Just after I wrote this Edgar sent me the link to his own lovely tribute to the great man. Head on over to edgarwrighthere.com to read it. It’s no surprise that we echo each other’s sentiments entirely and Edgar has put together a beautifully thoughtful piece, which really sums up our feelings for Edward. I wanted to post my own thoughts nonetheless, since they are personal to me and my affection for the great man is boundless.
Edward Woodward was in my opinion, one of the country’s finest actors, a true luminary of the British stage and screen, whom I was lucky enough to get to know in 2006 during production on Hot Fuzz. Whilst hatching our ‘straight cop in a crooked world’ tale, Edgar Wright and myself had always hoped to secure the services of Mr. Woodward, not least because our story was in no small way a tribute to the inspired 1973 horror/mystery/quasi musical, The Wicker Man in which Edward starred as the ultra pious, Sergeant Howie. A similarity he was quick to point out on his first day in the rehearsal room. I have a very clear memory of Edward’s arrival. He was immaculately turned out (as always, it transpired), leaning on his walking stick having negotiated a flight of stairs, somewhat out of puff. Edgar and myself stood up, as one does when a superior enters the room, to receive him with barely disguised geekish warmth, to which he responded with impeccable courtesy, although I’m sure internally, he was reserving his judgement. After all, who were we? A pair of spotty herberts, whose only distinction from the legion of fans he must have encountered over the years, was that we had written a film he had agreed to be in. We chatted for a while, partly to allow Edward to get his breath back, partly because Edgar didn’t want to immediately assume the role of authoritarian; mainly because we just wanted to get to know him. It became apparent very quickly that Edward was great company. A true raconteur with a seemingly endless supply of stories from his eventful life and illustrious career. From tales of working with Olivier to meeting the mafia on the set of The Equalizer to an hilariously improbable encounter with another Edward Woodward deep in the Australian outback. We realised quickly that at least part of each rehearsal day should be given over to what we referred to as ‘anecdote time’ , not least when Edward was joined by the likes of Billie Whitelaw and Timothy Dalton. It was a genuine treat for myself and Edgar to sit back and watch this hugely talented and experienced actor, tell us of his experiences in a world we had ourselves, barely ventured into.
On set, Edward was the absolute model of professionalism. Gregarious, focused and utterly dedicated to giving the best performance he could. The fact that this was an outright, often silly comedy did not in anyway undermine Edward’s commitment to the role of Tom Weaver, the Neighborhood Watch Alliance’s chief civilian liaison to the Sandford Police Service. It was enormous fun just to watch him bring the character to life. Sometimes as an actor, it’s hard to stay in character when you are performing alongside people for whom you have such respect. It’s almost too exciting, you want to laugh, take stock, proffer a hug. This was definitely the case with Edward.
My last memory of this kind and endlessly likable man is a very happy one. At a small get together in central London to celebrate the completion of the movie, Edgar and myself had given our heartfelt thanks to the assembled cast, when Edward stood up unannounced and proceeded to entertain the room for a good five minutes, with jokes and sweet sentiments about his time on the film, that left us genuinely touched and beaming with pride. This was after all Edward Woodward; Sergeant Howie, ‘Breaker’ Morant, David Callan, The Equalizer. It’s one thing to meet your heroes, it’s another find them the person you hoped they would be. Edward was definitely one such hero.