Filming if.... David Wood, one of British Cinema's Most Rebellious Children
It feels appropriate for Curzon Soho to be screening Lindsay Anderson’s if…. as part of this iconic film’s 50th birthday celebrations. As a young actor I was privileged to play a major role in the film, and in 2002 came to Curzon Soho for the first screening of the BFI’s brand new print. Other cast members attended this gala occasion at this splendid venue, along with producer Michael Medwin and writer David Sherwin.
Soho had been the setting, in 1968, of the auditions I attended – at the Garrick Theatre – as well as my unofficial screen test in D’Arblay Street, and my first meeting with Malcolm McDowell and Richard Warwick, my fellow rebel schoolboys, in a restaurant in Chinatown.
But, for me, Soho had earlier exciting memories. As a teenager I started performing magic at children’s parties. My mother several times allowed me to travel alone from sleepy West Sussex, where we lived, to London, to visit the alluring magic shops to find new tricks for my shows. Many of these shops were located in Soho. My favourites were Max Andrews’ Vampire Magic in Archer Street, Harry Stanley’s Unique Magic Studio in Frith Street, and Ken Brooke’s Magic Place in Wardour Street. They were colourful, hidden-away emporia of secrets and illusions. Little did my mother realise – for that matter neither did I - that my expeditions took me into red light districts, climbing rickety stairs past doors advertising ‘models’.
Ever since, I have regarded Soho as a truly magical place. And my theatrical dreams have often been realised in Soho. The year after if...., my first West End musical – as a writer – (The Stiffkey Scandals of 1932) was seen, albeit briefly, at the Queen’s Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue. My children’s plays have, over the years, played at the Apollo (The Owl and the Pussycat Went to See…) and the Lyric (The Tiger Who Came To Tea). We rehearsed The BFG in the West End Great Synagogue in Dean Street, now transformed into the Soho Theatre. In 2016 my grown-up musical, The Go-Between, starring Michael Crawford, played at the Apollo, and from June 28th this year, my adaptation of The Tiger Who Came To Tea returns, this time at the Piccadilly Theatre.
As an actor I have never played in Soho, although I did appear in plays at the Criterion and the Aldwych. My film career has often brought me back to Soho for meetings, viewings and castings for, for example, Aces High (working again with Malcolm McDowell) and North Sea Hijack, in which I was thrilled to shoot scenes alongside Roger Moore, Anthony Perkins and James Mason.
But if.... holds the most special memories. Working with Lindsay Anderson was an extraordinary experience. The longevity of the film has been remarkable and rewarding. For decades I have happily answered questions about the filming. The memories remain indelible. And, when the idea of writing a memoir, 'Filming if….' was suggested, to tie in with the 50th anniversary, I relished the opportunity. Now the book is published. Malcolm McDowell has written the foreword, and George Perry, film buff and critic, has written a splendid Afterword about Lindsay’s work and his place in British cinema history. Hopefully my if.... stories will be enjoyed by the film’s many devotees. And on Sunday, April 29th, I look forward to attending the screening at Curzon Soho and taking part in a Q&A.
David Wood OBE
if.... Q&A with David Wood
To celebrate the 50 years since Lindsay Anderson's if...., this 35mm screening will feature an introduction and Q&A from actor and playwright David Wood, who stars in the film as Johnny. David will speak of the making of the movie and work with maverick director Lindsay Anderson and actor Malcolm McDowell and afterwards will sign copies of his new book 'Filming if....'
An apposite winner of the Palme d'Or at the 1969 Cannes Film Festival after the previous year's competition was suspended due to student protest and civil action, Lindsay Anderson's countercultural satire depicts insurrection in a fictional boy's boarding school.
Sunday 29 April 3.00pm, Curzon Soho.