Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Martin Clunes tells Julia Molony about juggling TV fame with rural life on his Dorset farm

Julia Molony
17/11/2014 | 02:30

Martin Clunes juggles a successful showbiz career, including Doc Martin, which he makes with his wife, with family life and a love of horses

Benedict Cumberbatch might have his Cumberbitches, but Martin Clunes could give him a run for his money with his Clunatics.

They are the devoted fans of Doc Martin, the television show in which he stars. They run on-line discussion groups, are unwavering in their devotion, and even turn up at the actor's home wearing Doc Martin masks. It sounds a bit scary, but Clunes is entirely sanguine. "We have a fair on our farm every summer, and they come in their droves. And they give thousands of pounds - we do it for local charities and the Clunatics, even if they don't come, they send money. I've been sent sleigh bells for my horses, all sorts of things. English fans just generally want a signed picture, whereas the Americans want to tell you a bit about themselves, and what it means to them."

Clunes is wearing a smart suit and his British Horse Society pin. He is the president of the society and today, in the middle of a film publicity campaign, dashed out to give a speech to the members before coming back to resume talking to journalists in Claridges.

It's an indication of the two worlds he inhabits - down on his farm in Dorset surrounded by horses, cows, chickens and dogs, with interludes spent making films and telly.

He and his wife, the renowned producer Philippa Braithwaite, run Buffalo Pictures production company together. They make Doc Martin, are currently filming a television adaptation of the Julian Barnes book Arthur and George, about Arthur Conan Doyle, and are behind an array of nature-focused documentaries which Clunes fronts.

But it's Doc Martin which has arguably been their most high-profile collaboration, both in the UK and abroad. "People do absolutely love it, which is very gratifying. You get people sending in scripts, that they've gone to the trouble of registered delivery post."

He's a busy man at the moment having accidentally conquered America with Doc Martin and today is promoting his latest film project. Nativity 3, Dude Where's My Donkey?! is the third instalment in the seasonal children's comedy set at the fictional St Bernadette's school. It's full of Christmassy high-jinks and is all improvised. The kids who are cast are not given scripts or characters, but are asked just to be themselves. "They're the lesson… because they live in the moment and that's what you have to do to improvise," Clunes says. "You have to get right there with them." Working with large groups of primary school kids is, he admits, "completely chaotic. But that's why they shoot so much and take a year to edit it. What you don't get is hokey kid actors doing dialogue. They're just being themselves."

It's good, old-fashioned silly fun for the under 10s. Clunes's character Mr Shepperton, is a school-teacher whose wife has died, leaving him to raise his daughter Lauren alone.Things get more complicated when he is kicked in the head by a donkey, loses his memory, and can't even recognise Lauren.

"It's not the first time in my working life that I've told stories that have come close to the notion of abandonment, and they've always got me," Clunes says. His father Alec Clunes, who was a well-known actor, died when he was eight, and it was only afterwards that Martin discovered his parents had split up and Alec had left the family for a while. "There are all sorts of types of abandonment, but I know it's something I tap into and I guess it's because of that sense of losing people at a young age. Because kids just have needs, don't they? And what rocks them is 'who is going to look after me,' and I think you either do or don't carry that through with you as an adult," he says.

READ MORE HERE: http://www.independent.ie/entertainment/still-cluning-around-30744943.html

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