Working with Rik Mayall
Today, 7 years on from the greatest day of my life, I posted a tweet with some of the photos of myself and Rik. It's had loads of interaction and so I thought I'd add a page to my website to share the chapter I wrote about Rik in my book.
Some context before you read. The book is called Flabyrinth and documents my life story and a journey through dramatic weight loss. As a comedy screenwriter the show I co-created called 'Damo & Ivor' starred Rik and those few days filming with him had such a monumental impact on my life that I dedicated an entire chapter of the book to writing about him!
If you want to know more about the book, you can find it here.
Chapter 10 Fatal Attraction (excerpt from Flabyrinth, copyright Gill Books)
The best thing that came from Damo & Ivor was that I got to tick the number one thing on my bucket list. I got to work with my ultimate hero and absolute love of my life and not only that, I got to tick the second thing on my bucket list, shagging him. Well, I half ticked it. Let me tell you about the greatest three days of my life...
You always remember your first love don’t you? Towards the end of primary school lots of the girls in my class were kissing boys. I had still yet to talk to one as I didn’t know how. I would admire them from afar and my hormones must have been kicking in as I knew I’d like to kiss one but at that stage I was so shy around anything with a willy that I would just watch on as my friends flirted their way around summer camp. When I was the age of twelve BBC aired a TV show called ‘Bottom’ and from the very first episode I was in love with Rik Mayall, who would have been 33 at the time. Alongside fellow comedy genius Adrian Edmondson they played the characters of Richie and Eddie, two hapless losers who lived in squaller and their main aim in life was to try and get a shag but they perpetually failed. The script was littered with toilet humour, innuendos and comedy violence as they whacked each other over the head with frying pans and I couldn’t get enough of it.
Barry and I would watch the episodes over and over and fall around laughing. It drove Dad mad. ‘What are you watching that garbage again for?’ he’d ask. ‘Dad did you not just see Richie fall down the stairs and land head first in the loo? It’s hysterical!’ And Dad would just roll his eyes and leave the room. He was more of an Only Fools And Horses kind of guy. I was all about Bottom. I’d never been so enraptured by a television programme and that was entirely down to the fact that I’d discovered Rik. Now bear in mind in the show he wore a white shirt and brown tie, blue jeans and a stupendously large pair of stained underpants which protruded from the top of his trousers and came up past his belly button. God he was mad. I was head over heels watching his zany antics. He was so bold you could see what he was thinking. Adrian was funny too but I was just besotted with Rik. He was a big sweaty mess as he put so much effort into his performance and I loved him for it. He was unpredictable, clownish and just completely bonkers. My perfect man. I have never been so magnetically attracted to someone and I haven’t since. Throughout my teenage years my obsession continued. I watched all of his back catalogue and learned everything I possibly could about him personally and my love duly deepened. People would say to me ‘He’s a great comedian but you mean you actually fancy him, fancy him, like you’d kiss him?’ Kiss him? I would snog every square millimetre of his beautiful face and body and shag him until his knob fell off if I got the chance!
When we were writing the first series of Damo & Ivor we started envisioning who we’d like to play certain characters. We made a list and printed out pictures of the actors and stuck them up on the walls around us for inspiration. We named it ‘The Wall of Attraction’ as this would project out to the universe who we wanted to play the parts and energetically that would reel them in. We wondered who could play Ivor’s posh, nasty bastard father? While writing the first scene where Ivor is demanding cash from his moneybags parentals Andy turned to me and said ‘You know who’d be great as Ivor’s Dad? Rik Mayall!’ My eyes widened and my heart skipped a beat. How in the name of Greek buggery hadn’t I thought of that?! My breathing quickened as I thought about the prospect. Imagine getting to meet him. Imagine WORKING with him?! ‘Print out a picture of him quick!’ I said to Andy. ‘He needs to go up on The Wall so we can make this happen!’ I couldn’t work for the rest of the day as my mind was enthralled in the thoughts of Rik playing a part in a script that we had written. I was absolutely, one hundred per cent, categorically going to make this happen. There had never been a previous opportunity in my life to meet him and now this was it and I was going for it.
When the time for casting came around we told Ruth our producer about our hopes and dreams for certain actors to play parts. This wish list was sent on to our amazing casting director Louise. It was a highly aspirational line up including Ruth McCabe from The Snapper and My Left Foot for the part of Grano. She was going to be the key actor we were hoping to secure. Ruth was a prominent Irish actor but she was attainable. And then we mentioned Rik. My only fear that we couldn’t get him was that we couldn’t afford him. I had read in his autobiography about a commercial he did in the nineties for Super Nintendo and he made so much money from it he bought a mansion and aptly named it ‘Nintendo Towers’. But this is a decade on and from his tragic quad bike accident which nearly killed him and he hadn’t done a huge amount of television work since. So I figured there was a sliver of a chance that he may actually be procurable. However, our casting director thought it a seriously long shot for another reason as Ivor’s father only appeared in the first episode and then absconded in the second. I begged her to at least try and see if we could get him, thinking he’s probably way out of budget, but if we don’t ask we’ll never know. So the script was sent to Rik’s agent and we waited with bated breath. I kept up my positive visualisations in my head day dreaming all day long of Rik being on set speaking the words of our script. I of course also had plenty of sexy fantasies too where I’d dream that I was size 10 temptress, wearing a low cut red dress with my jugs pouring out of the front of it and I’d imagine myself seducing Rik with my fantastic knockers and witty banter and him ravaging me round the back of the make-up trailer and telling me as he shagged my brains out that he was divorcing his wife immediately and going to spend the rest of his waking life rogering me senseless. Sigh. I knew he was happily married and that could never happen, but a girl can dream can’t she?
A few days later Louise phoned and I remember standing up out of my chair to receive the news. ‘I’m really sorry Jules but it’s a no from Rik’ she delicately told me knowing it was crushing my heart like a butcher’s meat hammer. ‘What?!’ I retorted. ‘No way. This is isn’t how it’s meant to go. No, no, no. I’ve already felt that it’s going to happen. My intuition has been telling me he’s going to do it. How can this be? Why did he say no? Is it money? Is he way out of budget? We can move the budget around and take money from my writing fees to pay him? Will that work? Or does he want mega money?’ I desperately questioned. ‘Jules his agent said he was thankful to be considered for the role and he thought the scripts were great and very funny but his reason for turning it down was just that the role was too small as he’s only in the first episode.’ ‘Well we didn’t think we’d be able to afford him for more than a few days filming so that’s all we could fit him in for in the script.’ ‘I know. I’m so sorry Jules, but don’t worry we’ll find another great actor for the part.’ After finishing up the call you’d think I’d slump back into my chair, crushed, but no, my instinct to fight the rejection was so strong I absolutely point blank refused to accept this fate. Somewhere inside my core I just knew he was going to play the part. I could see it in the future. I just knew.
After pacing around furiously chain smoking fags and discussing it at length with Andy, who also felt the same instinct, I decided that I was going to write to Rik to see if I could persuade him to say yes. I mean if I could convince Mum to let me go to discos as a teenager, surely I could do this? Louise wasn’t too keen on the idea of me writing to Rik, but I told her that I know there’s etiquette she has to obey as the casting director dealing with agents but as we now had nothing to lose I requested that she blame any possible aftermath entirely on me outrageously breaking all protocol, because I knew Rik would do the same if he was in my boots. Thankfully Louise succumbed and said she’d send on the letter to his agent once I’d written it. Knowing I was the Mayall worshiper that I am Andy left me to it and I locked myself in the office for two hours and delicately constructed the ultimate letter of persuasion. I wanted Rik to read it and know that not only was I a fan of his, I was a life long hardcore fan who had read his autobiography ‘Bigger Than Hitler. Better Than Christ’ from cover to cover umpteen times. I have a Masters degree in Rik. So there’s a few references in this composition that you might not get, unless you're a Mayall maniac like me, but they were designed to make Rik chuckle.
Here is the letter:
Dearest The Rik Mayall,
Thank you for your kind words about our scripts. We are honoured that a pan global phenomenon such as yourself has read and enjoyed them. There is no greater compliment in our eyes!
We are Jules and Andy - the writers and producers of Damo & Ivor and Andy plays the parts of both main characters. We are devastated (that's the strongest word we could find in the dictionary, but we still don't think it covers it) to hear that you've turned down the role of Alistair Itchdaddy. We understand and appreciate your reasons for doing so, but the desolation is so unbearable that we have decided to break all protocol and send a heart felt plea to see if we can sway your beautiful mind.
We are HUGE, actually what's a bigger word than huge? *consults thesaurus* GIGANTIC admirers of you and your incredible accomplishments in comedy, acting and just being an all round legend, and a very handsome one at that we might add! We have followed your success for a long time. It really is hard to believe that you've achieved as much as you have when they say your career has spanned 40 years - how is that possible when you don't look a day over 39? There really must be something in that salad cream moisturiser! You should bottle it!
Anyway, back to the plea (please imagine us with big puppy dog eyes as you read this). We'll never forget the day we laughed for the first time. We were in our early teens and Bottom came onto our TV screens. We still quote lines from it on a daily basis. If there's a knock on the door and I say ‘Who is it?’ Andy will always reply ‘It's the gas man!’ We grew up watching it and know all the episodes inside out. It's still our favourite TV show.
We started writing Damo & Ivor three years ago and it has been an epic journey. We have made huge sacrifices, taken risks and worked our bollixes off to get where we are today. This is the first thing we've ever written and the first thing Andy has acted in and everything is going so well we feel like we're riding around on unicorns and farting rainbows. The fan base is huge and RTE, our national broadcaster, is already talking about a second series for Damo & Ivor, which is bloody brilliant, hence our desire to establish Ivor with the right father from the start.
If we had known that you would have even considered the role of Alistair, we would have written him into all six episodes, but the story was such that we had to make bad things happen to Ivor for the sake of the funnies and take his 'ATM' away from him and hence the Alistair and the Criminal Assets Bureau storyline. We wanted to tell you that if we do a second series and we had you on board from series one we would definitely make Alistair a lead role in series two and give you shit loads of jokes and killer lines to deliver.
We just know you'd do an incredible job playing Alistair. So if you take a chance on us and be our Alistair it would be the greatest thing that could happen to us, the show and let's be honest, the world!
So in summary, Rik Tripod Mayall, please accept our impassioned plea to be Alistair Itchdaddy and share your wondrous talents with Ireland.
Sincerely yours (and we mean that in every sense, if you’d like a shag or a blow job thrown in as part of the deal just say!)
Jules & Andy.
Of course I was fully prepared to be the face of that sexy offer should he have wanted it included in the bargain. Sadly he didn’t. I was ill with anticipation for the next twenty four hours. Constantly looking at my phone waiting for a call from Louise. Finally it came. ‘Jules your letter worked! Rik’s going to play the part!’ ‘AAAAAAAAAGGGGHHHHH!!!!’ bellowed from my ecstatic lungs as loud as it would if I’d just rolled deodorant on my freshly shaven armpits. Andy was jumping around the place and I always thought at a moment like this that I’d be swept away in a wave of emotion and start bawling my eyes out, but I didn’t. I just feel sheer joy and shock at the same time, not realising that the reality of it wasn’t actually going to hit home until I came face to face with Rik in the flesh.
They say you should never meet your heroes. Well that’s only true if you have a shit hero and in that case you deserve it. Rik was my hero and he was fucking amazing! On the final week of filming Rik flew in the day before he was due to shoot. We had arranged to meet him in the lobby of The Beacon Hotel where he was staying. It was the most surreal moment of my life. Part of me feared that it was all a prank and that someone was going to jump out and say ‘Ha! Jules! You didn't really think Rik was coming did you? You twat!’ I received a text from Ruth our producer to say she was with Rik and our director Rob and they were sitting beside the front door. Andy and I nervously walked in and I remember laying eyes on Rik and finally knowing that it wasn’t all a spoof. He was there. My hero. My idol. The unadulterated love of my life. Sitting right there. I placed my hand on Andy’s arm and looked at him ‘This is it Teddy. I’m gonna meet Rik.’ Andy’s eyes dazzled with excitement for both of us. I don’t think my feet touched the ground as we approached the table. Rik stood up. His grey hair rested magnificently on his broad shoulders and he was even bigger and more solid in the flesh than I had imagined. Be still my beating clitoris.
Rik was introduced to Andy and they shook hands with vigour and then he turned to me. I blurted out ‘I can’t believe this. I feel like I should curtsey’ which I duly did and Rik laughed. Bloody hell. Rik just laughed at words that came out of my mouth. Cupid has left the building. His work here is done. We all sat down and I can’t remember anything that was discussed initially as I was absolutely hypnotised by the gargantuan aura of charisma that Rik projected. I’ve never come across anything like it in my life and Andy said the same afterwards. Rik was resplendent in every sense. Such a gentleman, so witty and so flippin’ gorgeous. I should have brought a towel to sit on. We chat for two hours and after Ruth and Rob leave Andy and I end up smoking fags outside with Rik for another hour talking about all sorts. His ability to tell a story was phenomenal and we were laughing so much I felt bereft of ribs. I think he warmed to us too as he really seemed to be enjoying himself. All the while I’m thinking God I hope there’s batteries in my vibrator when I get home.
The following day on set Rik filmed his first scene as Ivor’s prick of a father Alistair Itchdaddy. He told us he loved the part as ‘Playing a complete bastard’ was his favourite thing to do. After the first take he stepped out of the room and said in quite a serious manner ‘Jules. Andy. Can I speak to you both in private please?’ Oh sweet Jesus. What’s wrong? I anxiously walked over believing he was going to say ‘This is shit. I’m not happy with the camera angle. This was all a mistake. Fuck you both. I’m going home.’ But he didn’t. Instead he said ‘Are you happy with the way I performed that?’ I immediately gushed ‘Oh my God Rik it was amazing! Perfec--‘ ‘--Jules’ he interrupted ‘I’m asking if you’re happy with the way I’ve interpreted the character? As you are the writers, fuck the director, I want to know if this is how you had envisioned Alistair to be?’ Wow. Not one other actor had asked us that. I think he knew that from the look in my eyes when I smiled at him and gratefully said ‘Thank you Rik. It’s exactly how we imagined it.’ ‘Good’ he replied ‘Now if there’s any part of my performance that’s not in keeping with your vision you’re to tell me immediately okay? You are the writers. This is your creation remember!’ And off he marched back to the set for take two. Andy and I looked at each other wide eyed. At this stage I think Andy was nearly as in love with him as I was.
Now while I’ve had plenty of great days in my life, including the monumental day that I drove across three lanes of the M50 motorway without touching any cat’s eyes, the 3rd of May 2013 as it turns out this would be the absolute BEST day of my life. My wedding day and the birth of my first child might come a hair’s breadth close to it, but I’ll have to see when I meet my Mr. Right. (If he’s reading this in the future, you’ve got a lot to live up to mate!) While filming at the Leopardstown Racecourse Rik was swanning around like a peacock in his pin stripe suit having a great time enjoying the shoot. The paparazzi had arrived and Rik was happily throwing them the two fingers as they tried to nab pics. He was so charming the whole crew were enamoured by him. My Mum and Dad were there that day as extras and after chatting to Rik they were both completely taken by him. ‘Now do you see why I’ve been so obsessed with him all these years?’ I asked Dad to which he laughed and said ‘I get it now Jules, I get it now.’ Andy and I experienced a magic moment while Rik was having his make-up done when he spontaneously burst into song singing ‘The Bare Necessities’ from The Jungle Book and we all joined in. I was on cloud nine. Afterwards I knocked on his dressing room door to ask him a favour. I presented him with two of my hardback copies of the scripts from Bottom and asked him would he mind signing them for me? He happily obliged and sat down, black marker in hand and wrote on the inside cover:
‘This is for my number 1 bird Jules. She’s MY bird ok?? So fucking lay off her everyone else right - no snogging, pants-offing or upstairs feeling* ok? (*jug fondling) Jules is MINE. BY LAW. Signed by Dr. The Fucking Rik Mayall ©’ and he finished it off with ten kisses and underlined several of the words to emphasise them. This is now my prized possession and God forbid there was a fire in my gaff, this would be the first thing I would grab before jumping out the window.
Later that day while they were filming scenes with Ivor I wondered where Rik had disappeared to? I went outside to the balcony and then walked down the stairs. As I reached the bottom his purr caressed my ears as I heard him say ‘Helloooooo Jules’ as only he can. His sumptuous voice was like a cello deep fried in butter and drizzled in golden syrup. Startled, I turned to my right and there he was casually smoking a cigarette. He gently patted the stool beside him signalling for me to join him. He offered me one of his cigarettes, lit it for me and we chatted. This was my Nirvana. ‘I would finish you like a cheesecake’ I thought to myself while looking into his eyes. As we spoke, I can’t even remember what we were talking about, while I was mid sentence he put his hand on my arm and interrupted ‘Look!’ and he pointed up to the most spectacular rainbow I have ever witnessed which was radiating across the sky above the racecourse. ‘Wow!’ I exclaimed. He turned and looked at me and said ‘This is really special. We’ll always remember this moment.’ How I didn’t rip off all my clothes and pant ‘Take me!!!’ I don’t know. Well, it’s probably because I thought he might reply ‘Ugh. Put that flab away! No man could get a boner looking at all that cellulite!’ Yet I know he would never say anything like that.
Later that day I asked Ronan our set photographer if he’d take some photos of me with Rik? A high res picture with Rik. Bucket list tick! Susie our lovely hairdresser backcombed my hair for me (the bigger the hair the smaller the face) I fixed my make-up and approached Rik with my request. ‘Of course my darling! Where’s the photographer?’ Rik was animated in real life but even more so as soon as there was a camera present. For the first photo he put his arm around my shoulder and smiled sweetly as Ronan snapped away. ‘Right that’s the nice one’ Rik said. Next he gently cupped my right boob with his left hand. ‘You don’t mind do you?’ ‘Not at all!’ I exclaimed laughing my head off while secretly thinking ‘He’s touching my boob!!! Hashtag wank bank lodgement deposited!’ Then he signalled for me to turn around. I wondered why. ‘Turn around?’ I asked. ‘Turn around Jules! Trust me!’ So I turned my back to him and he swiftly grabbed a chair that was close by, put it in front of me and bent me over it, grasped a bunch of my hair in his hand and began humping me with a cartoonish expression on his face. I was in hysterics laughing and played along putting my hand over my mouth and pretending to look shocked for the camera. THIS was the greatest moment of my life. All my dreams come true. Now of course actual shagging would have been even better, but I was happy to settle for a dry hump as it was as close as I was going to get. It still makes my heart flutter knowing that for that unforgettable thirty seconds there was just a bit of fabric separating our nether regions.
I wondered how I was ever going to find another man who could make me feel like this? He was absolutely everything I wanted. At the wrap party that evening we had to say goodbye. He sidled up to me and said ‘Jules, I’m fucking starving so I’m going up to my room to order something. I don’t want to do a big goodbye thing as it’ll take me forever so I’m going to sneak out.’ He took both of my hands and held them and with, no joke, tears in his eyes he looked at me and told me how much he’d enjoyed working with us and playing the part of Alistair and made me promise that we’d write him in to all six episodes of the next series. I vowed we would and give him some of his favourite comedy violence too. We hugged and he slipped away through the crowd leaving me as the most satisfied girl on the planet.
In the following months he would call every once in a while to say hello and text to check in on how writing was going. His texts were always hilarious with all sorts of obscene funny sign offs like ‘With love and a big snog on the vagina, Rik xxx’ I can’t believe I’d become mates with my hero. We duly kept our promise and wrote Alistair into all of series two. We sent the scripts to Rik and he rang to say that he loved them and had been reading them to his kids who’d been laughing their arses off and he said he couldn’t wait to come over for filming. I was so excited about seeing him again.
Three weeks before we were due to start shooting my brother Gavin phoned me. I answered ‘Hiya Teddy!’ I could hear him breathing. ‘Jules… Rik Mayall is dead.’ ‘What? Are you joking? Because if this is a joke it is not funny!’ I exclaimed. I could hear the trembling in Gavin’s voice and I knew he was telling the truth. ‘It’s on the news. He died this morning.’ I dropped the phone and ran to the kitchen with Andy to turn on the TV. I didn’t believe it until I saw the Sky News ticker tape scrolling on screen confirming the horrific news that he had died from a sudden heart attack at the age of 56. I was devastated and absolutely inconsolable. I’m crying again now just recollecting it. Within the hour the press were on to us looking for a statement and wondering what we were going to do as they knew he was going to be in series two. ‘Fuck them all’ I told Andy. ‘We are not giving a statement. I couldn’t give a shite. Our friend has died I can’t think past that let alone what we’re going to do for the show.’ When I composed myself later after discussing it with Ruth our producer we agreed that the only person we’d talk to was Ray D’arcy on his radio show the following morning as we knew Ray would handle it with compassion and not pry as to what our solution to replacing Rik was going to be because obviously we didn’t have one. So as a tribute to Rik we went on air with Ray and talked about how tremendous Rik was and how much he meant to us. Later Andy and I went to The Beacon Hotel and sat at the same table, in the same seats as that fateful night we all first met. We ordered Rik a whiskey and set it out in front of his vacant chair and reminisced about the incredible time we got to spend with him.
In the coming days, as there was only three weeks to begin filming, we had to decide what we were going to do without him. There was talk of replacing him with another actor but Andy and I wouldn’t hear of it. Rik was irreplaceable and I argued that even if we brought in Daniel Day Lewis in prosthetic make-up he still wouldn’t be capable of being Rik. Moreover as a mark of respect Andy and I didn’t want anyone else acting out the script that we had written specifically for him. So we stayed up night and day and changed the storyline and rewrote all the scenes he was in. It was totally worth the resulting eye bags. Those were Rik’s lines and nobody else was having them.
He is my first love and if my Mr Right is even a fragment of how fantastic Rik was then I will be a very lucky girl. I still miss him and think about him often. I have the picture of us together framed beside my bed. My only regret is that I’m fat in the photo and I’ll never get to have another photo taken with him now that I’m slim. But I know that I’m so lucky that he was part of my life. Part of me still won’t accept that he’s gone. And I take solace in the fact that they say if a writer falls in love with you then you can never die.
In 2008 Rik was given an honorary doctorate from Exeter University. In his incredible speech he gave five mantras to carry with you through life which he claimed had helped him not only to survive, but to be happy. Here they are:
All men are equal. Therefore no one can ever be your genuine superior.
It is your future. It is yours to create. Your future is as bright as you make it.
Change is a constant of life, so you must never lose your wisdom.
If you want to live a full and complete life you have to be free. Freedom is paramount.
Love is the answer. Love IS the answer.
Rik said to ‘Make sure you’ve got those five things. Equality, opportunity, wisdom, freedom and love and you’ll be alright.’
Before now, nobody but Rik and his agent have read that letter I sent him asking him to accept the part. When it came time to promoting Damo & Ivor and the press enquired as to how we managed to get the legendary Rik Mayall to be in the show? We told them that he loved the scripts and it was as simple as that. We didn’t want to say it took a begging letter, but now that Rik has passed I don’t think he’d mind me sharing it as a good example of grabbing life by the balls and going for it as nobody liked a good gonad grabbing more so than Rik.
On the first day of filming series two I asked Rik to send me a sign that he was with us in spirit looking over us. The day was glorious and the sun was beaming but soon after I put out my request to Rik it quickly changed to grey skies and the heavens opened. I dashed to my back pack and pulled out my rain coat. The last time I’d worn it was while we were filming series one the previous year. As I stood in the rain waiting for the first shot to be set up I put my hand in the pocket of my raincoat and pulled out a keyring with a photo of Rik on it. It had fallen off my keys last year while filming and I had put it in my pocket for safe keeping but then forgot about it. That, along with the glorious rainbow in the sky, were my signs that Rik was with me in spirit. Ever since that I talk to him as I know his presence is around me. I call him in every day as I write this book and I ask him to help me and I picture him just like he was in Drop Dead Fred when he played the naughty imaginary friend and I know he’s still with me, even if it’s just in spirit that’s good enough for me.