On a cold winter’s afternoon, in a cramped place of job above the gaudy Christmas lights of Regent Boulevard, Mackenzie Criminal is showing me a photograph of a ghost. in the grainy, black-and-white symbol, a woman – Criminal’s grandmother – sits in a chair dealing with the digital camera. In The Back Of her lurks a white spectral vision of horror. It’s really quite chilling. It’s also fake.
“My grandfather was this shy, grumpy greengrocer,” says Criminal. “It turns out he had this pastime of trying to make pretend ghost photos. We had no idea. I used to do it when i used to be younger, too.”
It feels appropriate that Criminal has an unassuming ancestor with a hidden skill. you must simply consider – if his face weren’t so well-known – Criminal’s north London neighbours being solely unaware that the great bloke round the corner, together with his indie-rocker garments and hobby shed, has won two Baftas, acted with Johnny Depp in Hollywood blockbusters and formed an fundamental part of the most influential English-language TV comedy of the earlier twenty years. he is also accountable – as writer, director and megastar – for probably the most pleasant early-night family viewing in years, the BBC’s Worzel Gummidge reboot, which returns to our screens subsequent week.
Earlier Than assembly Crook, i was planning to invite him how so much he identified with The Workplace’s hapless nerd, Gareth Keenan (or if he was once more like randy supply motive force Ferris from his 2004 comedy Intercourse Lives of the Potato Men). But It Surely handiest takes a few mins to understand that Criminal is Worzel. Not the straw-filled, head-swapping, kid-frightener inhabited by Jon Pertwee in the unique nineteen seventies series, but Crook’s modern version – gentle, softly spoken and in love with the flora and fauna.
Worzel’s next journey is called “Twitchers”, with the scarecrow vying with a host of birdwatchers for a glimpse of some choughs. Does Crook twitch? “It’s certainly one of the issues my wife calls my ‘imaginary hobbies’,” he says (Criminal has been married when you consider that 2001 and the couple have youngsters).
“I DO KNOW a lot approximately birds and this 12 months, for the primary time, I’ve saved an inventory of the species I’ve spotted. i’ve enough knowledge and all of the equipment, however I infrequently move. It’s the same with steel detecting.” The latter, in fact, was once a passion he picked up whilst making his Bafta-successful comedy Detectorists with co-celebrity Toby Jones, a couple of pair of middle-aged steel detectors – sorry, steel detectorists – at the hunt for an elusive Saxon haul.
is understanding the names of the birds and bushes a dying artwork in this united states? “I don’t recognise,” says Crook. “I just are aware of it’s really vital to me. If a chicken flies throughout my path and that i don’t realize what it’s, I’ll endeavour to seek out out. But I DO KNOW for so much of people, it’s not necessary.” Criminal’s Worzel Gummidge is a display set in a determinedly vintage-formed and rural global through which we barely see a smartphone or a television, however feel the changing of the seasons and the programme’s obtrusive love for the English countryside. Does he see Worzel as a green activist?
“i think there’s an environmental message to the display,” says Crook. “it could be extraordinary not to come with it, as it’s any such current factor. However I don’t want it to be preachy, it’s going to be almost subliminal.”
May Worzel join Extinction Revolt if he may just, blocking off roads and gluing himself to railings? “i feel he’d be amazed and amused by way of the lengths they’re going to, however Worzel is aware how pressing all of it is. So, yeah, they’d get the thumbs up from him.”
One hallmark of the nineteen seventies Worzel is the legions of British adults who are still mildly scarred through their memories of the scarecrow. Crook wanted to make sure this era of Gummidge fans may sleep at night, but when the primary pictures of his model were launched to the media one tabloid when put next him to the Nightmare on Elm Boulevard monster Freddie Kreuger.
“Folks keep speaking about folk-horror and i’m not fairly sure I remember what that may be, but it appears there’s an element of that during there,” Crook says. “But It’s a human built to appear like a man standing in a field to scare away crows. there may be one thing horrifying about that. But youngsters appear to heat to him. He’s a fair friend and you soon to find that out.
Clarty (Tim Plester) in Twitchers, a new episode of Worzel Gummidge out on BBC One on Dec 28 Credit Score: Leopard Movies – Photographer: Chris Harris
The People-horror component, perhaps, comes from the reality that extra and more Britons in finding the geographical region itself darkish and foreboding, an otherworldly place (with out wifi). At The Same Time As there’s a clear thread of the bucolic running via Criminal’s paintings – to boot as Worzel and Detectorists he famously starred within the original production of Jez Butterworth’s hit play Jerusalem, and performs a druid in Butterworth’s Sky drama Britannia – there may be a way that nature is a formidable power past our keep watch over.
“there is something mysterious and unknown approximately it. i’ve this wooded area in Essex and in the height of summer season, when you stroll in there, it’s so oppressive. There’s such a lot pollen and insects in the air and things that are making you itch and sneeze and you simply suppose, ‘I’m now not in reality invited right here, I’m probably not very welcome’.”
After We discuss, Crook has but to be told from Butterworth or director Ian Rickson how they’ll be restaging Jerusalem, that’s being revived in the West End next year with most of the original solid from 2009, together with Mark Rylance, who will reprise his function of Hen Byron, a magical drug dealer living in a caravan in a Wiltshire woodland.
While Crook first starred in the play, he used to be in his mid-30s – now he’s 50. Will that modify how he strategies his efficiency? Criminal recounts a time all over the first rehearsal whilst the solid visited Pewsey in Wiltshire, the place Jerusalem is predicated (although in the play it is called Flintock), and he met the foundation for the character of Ginger. “And he used to be my age, fiftysomething, only a couple of tooth left in his head but he idea he used to be a teen.”
It will be instructive to look how the production offers with men like Ginger and, particularly Rylance’s Chicken; older males who ply younger ladies with booze and medication. Byron is not a person who suits in the MeToo era.
Nor, whilst we’re on the topic, does the un-COMPUTER David Brent. Crook hasn’t watched an episode of The Workplace “for years”, however his 18-yr-old son Jude in reality likes it; his daughter, Scout, 14, hasn’t watched it. but the show still stands up, twenty years on, says Crook. “It hasn’t dated as much as I feared it might – however it’s a file of the time.”
Mould-breaking: The Place Of Business (2003), starring Lucy Davis, Ricky Gervais, Martin Freeman and Mackenzie Criminal Credit: Television Stills
Its creator, Ricky Gervais, has on account that long past on to blaze a trail in a method of comedy that turns out to revel in the concept of loose speech/causing offence (delete as suitable). Criminal’s comedy, is the opposite. there is no cruelty, humiliation or embarrassment. “But that’s no longer because I disapprove,” he says. “i am keen on The Administrative Center and that i adore that kind of comedy. i think my paintings has certainly been a mindful choice to do something uncynical, however it’s now not a response in opposition to that kind of humour.”
As for Gervais, who now lives in La and is a world superstar, Criminal has now not noticed him due to the fact they had been both at the set of Muppets Most Sought After in 2013. Criminal’s future is, he says, for sure now not in Hollywood (“The Usa doesn’t seem like an excessively interesting place on the moment”). he’s satisfied to be running in British TELEVISION, and is more likely to be behind the digicam than in entrance of it. After Jerusalem, he isn’t positive what comes next, however he is prepared to jot down yet one more Detectorists special.
No interview with Crook could be entire with out an update on Wintry Weather George, the robin who has been vacationing Criminal in his garden for the earlier 5 years and who has been became a personality in Worzel Gummidge. because it turns out, Crook hasn’t seen him in a few months.
“I’m surprised he’s been around for 5 years. He comes indoors, he comes into my shed and hangs out with me. in the first few pages of the book Worzel Gummidge by Barbara Euphan Todd it says he has a robin’s nest within his jacket, that’s how I knew Worzel used to be a good fit for me. I’m hoping Iciness George will come back once more. I’m a little lost with out him.”
Worzel Gummidge is on BBC One at 7.15pm on December 28 and 29