Q&A: John Hurt on Quentin Crisp and The Naked Civil Servant


WHEN: 25/7

‘It was the best piece of writing I’d ever read,’ remembers Sir John Hurt reflecting on TV’s The Naked Civil Servant (pictured above) after a showing at the BFI.

  • Read on for how Danny La Rue almost played ‘stately homo’ Quentin Crisp

Hurt adds: ‘It took three years to set up. Wardour Street said they’d love to do it if they could get Danny La Rue to hang his tits up. He was absolutely the opposite of what the writer Philip Mackie would have wanted.’


Crisp was born 108 years ago and tonight’s compere critic Michael Billington asks Hurt (pictured at the event immediately above) whether the self-confessed ‘stately homo’ whose autobiography The Naked Civil Servant was based on, was on set much.

‘Quentin was there but not that many times,’ remembers Hurt, a BAFTA winner for The Naked Civil Servant and Oscar nominee for Midnight Express three years later. ‘Quentin was asked how camp we were allowed to be and he said: ‘You can’t be camp enough.”

Producer Sir Jeremy Isaacs recalls the reaction to the screening of the 90-minute Thames TV film: ‘Every single British family knew a homosexual and it was no problem for them at all.’

The BBC rejected it twice before Isaacs and producers Verity Lambert and Barry Hanson took it on.

Later Hurt is asked about his iconic work in roles such as this and 1984. ‘I consider myself a victim of other people’s imaginations. I can’t claim any courage in choosing anything clever for myself but these things came along for me.’

Hurt, now 76, recently pulled out of West End show The Entertainer performed by the Kenneth Branagh Company at the Garrick Theatre after treatment for pancreatic cancer. We’ll be reporting from the show’s last night 12/11.

Tonight’s event is actually in honour of director Jack Gold, the recipient of BAFTA’s highest honour, the Desmond Davies Award for outstanding creative contribution to television.

  • Picture via BFI. Tickets for other BFI Q&As here.
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