Tuesday 15 October 2013

Withnail and I: The Finest Trivia Available To Humanity

Richard E. Grant, sitting down to enjoy his break between takes.

This week saw the latest in the bi-annual (at least) viewings of Withnail and I in the Withnail Books household. Reason enough to celebrate with a list of 10 things you may, or may not have known about the film...

1. Writer/director Bruce Robinson makes several uncredited appearances on screen. That's him driving the Jag in longshot, and it's also him (not Michael Elphick) in the long shot of Jake the Poacher walking away from Crow Crag.

2. Talking of Michael Elphick, he was apparently blind drunk throughout the filming of his scene: his lines were shot a half-sentence at a time, as he couldn't say more than that without becoming incomprehensible.

3. Also blind drunk was Bruce Robinson, the night before shooting started. He began his first ever day on set as a film director with 'a bastard behind the eyes', after staying up half the night nursing a bottle of vodka in the George Hotel, Penrith.

4. The film's end credits feature a mention of 'Special Production Consultant Richard Starkey, MBE'. That's executive producer George Harrison giving his mate Ringo a nod, after Mr Starr took time to visit the set:

The Special Production Consultant, consulting.

5. Murray Close, the Unit Photographer on the film, is today at the very top of the industry, with the likes of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games on his resume. He sells limited edition prints of his wonderful Withnail images on his website, here.

6. Though most of the 'country' locations were in Cumbria, the scenes in the film set in Penrith (Penrith!!) were not shot in the town. If you want to visit the actual place where Withnail demanded 'the finest wines available to humanity', you'll have to go to Stony Stratford, in Buckinghamshire. For a comprehensive guide to the filming locations, look no further than Tony Reeves' amazing site here.

7. In the aforementioned tearoom scene, we hear 'the proprietor' ask 'Mrs Blennerhasset' to phone the police. It's never been divulged, but here's guessing Bruce Robinson got that fabulous name from looking at a map of his filming location: there's a village called Blennerhasset in Northwest Cumbria. The place even has its own website.

8. There is a 'deleted scene', which is in the published script, and was shot, but has never been screened or included on any of the many, many home video releases of the film. It features Withnail and Marwood fencing in Monty's cottage. The film does include a moment with Withnail still holding his foil, but here's a photo from the deleted bit...

9. There was a well reviewed stage production of Withnail and I in Manchester earlier this year. Fittingly, it was performed in a pub.

10. The 'lighter fluid' was vinegar. Considering Richard E. Grant thought it was going to be water, his breathless reaction was not acting. Also not-acting is his collapse into giggles during the tearoom scene: you can see him looking almost 'off camera', assuming he's ruined the take...

Chin chin!


  1. Always thought that making of it was so much more fun than most movies!

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