Janina Faye Interview in the Cushing Confidential

Thanks to Chris Gullo, of the Peter Cushing Museum & Association,
for permission to reprint this interview, which appears in
Issue 2 of the Cushing Confidential, November 2001

Illustrations from the Cushing Confidential by Colin Bushby - see Colin's website

Janina Faye starred in several Hammer films, including Horror of Dracula, Never Take Sweets from a Stranger, and The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll. She also starred in the science fiction classic Day of the Triffids.

The PCA recently got in touch with Ms. Faye and conducted an interview spanning her career with Hammer films, her memories of working with Peter Cushing, and other aspects of her career.

Janina Faye first explained her experience sharing memories with her fans:

“In 1999 I was invited along to Bray Studios to meet with, and talk to fellow actors and fans of Hammer film years. This turned out to be a very moving experience for me. Some of the actors I had not met up with for many, many years, but there was a genuine and unique feeling of fondness for these films which unified us all.

"I have been an actress for 40+ years and met and had been privileged to work with some of the ‘Best’. My years at the National Theatre enabled me to work with Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir Robert Stephens, Sir Derek Jacobi and many other splendid performers. I have done lots of television, film, and theatre work, but I have never forgotten those special years at the beginning!

"In the last couple of years there has been a surge of interest in these Hammer films, and I have been asked to talk and remember things I thought I could never remember! I was only 8 years old!

"It started when I agreed to go to the Festival of Fantastic Films in Manchester. The fans were so welcoming, and so deeply enthusiastic, that the memories came flooding back. Especially when photographs were produced of me in ‘DRACULA’ with Peter (Cushing) at the studios.”

CC: In one of your first films, Horror of Dracula, you acted alongside of Peter Cushing. What was it like working with him?

JF: I had several scenes with Peter (Cushing) and he was very concerned about my feelings. The scene in the churchyard where I had to sit in my nightgown, he took the time to talk to me gently and explain about the smoke they were ‘puffing’ around me so that it looked like the night was cold. Putting that beautiful coat around me with the fur collar. black with brown fur....if I close my eyes I can smell its smell now! He returned after every ‘shot’ to make sure I was all right and not frightened in any way. He also told me not to go up the stairs into the other ‘set’. I know now why! It was because there stood the coffin!!!! This man was a genuinely good person, and terrific actor. He will be remembered for all these Hammer Films in the years to come. I would also like to think that Peter Cushing will never be forgotten as the kind and generous actor that he was. I myself will always treasure his memory.

colinbushby1.jpg (149899 bytes)
Illustration by  Colin Bushby
for the Cushing Confidential

CC: During the film you got to work with director Terence Fisher. Could you tell us what he was like and how he directed you?

JF: Dracula was the first film I did in the horror genre. I was eight years old, and to me it was just a thrill to be part of filmmaking. The fact that it was a Horror movie really had very little effect on me. Terence Fisher was a very quiet, gentle man, from what I can remember, and all the cast and crew involved were very caring and encouraging.

CC: In the same film you also shared scenes with Melissa Stribling. What was it like working with her?

JF: The scenes that I had with Melissa Stribling were easy, as she was a very generous performer. Some people say, “never work with animals or children”, but she seemed happy to share scenes with me.

CC: Did your parents allow you to see Horror of Dracula when it came out in theatres?
JF: I'm sure my parents would have allowed me to see Dracula, had it been of a suitable rating, but it was an “X” certificate, and I am not really a fan of horror movies.

CC: Later on in your career you got to play the role of Lucy Holmwood in a stage version of Dracula. What was it like working in this production and what do you find are the differences of working in film and theatre?

JF: Playing Lucy Holmwood in the Theatre production of Dracula was not a role I can say that I enjoyed. Theatre work is much more immediate, the audience are there, and you have to entertain them. The response you have is very much more in your control. Never let it be said that working in a theatre show is boring because you have to repeat the performance night after night. No two performances are the same. An auditorium full of people never reacts in the same way either. Filming takes far longer, and technically more things can go wrong. The actor can feel he has given a wonderful performance, only to find out he will have to repeat it for technical reasons beyond his control.

CC: In one of the more rarely seen Hammer films, Never Take Sweets from a Stranger, you starred as the daughter ‘Jean Carter’. Could you tell us a little about the film and working with your “screen” parents - Patrick Allen and Gwen Watford?

JF: Never Take Sweets, is a very underrated, compelling film in my opinion. The story it tells and the message portrayed is as relevant in today’s society as it was then, perhaps even more so. Patrick Allen and Gwen Watford were two of the nicest “screen” parents I ever had. Sadly, Gwen Watford died fairly recently; a wonderful lady and superb actress. Watching the film now, I feel that her relationship with me in the story comes across as extremely sensitive and moving. Patrick Allen, again was very supportive and a wonderful relationship existed between “father” and “daughter” was portrayed on screen.

CC: In Hammer’s The Two Faces of Dr Jekyll, you got to star as ‘Jane’, the deaf mute child. Do you have any favorite memories from working on this film?

JF: Dr Jekyll was done over a couple of days. A short time on the set for me in those days! The only thing I can remember of that short filming period was Daniel Massey telling me he was sorry he had to be so “nasty” to me at the end of a scene.

CC: In the science fiction film, Day of the Triffids, you starred as ‘Susan’. Could you tell us a little about making the film or working with the specially made “Triffids”?

JF: Day of the Triffids was fabulous to work on. My idol, (everyone envied me) Howard Keel was wonderful to work with for all those weeks. I thought I’d died and gone to Heaven! The “Triffids” themselves were not at all scary. I’m sure if they remade them now with new technology they would be far scarier. Just a lot of screaming from Jeanette Scott and myself made them appear more frightening than they really were.

CC: Did you ever imagine that you would have a following from the films that you made as a child?

JF: I didn’t know that I had a following! I’m extremely flattered. Proud that I can say now that I played my part in the history of Hammer Films.

colinbushby2.jpg (232790 bytes)
Illustration by  Colin Bushby
for the Cushing Confidential

CC: Is there any role that you would like to play but have not had a chance to do so?

JF: This is always a difficult question for an actress. There are so many wonderful plays, Classics and Modern. But I am proud of the chances I have been given and the parts I have been able to play, with all the wonderful people I have had the opportunity to meet along the way. So lets just say I am content!

CC: Are there any projects that you are currently working on?

JF: I have recently dedicated a lot of time to working with children in Drama. That is not to say I shall not be returning to the screen! Just a slight move in a different direction for the time being.

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