1986: Behind the scenes of Withnail and I

IN FRONT OF THE LENS

Behind the Scenes of Withnail and I, 1986Many of these behind the scene photographs were taken during the “accidental” holiday trip to “Crow Crag”, the dilapidated cottage belonging to Withnail’s Uncle Monty. In reality “Crow Crag” is Sleddale Hall which is located on the north side of the Wet Sleddale valley near Shap in Cumbria.

Behind the Scenes of Withnail and I, 1886

Uncle Monty, played by Richard Griffiths (seen above), sadly passed away in March 2013 but in a BBC interview in 2006 explained how one of the most well know lines (Uncle Monty to Marwood aka ‘I’ – the name Marwood only appears in the screenplay: “I mean to have you even if it must be burglary”) and the scene in which it is spoken came about.

Behind the Scenes of Withnail and I, 1886

The picture above is during the tearoom scene in which Richard E. Grant breaks out laughing. This wasn’t scripted but every time he went to say a line the actor could hear the snorting of the dogs belonging to the old ladies at the table behind. After innumerable re-takes the director conceded defeat and kept the laughter in.

Withnail and I was produced by George Harrison’s film company ‘Handmade Films’, this would probably explain the appearance of Ringo Starr below.

Behind the Scenes of Withnail and I, 1886

BEHIND THE LENS

Behind the Scenes of Withnail and I, 1886

 

Richard E. Grant is teetotal, however, Bruce Robinson, the director, decided that in order for Grant to fully understand the constant inebriated/hungover state of his character, Withnail, he must experience this feeling for himself. Having finally been convinced Grant “filled a tumbler with vodka and topped it off with a bit Pepsi”, drank the entire glass, acted a scene and proceeded to vomit. Robinson and McGann teased Grant on set the next day by assuring him that he would never be as funny on film again.

During the scene in which Withnail gulps lighter fluid (not pictured) Robinson changed the contents of the can from water, which had been used in rehearsals, to vinegar. While the vomiting was scripted the expression of pure shock was entirely natural.

Behind the Scenes of Withnail and I, 1886Behind the Scenes of Withnail and I, 1886 Behind the Scenes of Withnail and I, 1886Behind the Scenes of Withnail and I, 1886 Behind the Scenes of Withnail and I, 1886 Behind the Scenes of Withnail and I, 1886

As Paul McGann pulls away to set off for the Lake District he stalls the car. This was unintentional – McGann had only just passed his driving test – but Robinson decided to keep it in the film.

Behind the Scenes of Withnail and I, 1886

THE BIGGER PICTURE

About The Author

Avatar of Sophia
Assistant Curator

Sophia joined the Retronaut team as a researcher in 2014. After graduating from Liverpool in 2013 with a BA in Ancient History, she moved to London and now works at Bletchley Park as a volunteer archivist. From test shots of Lauren Bacall to space suits for dogs, working for Retronaut means that Sophia can keep exploring the moments where history, culture and photography collide.

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