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Help Support Features Interviews Michael Sheard
Michael Sheard interview
by Ettore Mariotti - posted on April 3, 2003

The Scottish born actor Michael Sheard attended The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London and has appeared on stage and screen.
You will probably know him best as the actor who played Admiral Ozzel in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back. He briefly appears in Raiders of the Lost Ark but will be best remembered to the Indyfans as the actor who played Adolf Hitler in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Official site:

Originally you passed the audition for the role of Gestapo agent Toht from in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Why did the part pass to Ronald Lacey?

As I say in my first book we were both up for the part and Ronny got it. Simple as that. Although we were both suited to the part and both very experienced I think the decision to cast Ronny was the correct one. Mind you, the director - Steven Spielberg - thought I was so good that he found me the part of the U-boat Captain. (He did have a name, this guy, but I'm afraid I've forgotten it!) By the by, you don't do auditions when you get to the point in your career when you've done so much. It's merely a case of reading the script and meeting the director.

Ronald Lacey was your friend. What can you say about him?

Ronny was a lovely man, a very good actor and he never had a bad word to say about anybody. We were about the same age and appeared together in lots of TV productions and several movies, including, alas, his last. I'm not quite sure actually if 'Last Crusade' was his last movie but I think it was. He died shortly after. What? You didn't know he was in 'Last Crusade'? He played my Himmler. It was a kind gesture from Steven - we all knew that Ronny was very ill

You had already worked for George Lucas on The Empire Strikes Back. Do you remember how did you end up in getting that role?

Sheard as Admiral Ozzel
in Empire Strikes Back.

I was asked to play it. It fitted in between two other engagements. 'There's rather a good death' my agent said. I fitted it in. Nobody knew what the future would hold but I'm still doing Sci-Fi conventions all over the world. Of course I have done lots of other Science Fiction. In fact of the 800 plus TVs and 46 movies I've done, I should say at least 10 per cent have either been Germans or Sci-Fi.

You are often a guest at Star Wars conventions. Do you like them?

I love them. If you don't enjoy them don't do them, it's not fair on the attendees. I don't mean to sound pompous but conventions also afford me the opportunity to say thank you to a representation of the lovely people who've been kind enough to write to me over the years to say how much they like my work.

Eric Heinemann asks:
How many people come up to you and perform the Force-squeeze on you?

I've lost count - it's happened many times!

Sheard as the U-boat
Captain in Raiders.

You filmed some scenes as the U-boat Captain for Raiders of the Lost Ark. Why did they not appear in the finished version of the film?

You can just see me in the conning tower of the sub. I did six weeks filming in La Rochelle in France and then the weather got in the way. They suddenly had to go and film in Tunisia and I was already contracted to do a TV series. The rest of my scenes were never shot. But Steven said he'd find me something else!

Have you ever imagined that he would call you for the role of Hitler in the Last Crusade?

Well I have played Hitler five times - six times now, I've just finished playing him again in 'Hitler of the Andes'. He didn't die in the Bunker you know, he escaped to South America!

Chris Heady asks:
When you were playing Adolf Hitler did you feel any different? Sometimes when an actor plays a certain role they really get into the character did you get this feeling?

I'm an actor, that's my job. I'm really darn good at my job - or so I'm told! But it is a job, same as any other, and I don't bring it home with me! Some actors do, it's true, but I don't agree that it's necessary to spend three months driving a taxi in order to play a taxi driver. It's called acting for heavens sake! But we all have our methods and every actor to his own.

James Bradley asks:
Can you share with us something about the location in which the scene was shot?

It was shot in the grounds of a most elegant public school on Oxfordshire UK during the Summer holidays. Not a lot more to add - except that it was boiling hot and Harrison and Sean did their close-ups wearing swimming trunks. (You'll have to read my books!)

Aaron Rotan asks:
I heard that in Last Crusade, Hitler autographed the grail diary using the wrong hand. (I think the real Hitler was left handed?) and that the autograph was misspelled. Hitler's name is actually spelled "Adolf”. Was any of this touched on during the making, or only realized after the fact? Or is it even true?

click to enlarge
Sheard as Adolf Hitler.

I've no idea - really! That 'cut-in' was filmed weeks, if not months after I'd left the movie. It was the hand of another! But you are half correct. Hitler was most certainly left handed, but - and I've been asked this question many times - I believe that whoever was my hand did spell it with an 'f', have another look!

Ads asks:
U worked on
Raiders and Last Crusade, did you get asked to play in the Temple of Doom?

No I wasn't asked. I was working on a long running TV series at the time. And to be honest and twixt the - how many of you are there? Let's say 19 - twixt the 20 of us, I don't think it's a very good film so perhaps it's best that I wasn't free.

You've had a long career in the film industry. What are your favorite roles or those you like remember?

It's not over yet!! Again, I'm often asked this question many times at convention Q&As. I've enjoyed every part I've played (with one exception but you'll have to read my books to find out.) What I do, is put the whole lot into the ring - location (Greece); part (Sgt. Mann); script (very good); cast (wonderful, headed by my great chum, he who did the foreword to my first superb book, Roger Moore, and the delightful David Niven); and I come up with a super movie , 'Escape to Athena'. I was damn good in it, too!

Stefan W. asks:
Why do you play especially German roles?

I don't! Ok I do speak the language and I do, or I can, look German. But I'm a working actor and I play what interests me and what I'm offered.

What effect does it give you having taken part in this kind of movies?

I play the parts that I'm offered and those which interest me. The sub-title to my first book is 'Memoirs of a Bum Actor'. Bum as in the American use of the word - journeyman, strolling player, vagabond. If the script and the part is good, I'll play (almost) anything. I even did a soft porn movie which was produced by a friend of mine. Mind you, I was the one who didn't take anything off!

Which is your favorite Indiana Jones film and why?

Number three, because I was in it and I think I was damn good! Whatever, lot's of people remember that scene.

Robert Turner asks:
Are you going to try to slip onto the
Indy IV set and bring us another great character?

I think - hope - I've indicated that. As a journeyman actor, I'll consider anything that's offered. If there's an interesting part in IV I'll play it. But talk is cheap, is there going to be a IV?!! would like to thank Michael Sheard for taking time out and spending it with us. Also, thank you to the visitors of TR.N for providing the numerous questions.


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