Tribute to Roy Scammell: tough yet gentle and modest
- Credit: Donato Cinicolo
Roy was a tough man; he came from a generation of tough men.
If you met him in the street you’d be struck by his powerful frame, handsome features and endearing blue eyes. He moved with the grace of a dancer and the fluidity of a panther, even in his late 70s.
I knew him for almost 20 years and we are all poorer for his absence from our lives.
The breadth and scope of Roy’s work in the post-war British film industry was immense. He worked in theatre, films, TV and much else. I recall one occasion when I drove Roy to a large pub in Chiswick in order to attend a Doctor Who convention
I imagined a dingy back room with maybe a dozen, spotty overgrown teenagers holding autograph books. When we arrived, over 140 fans of all ages packed a large restaurant. Roy gave the audience a light-hearted account of his stunt work in the early Doctor Who episodes and answered questions. Everyone wanted a signature of a real daredevil.
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At Comicon in Olympia, London, Roy sat at a table facing an interminable queue of young fans for a solid eight hours. He loved the fact that young people knew who he was and what he’d done.
I kept telling him to take a break, but no, he was there for them. When I drove him home, he slept the sleep of the innocent, smiling peacefully.
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Roy was a gentle, modest man, always polite and helpful to young film-makers. He worked with just about every famous director - including Ridley Scott, Stanley Kubrick, Stephen Spielberg and Norman Jewison - and made the likes of Sean Connery and Roger Moore look cool by risking his life in many Bond stunts.
But, it was not all serious work. On one occasion, during the filming of Monte Carlo or Bust by Ken Annakin, Roy was doubling for Tony Curtis, Susan Hampshire and others, the film’s AD asked Roy to turn up in the hotel lobby in the Susan Hampshire get-up to discuss a stunt.
Sure enough, Roy, looking fetching in his wig and high heels, opened the door into the hotel lobby. Lights came on and the film crew shouted ‘Happy Birthday Roy’!
For some reason I became Roy’s default driver. He hated driving in London or on long journeys, so we had a wonderful arrangement where I was the chauffeur and he was the VIP.
Those many trips together in the privacy of a car are my cherished memories. The stories, the anecdotes, those are my unforgettable treasures. One night, Roy was in my car with our little film crew on our way home.
One of the crew’s girlfriends rang her young man asking when he’d be home; she was quite tearful and lonely. Roy took the ‘phone and sang her, a cappella, Strangers in the Night by Frank Sinatra (years before, in Israel, Roy had sung the same song on stage with Frank, but that’s another story). We were all in tears, that night on the A1 heading home.