The Day I Nearly Died

by Rik Mayall Interviews And Articles Archive Blog

By Pam Francis for TV Times, 21st-27th October 2000

Funny man Rik Mayall has finally fulfilled his TV fantasy, but one black day two years ago it could have been a very different story…

Using his filthy, sneering Alan B’Stard voice, Rik Mayall asks me to step into his ‘babe trap’. Well, believe me, there aren’t many babes who would want to be trapped in this caravan cum dressing room which conjures up memories of the pad he used to share as a no-hoper with Adrian Edmonson’s character in Bottom. Untidy is hardly the word and he seems to have had a serious argument with the curtains which are hanging off their rail.

‘Oh yeah. Well I thought it was a bit dark, so I moved the curtains back a little and they all fell off.’

To my left, it appears he’s also gone four rounds trying to slide open the window. ‘Oh yeah that fell out too,’ he explains sheepishly, trying in vain for a moment to fix it back in.

The thing you quickly learn about Rik is that he never stays still for a moment. A pure vision of funny faces and even funnier voices.

It’s obvious he’s excited about his first serious acting role in ITV’s Customs and Excise drama, The Knock. Not least because, as smoothie businessman Simon Reid, it gives him a chance to perform his first sex scene on TV, which I am about to see re-enacted snog by snog.

For Rik, 42, it became important to get his body in shape for stripping off. ‘I’d been running and doing my press-ups because I knew I was going to get my kit off. I’ve never had a sex scene before. Not a proper one anyway.

‘Oh yes, you’re definitely going to see my bits — the shot lasts about four seconds.’

The other half of this scene is Julianne White, the same actress who he almost had his wicked way with on screen when he was Alan B’stard in The New Statesman. All those years ago, B’stard had left her handcuffed to a water bed and then got locked out with just a towel round his waist and the neighbours calling the police.

‘So this time we got to finish what we started. You’ve got the director kneeling next to the bed and there is Julianne and I on top, snogging. So we’ve got this shot that starts on the bottle of champagne, ranges across the floor, over her knickers, up to us snogging,’ says Rik re-living the passion as he contorts furiously — acting out each role, including that of director, soundman and cameraman, if that’s possible.

‘So she turns me over like this, gets the champagne, pours it into my mouth and down my body and then licks it off.’

By this point his excitement has reached fever pitch. And I ache with laughing at the un-sexiest sex scene in the history of TV which I am sure will look right on the night.

Rik says he enjoyed the role so much that he even saved the character from a nasty death. ‘He was going to be shot. But I liked Simon so much because he’s seriously clever and so naughty. That’s why I took the part because they’ll be saying: “Isn’t Rik Mayall good at shagging!”‘

He is so irreverent in many ways, yet, when you least expect it, he quietens down and becomes quite humble. Especially when he talks about his own recovery from head injuries which nearly killed him two years ago — a day his children now refer to as Crap Thursday.

It was Easter and he’d returned home to his Devon farmhouse where he took his quad bike out for a ride. Within minutes it had overturned, leaving him with such severe head injuries that his family was warned he may not live.

Deep in thought for a moment he sits very still. ‘You know, I’m trying to resist turning into a soft old celeb, but I could easily. I’m just lucky. I was pleasantly surprised by how many people love me. Loved me!!! People in the street telling me off, in a nice way, for shocking them. Saying, “What did you want to do that for you twit. I was worried for six months you were going to die”.’

So was his wife Barbara, his children Rosie, 13, Sydney, 11, Bonnie, four, his parents and all his friends. One of the small miracles that helped was the disappearance of the blood clot from his brain which would have needed surgery.

Once on the road to recovery Rik was determined to re-build his life and his career. ‘I could have laid back and said I still feel ill. But that wasn’t of interest to me. I wanted to be up and acting and grooving about. I didn’t want to be lying in bed feeling sorry for myself. No fun in that.’

And the jokes keep coming: Rik’s coming off the pills he had to take to prevent epilepsy and he’s looking forward to drinking alcohol again. ‘I’ll probably stop my pills, have a pint of lager and get run over by a truck.’

But there are times when he still re-lives the moment he was about to take Bonnie and her cousin Red, aged three, out for a ride.

‘I put them on the fuel tank in front of me. But as I turned left, I felt two or three drops of rain on my arm and thought: “Whoa Rik, this is stupid”. So I took them off, went round the corner and fell off the bike, that’s all I remember. You know, they wouldn’t have lived. They would have been dead and I would not, stupid thing to say, be happy. That would be irretrievable. That’s stringing-yourself-up time.’

Is he religious?’ Not yet. I have avoided that question. Adrian sometimes says to me: “Well you’re going to end up a vicar”, because that’s what he reckons.’

Now the two have reincarnated their Bottom characters in Guest House Paradiso and are starting work on a new movie.

Is Adrian nicer to him now? ‘No he’s a complete bastard, always has been. Yes, he is. He’s always been nice to me, he’s my best friend and he looked after me.’

Now Rik is called for his next scene and, as I prepare to leave, he pretends to believe I’ve already gone as he reverts to his paranoid frantic Alan B’stard voice. ‘Got to do a shot. Haven’t taken my cocaine. Oh God, she’s still here.’