef for a day.

We were down in this little Western town called Laredo, which was down in Kent. They'd got, as extras, all these people who were part-time cowboys anyway, weekend cowboys . They had all their own gear and guns. I went over to the armourer who opened the boot of his car and said, 'Pick a weapon.' His trunk was an absolute Aladdin's cave of ancient musketry from around the world! I said, 'Have you got a Remington?' He pulled out this dirty great revolver and said, 'Do you want a holster?' I said no, just stuck it in my belt and that was it.

Mr Flibble wasn't about to surrender to a ruthless killer simulant - so stayed behind the sofa to ask, 'Did you find the town's creators strange?'

Apparently they go down there at weekends, camp in the place and leave their cars miles away. They each have their own characters, you know - there's the old drunken doctor, there's the sheriff who tries to maintain law and order - but generally they just tend to sit around camp fires talking!

What was it like ON-SET?

It was pretty good. We only had the one day's shooting to do a lot of long and complicated sequences, which was a shame. It would have been nice if the episode was longer and if we'd had more time to do it in, but I thought we made a fair fist of it, actually. Didn't look too bad at all.

Who got most carried away?

I don't think anyone went completely nuts with it. But our little gang, the apocalypse gang, we were a pretty rowdy lot, I think. In fact I took a photograph of the four of us, the mob of heavies, of which I had a huge great blow-up sent to Rob and Doug saying 'Write harder!' (Laughs)

You were then the simulant as well, for the studio shoot...

There I was, all in black leather.

Was that hot or uncomfortable?

No, not at all. Looking back on it, it might have been [uncomfortable], but then again I've worn many an uncomfortable and hot costume in my time. There wasn't any outrageous make up like with Robert Llewellyn, who's got a rubber face around him. A double set of eyebrows, that was it. That was all we could come up with really to increase our sinister look. Villains are the best parts, anyway. There's so much more charisma to be got out of a villain than there is out of a goodie. I got to blow everybody away.

Is COMEDY something you enjoy doing?

I love it. Particularly, once again, in the theatre - because you get that instant feedback from the audience. A lot of the comedy I've done on television has tended to be in front of live audiences - Fools and Horses and stuff like that. There's also a gentle comedy to get out of something like Outside Edge, which I particularly enjoyed. Which was a different genre of writing, and their was no audience - but if the director's laughing, then you know you've got it right.

You also appeared in a couple of Blackadders

That's right, I was an MP - the member for Dunny on the Wold. [Then] having to do dead acting and trying to keep a straight face, because Rowan Atkinson was so funny - and Hugh Laurie, of course. It wasn't easy.

Then there was Blackadder's Christmas Carol

We had Robbie Coltrane as one of the ghosts. There was quite a line-up in that. I was a Beadle-type character, I had these fat boys who came in and ate everything.

You also were in Bernard and the Genie with the same team…

It's nice to be vaguely acquainted with the other members of the cast, because that does generate a certain amount of relaxation. It's like Fools and Horses, I went back to do that and Roger Lloyd-Pack is an old mate of mine. It's good. I haven't chosen to go back with those people, I've more been chosen - which is rather nice.

Let's talk about a couple of your FILM ROLES - you had a brief moment in Batman

A brief moment, yes. [The part] was originally intended for Bob Kane himself, but I think he must have been a little old and infirm... either that or the part wasn't worth it. (Laughs) That was interesting, to turn up and meet Tim Burton. I didn't have much to do with him - he was more upset by the fact that British Rail had locked him out of his location! We shot it in St. Pancras Hotel, the gothic hotel, and Tim Burton turned up to set up his cameras and organise his lighting, and this British Rail employee wouldn't let him in, because 'the place wasn't open until nine o'clock.'

People also glimpsed you in Richard III

Everything had to be arc deco, so we shot in some really interesting places. Once again, back to St. Pancras station on a hot summer's day. Waiting for the Royal train in a line, and the whole place was like a greenhouse, and there I was in all my mayoral robes! Absolutely dripping inside - talk about hot, uncomfortable costumes!

You are sometimes mistaken credited as 'Dennis' with two N's. Is this getting annoying?

It is, yes. It's about times that people realised that it ain't two N's. I don't know why. Perhaps I'm losing some infamy...

Mr Flibble enjoyed talking to Denis Lill, and now that it's over…Mr Flibble's very cross.