RICHARD MOORE RESPONDS....
The following is a transcript
of answers provided to the Sean Bean Mailing List
by Richard Moore, the military adviser for the Sharpe Series. At the end of
January 1996 we e-mailed questions to Mr. Moore, and he was kind enough to take
the time to write this. FYI, his reference to "Rifleman Moore" is his own
reference to himself, as the character he plays in the Sharpe series on an
This document is copyright,
1996 by Richard Moore.
No part of it may be reproduced in hard copy, printed, stored in
a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means;
electronic, chemical, mechanical, photocopying, recording or
otherwise, without prior and express permission of the copyright
At the "Sharpe End"
Replies to E-mail queries
(USA) by Richard Rutherford-Moore,
Military Technical Adviser, Sharpe Films ..........
and "Rifleman Moore" in them
Thanks for all the new fangled
E-mail. I shall attempt to answer
all your questions. I enclose initially a report from 1995 which
contains the reasons for various actions in "Sharpe" up to that
point. I will update this including the 4th Series as follows:
I have, as you can read,
been a serious re-enactor for eighteen
years, but a muzzle loading shooter for years before that. All
the weapons used by the principals are close copies - I wouldn't
hazard original pieces in some of our scenes - so the actors and
extras just have to learn to use them correctly. Some want to
learn, others don't. But the learning sequences were done in a
military fashion, and subject to all the primitive faults such as
wet and idiots. I trained a dozen Ukrainian soldiers to load and
fire Brown Bess flintlocks from start to finish in one week,
changing flints, the lot. In "Eagle" those soldiers are loading
and firing their own muskets... its just the training and
practice, practice, practice. My weapons are far superior to any
you'll find in a hire shop. My flints come from mines opened
35,000 years ago and are the best Brandon floorstone. I never
use, or give over to an actor, second rate stuff. I DON'T DEAL
The most extras I had at
any one time was 600, under my sole
control. The average on a day is 150. I speak their language,
and the language of the universal soldier.... cigarettes, drink,
food and women (the important things). What's most important is
being understood and obeyed, and doing the business so they take
a pride in themselves, get the job done and win. It also takes
respect, from both parties.
A horse is just a tool,
but they need to trust you. The main
problem is most people can't understand them. Most want to get
off after work and walk away, in the same fashion as taking out
the ignition keys from the car. I never treat them as animals,
just fellow soldiers.
Battles are just big chess
games... one player makes the moves.
What people have difficulty coming to terms with, is that
Napoleonics mean you can send messages only as fast as a
galloping horse. Time spent planning is never wasted. You can't
act constructively on the spur of the moment on a Napoleonic
battlefield when you are one man directing hundreds, unless you
put yourself at risk. Anticipation and confidence is the key.
Surprise, as I found on
"Sharpe", is a soldiers greatest weapon
and his worst weakness... and I use it all the time.
Our uniforms are as good
as the budget allowed. Mine was very
good, as I designed it, and had worn it for fifteen years
previously. As in Napoleonic times, they come in two sizes...
too big and too small. The quality of the uniform in the film is
reflected in the time it spends on the TV screen - the longer,
the better cut. Officers in those days purchased commissions,
and had to look the part, as the King himself entrusted it to
them. They were his representatives on the field. Everyone
likes to be an individual, but military uniforms are designed to
make the wearer feel good, and also to make him look fearsome
from an enemy point of view. Each British redcoat was different
from his fellows in another Regiment, but the difference is
small. Study the buttons, facing colour and lace patterns on his
jacket. White crossbelts make his chest look broader, epaulettes
make his shoulders seem wider, and a big hat makes him look
taller. But inside each of them is a vulnerable human body....
Officers did allow themselves
a lot of freedom in uniform on
campaign. So did Wellington. He always said what mattered was
the soldiers turned up for battle well fed, and with a gun that
worked with sixty rounds in his pocket. It made no difference
what the colour of his trousers were (or even if he was wearing
The French in the Peninsula
are often underrated. Before 1808
they had a tradition of victory since 1792. Only the national
character of the British stopped them. They were the only troops
who would stand and not run away at the mere prospect of being
attacked by a heavy French column... Wellington knew this, even
before he went over to Portugal in 1808. Just how much it took
to stop them depended on imponderables... morale, weather, time,
etc. Sharpe is always lucky.
Nairn did have tobacco in
his pipe. I know as it was my pipe and
my tobacco and I lit it for him. I sent the 'bubble' observation
to the film office and they all leapt for the videos... nobody
BADAJOZ..... the assault
scene is the one thing that they said
couldn't be done. We had fourteen nights to do it, in
temperatures of not less than minus 2. It was sheer Hell for all
the cast and crew. The extras came from the Ukrainian Army, and
consisted of fifty soldiers I trained for this one scene for four
weeks. We did it, but not without casualties. There was no glory
at the end of it, medals or pats on the back. It is and will
remain one of my proudest moments during the filming of 'Sharpe'.
Badajoz was a complete purpose built set.
We have a saying in the
British SAS - it is called the "SIX PEAS"
and it goes like this.....
PREPARATION AND PRACTICE PREVENT A PISS POOR PERFORMANCE
There are as I've found
many people out there prepared to pull
the trigger. There are very few who have learned to enjoy it. Of
these, there are very few still alive and human.
On Sharpe, when it comes
to action and stunts, we practice,
practice, practice... but you can't prevent accidents. You can
only try to keep them down to the absolute minimum. We have had
them. I was the worse one that ever happened, blown up by a
British shell burst at Vitoria in "Sharpe's Honour". Like I say,
it justs happens sometimes.
Part of my job is to supervise
the script. It is not fair for me
to say I caught out the author or our writers in the script, as
they aren't period or military specialists. I rewrite or amend
any 'error' in the script and insert a suitable alternative. I
wrote the entire night -battle scene in "Sharpe's Battle".
Rifleman Moore is recogniseable...
he is the best soldier there.
Sergeant Harper did ask for his volley gun from him in "Honour",
and in "Battle" which I wrote he fires the cannon on the well
after putting it there as part of his schematic defence plan,
adopted by Sharpe. He is intelligent, quick and clever, and
physically fit. He fired eight shots in one minute from a musket
during the practice for "Eagle" and claimed their part was
easy... they only had to fire four a minute. He fired the first
cannon at Badajoz, and rode with El Matarife's guerillas, he was
also the French officer shot in the first part of the French
attack on Andrados before the rockets fell, and one of the
officers who tripped Sharpe up in "Rifles", and held Wellington's
horse in the opening sequences. He is quiet, abstemious with
drink, cool under fire, a deadly shot and is a qualified armourer
and explosives officer, very charming, connected with the British
aristocracy and is also very modest. Where he came from is
unknown. What he did before is classified.
Now onto characters:
Major Hogan... Brian Cox
was excellent. Unfortunately he had
contracted other work before we started planning the second
series and couldn't come back to us.
Frederickson... after Sharpe
and Hakeswill, our most popular
character. He returns to us in "'Seige", and "Revenge".
Rifleman Cooper... he was
wounded in the arm, which turned bad in
hospital and he had it cut off. The last I saw of him he was on
a cart in the road trying to get to the coast, and a boat back to
England and poverty.
Continuity in general...
it is always difficult to engage actors
for long-term continuity projects when no offer of security is
possible. The sponsors of the episodes always insist that each
episode must stand as a complete story in its own right. Only
the success of the past series has enabled us to influence this.
We all agree that with hindsight these decisions are easy, about
filming in chronological order and sticking to the books - they
were successful so I think we should shoot them as they stand.
Sometimes this is not possible - usually this concerns
accountants, who have more say in how we conduct our lives than
It is not possible but I
often think it would serve our
scriptwriters sometimes to watch completed episodes of 'Sharpe",
and compare the difference as seen to as written. I amend where
I think necessary within parameters. Some I have to refer to the
Director. Other than that I can't comment on script supervision.
It takes on average sixteen
weeks to complete each series of
Richard Sharpe became accustomed
to riding horses as he became
accustomed to higher ranks. It goes with the job. You don't
have to like it. As Sean gains confidence in riding, he learns
to enjoy parts of it. Sharpe never mucks out or stays up all
night with a sick horse, and I don't suppose Sean will either.
But somebody has to do it, sometimes.
The best location shoots
we fi1med on were in the Crimea. They
were physically hard and demanding, occasionally dangerous but
always evocative. You had to think to stay on top of the job.
The very place was spiritually fulfilling, and I got on very well
with the Russians. My adventures (some beyond belief if I didn't
have the proof) outside 'Sharpe' there are too numerous to
mention here. Read my memoirs.
The badge that Sharpe wears
on his sleeve after the Storming of
Badajoz means "Valiant Stormer". In fact, only the 52nd Regiment
awarded these. Two badges were awarded at Badajoz to riflemen in
our films. Sharpe got one and Rifleman Moore got the other.
Someone stole Sharpe's and I wouldn't give him mine to wear! I
earned it, and I wear it in honour of the Ukrainian soldiers who
went over the top with me at Badajoz, but got precious little
reward for doing so.
Soldiers set off to war
carrying over a hundred pounds in kit.
The heat in the Peninsula killed them as effectively as a French
bullet. They learned to do without a lot of the things they were
given to carry in the Regulations. Priority was always
ammunition. I did a lot of practical research on this kit aspect
in three years in the Crimea, and it is surprising if you are fit
what you can do without, and survive. We have another little
saying here.. where one man can survive, two can fare well.
The heavy baggage (tents
after 1813) was carried on mules or ox
A soldier could designate
his wages (less stoppages) to be paid
at home in England. If he was killed, the family could in
certain circumstances receive a lump sum or apply for a pension.
If he was wounded, and couldn't serve, he was discharged and
given a ticket to get home the best way he could. After that, if
no pension, he went on the parish (a small means tested
unemployment allowance), begged or just starved. Then as now,
nobody is much interested in soldiers when there isn't a war.
Survival - and comfort whilst
doing so - depends so much on
training and on much on character. Bear in mind that for every
20 soldiers who died in Spain only 1 died as a direct result of
enemy action. The rest starved, got sick, caught diseases,
froze, died of heatstroke, etc etc. You just have to do your
best in the circumstances with what you have. During the 7 year
period of the British involvement in the Peninsula War they only
actually spent 40 days 'fighting'.
Actors don't like wearing
hats as they can't see the camera and
they think the camera can't see them. In our films as in others,
this is at the directors discretion. I know it is wrong not to
wear them as part of the uniform, and it is a battle in itself
trying to get them to do so. They are only actors.
We did practice forming
square at the camp in the Ukraine. I had
200 soldiers doing it and it is quite easy after practice. As
Wellington said, it was not every General who after getting his
troops into Hyde Park could get them out again. Plan the work,
then work the plan. Practice makes Perfect... then do it under
heavy fire, in the rain and at night, with boys who don't want to
be there. You begin to realise the reality of things then, and
why you have to practice practice practice... and lead from the
I'm afraid soldiers did
urinate in their rifles to clean them and
I've done it myself. When water is short as it was in the
Crimea, you don't waste it if you are camped away from it.
Muzzleloaders have to be kept clean with hot water... and there
it is, "on tap", as it were. The result smells terrible.
I hope this answers most
of your questions. Making 'Sharpe' has
been very fulfilling for me and is a good study in human
behaviour. When you place a supposedly self-sufficient group in
unfamiliar overseas surroundings and they have to survive, the
order in which things are arranged as 'important' often changes.
Sharpe Film on campaign
is like a little army, and some always
try to conduct themselves as such. You'd be surprised if I told
you just how different things are in real life on the set from
what you see on the screen.
The book, The Making Of
Sharpe, comes out here in April 1996,
with the compact disc of the music from the shows.
In answer to your query,
a) Yes Rifleman Moore does get technical
fan-mail and has signed photographs of himself and his rifle and
b) the only reason Rifleman Moore hasn't been to the United
States up to now is that the nine-hour flight would render him
incapable as he can't sit still for that long. He travels around
England with his "MAKlNG OF SHARPE" display but is open, no
doubt, to invitations to broaden his horizons...
Report to queries after
SHARPE SERIES THREE 1994/5
from Richard Rutherford-Moore/"Rifleman Moore"
I enjoy finding things out
- I am widely known now as a
re-enactor who has a vast store of theoretical knowledge backed
up by experiments of a practical nature, then applied to history.
I was once lectured to by some person who was telling me about
Waterloo at a conference in my early days as to the effect of
firing a Brown Bess musket - this clashed so much with my own
experiences of doing this it prompted me to ask him if he'd ever
fired one himself - it appeared that he hadn't, but it didn't
stop him telling someone what it was like to do so. I realised
that my habit of acquiring practical knowledge to augment my
book-learning placed me in a very good position to appreciate
abilities. (You get a bit of this coming through in Jac Weller's
books). It was a small step from this concept to what I do now -
I spent my early life with my nose pressed up against glass cases
being told Not To Touch. I don't treat my young visitors this
way..... I expect them to touch, smell, feel, handle and taste
everything. At Waterloo events in the past, I've often felt that
the uniformed soldiers played second fiddle to the so-called
experts who attended and spoke of the campaign - I've often found
them out of touch with reality and speaking of Napoleonic
soldiers with no appreciation of what it was like. I have had
some criticisms levelled at me in the past through comments made
about this aspect, but my "battles" have all been fought outdoors
in wet/dry, cold/hot, night/day conditions, and with the addition
of gunpowder smoke as per the originals, and not in the comfort
of a library or museum, and my interpretations of it all through
"Sharpe" have met with approval. I may have the scars, but I
also have the memories.
I have been very interested
in the Waterloo Campaign for as long
as I can remember, but can't recall the spark that set it off.
When everyone else was playing cowboys and Indians, I was playing
Napoleon and Wellington. I discharged my first shot from a
muzzle loader at an early age, and began to study them and their
potential a few years later. I hunted with them on a regular
basis, and I approve of the one-shot, one-chance philosophy built
around them. 1 have been a member of the Napoleonic Assn. for
sixteen years, starting as a drummer boy in the 21eme. de Ligne,
then transferring a year and a half later into the 95th Rifles.
It has taken me amongst others to the battlefields of Austerlitz,
Inkerman, Wagram, Balaklava, Waterloo (my last participation was
my 'eighth' Waterloo!) and a thousand other small fights and
skirmishes. My speciality of researching and 'recreating'
practical living history has enabled me to create my own
Napoleonic character - Rifleman Moore (he is in "Sharpe's
Battle") - and assist others in making their understanding of
daily life as a soldier of this period such that they can use the
knowledge to interpret it and expand the interest in the period
which "Sharpe" has enhanced. Rifleman Moore is alive in the
sense you can touch him, speak to him, use him as a source for
information, anecdotes and remeniscences; and he has the full
support of his uniform, equipment and weapons to assist in the
ambience of it all! He has been with Wellington, after all, for
over fifteen years, and is probably the most highly qualified and
experienced Napoleonic soldier you'll ever meet!
I also have a civilian character,
named William Spry. He acts
amongst other things as an agent to the Transport Board (1814)
and is fully conversant in the topics most of interest to the
social side of things. He has a tremendous travelling office
(which has been exhibited in it's own right as a museum relic)
and encourages a hands-on experience when it comes to writing a
letter ("Firstly, make your pen from a quill ...." - or using the
tinderbox to light a candle. He is an early nineteenth century
man. Sadly, he has been eclipsed over the last three years by
The recent Waterloo re-enactment
was probably the most wayward
we've ever done - the script went the way of all things, and
several other aspects made it not so enjoyable as years gone by.
The weather was the best contributor - I camped for the preceding
nine days and it rained every day, stopping only one half-hour
before the event! I was asked to contribute by talking to as
many people as possible about the campaign from a soldiers' point
of view rather than as some omnipotent creature whose home is in
the clouds (or on the day, in a smart suite a la Hotel
Bruxelles!). I have the honour to be acquainted with the best
people on both "sides" of re-enactment on the continent and
Waterloo is always a good place to meet again and exchange gifts,
cognac, t-shirts, medals and other paraphanalia - we are really
the best of friends when we aren't tearing each others throats
out on the battlefield. This year, I exchanged some French coins
I dug up at Balaklava for English ones dug up at Waterloo, and
was given a bullet found at the base of the south wall of La Haye
Sainte (by an illegal meta1-detector friend who finds the most
astonishing things on the field, Legion d'Honneurs included) for
a signed photograph of Sean Bean.
I actually met "Sharpe"
at Waterloo way back in 1988. A
researcher was there doing work on early pre-production, and we
met (not by chance - these things are ordained) there and I
started on the road that would bring Richard Sharpe onto the
small-screen. I received a few calls every now and then from
them re advice, until it finally got the go-ahead from Central TV
in 1991. I taught the Chosen Men how to shoot the Baker rifle
for one week in England before they left, and imparted as much
knowledge as I could to them whilst doing so. They asked if I
could come with them for a fortnight to the Crimea to get them
started on the first Sharpe film, which I agreed to do - twenty
six weeks later I returned home after a very hard but fulfilling
campaign in which logistically I only had to close my eyes and
ignore the sound and smell of the internal combustion engine to
be right back with Wellesley in Spain in 1809. I kept my journa1
daily and it reads just like Harris or Kincaid - the days and
nights of stifling heat or freezing cold, horse-lines, sickness
and disease, the long columns of infantry, field guns crunching
along, the weight of my rifle and pack - and an honorary
lieutenant in the Ukrainian Army.
I advise on everything -
I suggest amendments and alterations to
the scripts, write some of it, help where and when necessary to
keep the scripts as close to real life and the books written by
Bernard. I wear my rifleman's uniform in character almost
continuously and I never ask anyone to do anything I'm not
prepared to do myself or haven't done myself. This took me with
my Ukrainian soldiers through the Congreve rocket attack (my
stuck-on French moustache sadly didn't make it), the volley fire
at Talavera, and the fearsome assault scenes at Badajoz. Some of
the younger soldiers were close to tears in these scenes with the
noise and the detonations, the cold and the injuries... but we
shared experiences that I'll remember for ever and one I'm very
privileged to have. A shared cigarette with a young soldier in a
biting wind, huddling to a tent wall frozen with damp; using our
blankets as a shade from the blazing sun, suspended from muskets
and bayonets jabbed into the earth; feeling the power of going
through the breach at Badajoz as part of a screaming horde who
just want to kill and destroy with the frustration of it all
(true!). I treasure each of these memories as jewels - as a
re-enactor I don't have to try to answer a question from someone
like "What was it really like in the Peninsula War'?"..... I've
"Sharpe" has a
vast array of uniforms, weapons and props - each
year it gets a little bigger. We don't use the NA although for
the filming of Sharpe's Regiment here in England we did invite a
lot of them to come and take part in it, as soldiers of the
2/South Essex. A lot of my friends in the NA have contributed
props and odd bits of things to us in past episodes. They also
give support to me during the long periods away from it all, by
writing to us, sending Red Cross parcels, and 'phoning.
Tap loading - I have tap-loaded
a number of weapons, with varying
results. In a rifle, you have to remove the paper and patch from
the bullet, or it won't tap down easily because of the tight fit.
This practice was eventually stopped By General Order in the war
as soldiers were breaking the wrists of weapons by trying to tap
home the ball still wrapped in the paper on hard ground. Seating
the bullet in this way in a musket, it is impossible to forecast
the result - because of the windage, in tests the bullet can go
anywhere to the right or left, up or down, long or short. In
relation to the rifle, it converts it to a badly-loaded carbine.
As a general rule of thumb, tap-loading is useless for a result
except at close range, where a proportion of the bullets would
find a mark somewhere, although figures are hard to establish
because of the wayward effects of the balls. Muskets are easier
to load than rifles, as they have no patch attached to the
bullet. Sentries often loaded with 'running ball' (a bullet with
the cartridge paper removed so as to drop straight down onto the
powder) on duty so as to avoid having to extract the ball coming
off-duty using the ball-puller. Spitting the rifle ball into the
bore means having to detach the paper/patch from the ball in your
mouth whilst at the same time priming the pan and charging the
barrel with gunpowder - it all takes a long time to perfect and
practice, and of course is inherently dangerous ( and it tastes
foul). This was perhaps the most controversial aspect of
practical lore in 'Sharpe' in the past, but it can be done, and
with some effect. I fired eight shots in one minute from a Brown
Bess musket using this method, at some personal risk. I wrote a
large article about this and other aspects of loading muskets and
rifles in a past NA journal, which you may have seen.
volley gun was made by me for the film,
Sharpe's Company. It is a replica of Nock's volley gun, with a
few minor alterations to suit film-making. It was fired once,
fully-loaded with ball and the required charge, and never again.
As you may have read from other articles, its weight makes it
hard to carry, and the recoil from the firing is likened to being
hit by a runaway Russian tramcar - it also deafens the firer and
it just destroys whatever target you pick at close range. I can
reload it using cartridges in one minute fifteen seconds, or
off-hand in around two and a half minutes. Strangely enough,
since its resurgence on Sharpe, some volley-guns have been
unearthed in the Antipodes, where they were sent to control
convicts in the nineteenth century... they fetch a high price.
Their practical disadvantages far outweigh any theoretical
advantage, in the field.
Congreve rockets were used
in the film Sharpe's Enemy. They were
faithful reproductions of the six-pounder incendiary rocket
(which nobody noticed when they exploded!) and at one point I was
the only person with the knowledge to fly them - using Congreve's
own manual I managed to figure out how to fire them accurately,
and yet they can be made to hit the target. They suffer from an
inherent design fault which makes it imperative that great care
is taken when preparing the rockets for flight, for even a small
deviation on cutting the stick and fitting it with the crimpers,
the angle of tangent on the trough, and even a gust of wind can
create a difference of a hundred metres from the selected target
area at a range of five hundred metres. Loaded individually as
opposed to salvo fire, they are more effective. With our
improved technology (or maybe even a more inquisitive mind), they
do work. Something you don't see in the film was that the small
farmhouse we were using as a target at five hundred metres in the
film was aimed at and hit and bumed out by a Congreve rocket!
We used the Southern Crimea
for our location in all the Sharpe
films so far. It is everything we want, from forest to field,
mountain to valley. It is a very hard place, but one in which
the beauty of the surroundings helps to portray the film in its
best light, with spectacular backdrops. Every moment of spare
time would find me on the battlefields of the Crimea, doing
research at Balaklava, Inkerman or Sevastopol. Students of this
period must go there and meet your Russian equivalent as it is
very rewarding indeed - their view of it all is sometimes very
different from our 'Western' one. The Heavy Brigade of Cavalry
were actually wiped out at Balaklava, and Scarlett killed; the
Light Brigade suffered a similar fate later on. Who is to say
which account is correct? I did not feel justified in telling a
Russian student that he was wrong - I just presented the
'English' view, supported by reports, books and newspapers. If
you enjoy debate on military history, you can have a good time in
Sevastopol! I turned over most of my research, maps, relics etc
to the Crimean War Research group.
We used the Ukrainian Army
soldiers of the camp at Perevalna'ia
near Simferopol for our soldiers in "Sharpe". They are all
conscripts, of ages between sixteen and nineteen. I trained them
on the job in one week to perform as British or French Napoleonic
soldiers, drilling on the square, loading the muskets, marching
in line or column, and gave them a brief introductory lesson in
military history, and make a few bob on the side through doing it
- very 'period' in character!
I won't bore you by describing
the state of the accomodation
enjoyed by these soldiers, or their pay and conditions during
their service in the Ukrainian Army - but that was very 'period'
too. I led them the best I know how - I lived with them, ate
with them, listened to their stories, stole for them, froze with
them, got 'shell-shocked' with them, rained-on, fired-on,
shit-on, drunk and sober - anyone reading this who has served
will know what I'm talking about - you become a unit, bound
together with something more than the Regulations, which only
comes through trust and suffering in war. The "South Essex" that
went 'over the top' at Badajoz was trained by me continously for
just that and a lot more, and they were very good indeed - when
we parted company to go our separate ways in the shadow of that
fortress, in the wee small hours after fourteen nights of assault
in cold of four below, sleet and fire, injury and elation, the
scudding clouds sweeping over a low, bright full moon, I realised
that I had gained and lost something I would remember for the
rest of my life. It tears you apart... but it is the stuff of
life. Wellington would have understood, and been proud ot us. I
pasted up the comment by Him after Badajoz 1812 on the film
office wall, that "it afforded as great an instance of gallantry
as has ever been displayed by soldiers, but He hoped that never
again they would be committed to a similar fate."... but they
soon forget, then and now.
The sets in the film were
designed by Andrew Mollo, and were
copied from exisiting buildings in Spain and Portugal, and then
just built in the Crimea for us to use. Sometimes a set would be
adjoining a real house, and you were never sure where the line
was that separated real from set. They have to be robust to take
the punishment they get during filming without falling apart.
They were all built to last, and I lived for a short time in the
Moreno house at Badajoz, front room, easy chair, library and
fireplace to boot, and found it very comfortable (more so than
most Russian hotels!).
(the original set name) has featured in almost
every episode so far, with a few new buildings added or a bit of
demolition to change it's appearance. The gale in November 1993,
which coincided to the day with the 'Great Gale' that wrecked the
British Army at Balaklava in 1854, changed its appearance
drastically, and swept off all our army tents too! It was great
to stay over after filming and watch the moon come up over the
mountains from Alona Fort (Sharpe's Battle"), dive off the wreck
of the bridge and swim in the river at Valdelacasa (Sharpe's
Eagle") or roast a lamb for shashlik over coals of the fire used
earlier by Napoleon Bonaparte to warm his cockles (Sharpe's
Honour). When the actor playing Bonaparte descended from his
room in costume to go to the set, the Russian crew and peasants
of the village enjoying breakfast in the usual way (grab
everything and eat it as fast as you can) suddenly froze and
parted like the Red Sea to let him through - they have long
memories in Russia, you know.
Bernard Cornwell visited
us during filming in Portugal to see how
we were getting along, and dine with some of the cast and crew.
He tends to leave the filming of the scripts based on his books
to the crew, and the crew do the best they can with it. I assist
the Director in many ways, and after working with him for three
years I know just what he wants. We just give him the tools. I
make lots of suggestions to do with the script, sometimes writing
replacement scenes, sometimes to rectify errors, and sometimes to
try to expand on a single aspect or fit in a good piece of period
action or mannerisms. I often suggest a change of a 'modern'
word for a period one.
We make Sharpe for a vast
audience of millions of which the
genuine military historian is a small percentage, but we never
forget this, and always try to accomodate the historical accuracy
of it all. The small percentage are the ones who write the
letters, and although we've never had any undue complaints, we
don't want any either. The Sharpe Series was given very nice
accolades last year from BAFTA as to its authenticity and
appearance on screen, which of course is very good for me to
hear. I always like to compromise for technical reasons on the
small points (usually because they take too much time up on our
very tight schedule) but we never compromise on the important
ones in terms of authenticity.
I can't comment on clashes
- differences on artistic
interpretation happen all the time and are sorted out by
discussions. Everybody respects the other man's needs. As
Wellington said, you just tie a knot and go on, particularly when
dealing with problems such as a set being burned down by a drunk
security guard. Differences in opinion caused by politics,
religion, drink, money or women which always occur amongst
'soldiers' away from home for long periods are usually settled by
a brawl, and by handshakes afterwards, then forgotten. We
actually have a " Next Generation" now as a happy result of a
member of the cast and a Russian girl met during filming, who
married (officially, and not just by jumping over a drum).
Sean Bean has made the part
of Sharpe on screen his own. Even
the reprinted novels have him on the cover. Bernard Cornwell
wrote "Battle" with him in mind. He is very affable, very
professional (he spent a whole day of his scarce spare time on
location practising swordplay with the 1796 Heavy Cavalry Sword
to get it right). He is a nice bloke, very down to earth,
married with two lovely children. He understands that Sharpe is
a living breathing organism with a vast following of fans, and
when we did an event recently at a fort in Chatham he spent
almost all day signing autographs and speaking to people who had
come to see us. I just give him the historical facts about
Sharpe, Wellington, the war and the rifle, and he does the rest.
The future? From Sharpe's
point of view, you always plan for the
battle after the next one. We have enough on now just doing the
job in hand, three films for Series number Four. After that,
maybe another series or maybe the feature film. Who knows?
Rifleman Moore's future?
Barring the arrival of a Frenchman's
bullet, I suppose I'll continue to pass on my experiences and
adventures in the way Old Soldiers do, then fade away... I have a
book to write (The Making Of Sharpe), a lecture tour in Portugal
and Spain, some places I haven't been to yet, and a thirst for
knowledge (in the past, reflected in writings for the Waterloo
Friends Journal such as "The Third Eagle - the One that Got
Away", an article which raised quite a bit of interest and
correspondence, and written by me to contradict the assumed state
of things that there is nothing new to find out about the
Waterloo Campaign - you just have to dig deeper as the topsoil is
now throroughly sieved and exploited.) I started the follow-up
article to this about where everyone was buried on the field,
from info obtained from many sources, including on-site
exploration and the Ministry Of Works - my own translation - in
Waterloo, but sadly had to shelve it due to other work. Maybe
it'll land one day.). I guess I'll still be boldly going to
areas where no re-enactor has been before for a while yet ... I
was First in the Field in most aspects in the NA and I presume
I'll also be the Last Out, as a good rifleman should always be!