From Hell to Paradiso

by Rik Mayall Interviews And Articles Archive Blog

By John Millar for OK! TV Guide, 10th December 1999

Rik Mayall chuckles when OK! ask, about the inspiration for Guest House Paradiso, the movie comedy in which he and sidekick Adrian Edmondson run the world’s worst bed and breakfast establishment. Most people’s first guess would be that the idea was born from the duo’s B&B experiences when they toured the country’s theatres with their madcap brand of humour, and that Rik and Ade wrote the script in comic tribute to some of the disastrous places in which they had spent the night. ‘It would be great if that were the case, but it isn’t,’ says a still-grinning Rik.

The truth is that the seeds for their big-screen venture came about because the two funnymen were bored. Rik and Ade, who have been close pals ever since they met at university 25 years ago, were on the Manchester leg of a stage tour of their hit TV comedy, Bottom. After a couple of days they started to get bored during the afternoons when they had time to kill before the evening’s performance.

‘We went shopping the first day,’ says Rik, who is relaxing in jeans and a light blue T-shirt. ‘Then it was a case of what shall we do now? No we can’t get drunk, we are not going to do that.’ So we started this game in which you had to order the most obscure thing on the hotel room service… like do you have any lizards or can you get any? We hadn’t decided what we would do if the lizards turned up! The game didn’t last long because one of us said wouldn’t it be fun if we ordered two pints of lager and Eddie — the character Ade plays in Bottom — turned up with them, and of course the glasses would be empty.

‘From that we started talking about what might happen if Richie– my character — was the hotel manager. And on we went. That was the beginning of the script. It became our hobby when we were on the road. We spent our afternoons laughing and thinking up different ideas. There was never a plan to make a film, we were just having fun. Then we realised that our fun had turned into something good and we were suddenly making a film.’

He stresses that although there are lots of similarities to the humour in the Bottom TV series. Guest House Paradiso was never intended to be a film version of Bottom. ‘That’s because those films don’t work. I’ve seen enough and been disappointed by enough to know that. I’m sorry to have to say it but Steptoe and Son, Dad’s Army or any sitcom that tries to make itself into a film simply doesn’t work.’

Apart from the movie. Rik is soon to be seen by visitors to the Millennium Dome in a special featurelength episode of Blackadder. ‘I get to snog Kate Moss because I was Robin Hood and she was Maid Marian. I snogged her three times — then asked for another take,’ he says as a cheeky smirk appears.

Forty-one-year-old Rik is ultra-enthusiastic about finally making a movie with his pal, Ade. One reason for all this delight is obvious — the comedy star is simply happy to be alive and well. Because, as he admits with a nod of the head, he could easily have been killed after a near-fatal incident at his Devonshire farm last Easter After a freak accident on his quad bike. Rik suffered extremely serious head injuries which might have proved fatal. Even when he pulled through after the accident, the star admits that his worries were not over. He was uncertain whether he’d still be able to act after the trauma that he had been through.

‘I was really worried,’ says Rik, his voice quieter. ‘So I didn’t start acting again until last September and even then I dipped my toe in really quietly. That was because if I was going to discover that I couldn’t act any more then I didn’t want anyone else to find out. So I did a lot of things like voiceovers for cartoons and a guest part in Jonathan Creek.’ To everyone’s relief, Rik realised he could still do all things he had taken for granted since his success in groundbreaking comedies such as The Young Ones and The New Statesman. ‘I found out that yes I can still act. I can read, I can put in emotion and remember stuff, which is vital. It was a real joy to discover that I could still do it. But Guest House Paradiso is my real return,’ says Rik. ‘And I’m doing this with Ade, my partner, my best friend for 25 years.’

Naturally, his wife Barbara and their three children went through a terrible ordeal as a result of the accident. ‘But they have strengthened because of it,’ he says. ‘It has helped make the children more mature. So yes, I am happy just to be alive. I am happy and I am going to enjoy being happy. I’m astonishingly lucky. I have got another chance. Someone said to me, if I had the time over again what would I change. And do you know; I’m not sure, which means I’m winning.’ Which is also something that all of Rik Mayall’s legion of fans will be very glad to hear.