Only Fools and Horses legend John Challis reveals dream role as Doctor Who
Marlene’s boudoir is light years from the Tardis – but that is just the sort of leap Only Fools and Horses legend John Challis would love.
The star who played dodgy car dealer Boycie for nearly 30 years has revealed his dream role all along was Doctor Who .
And John, 76, freely admitted he has repeatedly pestered BBC bosses asking if he can play the Time Lord.
But the nearest John came to the galactic role was in 1976. He played ruthless mercenary Scorby opposite the fourth Doctor, Tom Baker, in The Seeds of Doom, the last episode of season 13.
John said: “I have always fancied playing the Doctor because I have always wanted to play larger than life characters.
“And I have always seen the Doctor as an older person.
“I have written two or three letters over the years when I’ve known that they are going to change the Doctor, saying: ‘What about this old face? I’ll have a go, I’d do this, I’ll do that, what do you think?’
“But I have to admit I haven’t had a great deal of reaction.”
When the 12th Doctor, Peter Capaldi, 60, regenerated into Jodie Whittaker, 36, in 2017, John said he had doubts about a woman taking the legendary role.
He said: “Something slightly worried me. It didn’t quite sit well. Whatever the fashionable term is about it, I always saw the Doctor as male, it is the same with James Bond, I have just grown up with them.”
But he thinks Jodie has done a good job and the show holds up well.
He said: “I am very old so I’m sure I’m prejudiced. I come from a different age. The world is different place now.”
Yet John feels as fit as he did when he starred in the hugely successful sitcom from 1981 to 2009.
His character’s rivalry with David Jason’s Del Boy in the Nag’s Head pub was one of the series’ most hilarious features.
Flash Boycie often seemed to triumph in their long-running game of one-upmanship.
But Del had a trump in the form of his flirtatious relationship with Boycie’s wife Marlene, played by Sue Holderness.
There were hints they had enjoyed a passionate past. And Del knew that Boycie, eager to please his missus, would always fork out for a knock-off product that looked “ideal for Marlene’s boudoir”.
Only Fools attracted over 24 million viewers for a 1996 episode and is still regularly on telly. John said: “I don’t feel any different to when I was on Only Fools.
“Seeing yourself as a younger person with a lot more energy than you’ve got now is extraordinary.
“Young people are more attractive than older people to look at, generally speaking, and more appealing to those in casting. You have to look after yourself and not look as old as you are. That is just the way the world is and the way it will always be. You know it is going to happen.
“But the character of Boycie lives on and people seem to want to see the character, it belongs to the nation.
“You might as well make people happy and I was very happy to be part of the show. It still makes me laugh.”
John went on to star in Only Fools spin-off The Green Green Grass in 2005 and appeared in ITV sitcom Benidorm.
He also regularly tours the UK doing a one-man show as Boycie and is a regular at Only Fools And Horses conventions. John likes to stay busy even if he lacks the energy of young man. He said: “You miss your youth. It was a really sparky time.
“When you get older you get more world weary and cynical. If you are not careful.
“You wish you were back there in those days of innocence when you are growing up and everything is new and exciting.
“It wasn’t particularly swinging for me. You had a lot of freedom. And the Pill came along which made a big difference, obviously to the female side of things.”
Last month Only Fools And Horses The Musical launched in London’s West End and was an instant hit. John went to the premiere and said he quite enjoyed it and said: “It would have been nice to be up there on the stage.” David Jason, 79, did not attend. John said it is harder for him because he gets swamped by fans.
He said: “He is very careful about not putting himself about too much, which makes his appearances even rarer. You get physically pulled about.”
Even after all these years people are still obsessed with Only Fools – including Rolling Stone rocker Ronnie Wood, 71.
John said: “I met Ronnie recently, he is a big fan of Only Fools and Horses. He has been along to a couple of things that I have been involved in. He loves Del Boy and all the characters.”
One thing John didn’t have the patience for was making it big in Hollywood. He said: “I did my one-man show off Broadway and people said very nice things. But I ran out of money, which happens in America.
“A lot of people say nice things but nothing actually happens. Who wouldn’t want to crack Hollywood? But looking back on it, I don’t think I would have survived very long.
“You need to be of a certain type and have a certain drive and ambition. I’m quite impatient. If something doesn’t work out in ten minutes I go off and do something else.”
Shame it has not been playing a Time Lord.
John hosts a pub quiz as Boycie at London Olympia’s Ideal Home Show’s own Nag’s Head on Thursday, March 28, at 6pm. For more about the show and the Eat & Drink Festival, open March 22 to April 7. See idealhomeshow.co.uk and eatanddrinklondon.com .
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