Interview 3


The doctor is "in". And intern James Kildare, alias actor Richard Chamberlain, looks only a little older than a quarter of a century ago, when he purposefully strode the corridors of Blair General Hospital for the long-running "Dr Kildare" TV series.

Chamberlain is holding surgery in a top London hotel to talk about is role in The Bourne Identity, a thriller mini-series that Warner Home Video will be premiering on cassette this summer.

It is Kildare, and the actorís perennial "boyishness", that initially attracts this reporterís attention. Has he an attic portrait that does his ageing for him?

Richard Chamberlain laughs. Heís 53, looks good -and knows it. "Itís all starting to slip now", he jokes. "But donít cry me -even if my film and TV career has largely been based on it. I always knew that its loss was an inevitability. Iím simply grateful that itís lasted so long".

Turn the clock back 25 years, to the Kildare TV series, which dominated Chamberlainís professional life from 1961 to 1965. "It was an incredible break for me", he recalls, genuinely pleased, at revoking past glories. "Iíd been acting in TV for a year or two, small parts here and there. But I was barely getting by, even though my apartment cost just two dollars a day."

Then along came Dr Kildare. "It was a wonderful, it made me a household name worldwide. But it was hard work, too. That first season, we produced 36 hours of programmes. The second season, we produced 34. I had about five weeks off a year".

The success was a two-edged sword. So sensational was the US reception to Chamberlainís performance as the caring intern that, for years, no one there could envisage Richard doing anything, or playing anyone, else.

"The Americans, especially, didnít want to see me play anything else. Iíd become almost part of their family. They didnít want me to change. It took me a number of years before I could break free from the mould. And the British were very helpful in that respect. I came here to make some movies, and I found that I was afforded far more freedom to do what I wanted to do. There was a greater willingness to accept me in different kinds of roles, even though Dr Kildare had been a massive TV success here too. I have a lot to thank Britain for".

The Bourne Identity, based on the Robert Ludlum best-seller, Chamberlain takes the role of a man who recovers from a mystery to find him self both an amnesiac and the target for the most deadly assassin. Jaclyn Smith, the one-time Charlieís Angel, co-stars in the mini series, as do Anthony Quayle and Denholm Elliott.

But Chamberlain not only acts in the thriller, he also executively co-produces it.

"Itís wonderful to have a good deal of input with the script, the casting and all the other areas", he confides. "However, Iíve no interest in other behind-the-camera areas. I donít think I want to direct, for instance. Itís just too complicated a business. You work 24 hours a day. It just looks more difficult than something Iíd like to tackle".

On the acting front, Chamberlain is actively seeking roles that are more Ďordinaryí than the adventurer and costumed ones that heís became accustomed to playing in recent years, and in such films as Casanova and King Solomonís Mines.

"Iíd like to play someone with family problems", he says. "Or someone whose wife has walked out on him -that sort of 'ordinary' drama. Something completely different from what Iíve been used to".

Chamberlain isnít much bothered as to whether such roles materialize in films, TV or theatre. Each medium, he maintains, has its pros and cons.

"Working in the theatre, gives that wonderful feeling of being in communication with the audience. The audience is part of the play. Movie-making, by contrast, is rather mechanical. It presents many mechanical difficulties. Itís a question of what I call beating the machine. If you can really give a good performance in film, then I feel that you have truly achieved something special. The major difference between movies and TV is that, in movies, you wait around even longer. I like the pace of TV. I like the swiftness of production, especially where mini-series are concerned."

In an ideal world, says Chamberlain, heíd like to indulge in less of the professional traveling that has taken him to the likes of Britain for The Music Lovers, and to Africa for King Solomonís Mines and its back-to-back sequel Allan Quatermain And The Lost City Of Gold.

"Iím travelled out", he admits. "I still enjoy travelling for pleasure. But I get homesick when Iím away working for a long time. I miss my friends. Iíd like to stay in one place long enough to plant some seeds and watch them grow".