Rifleman Harris Gets More Than One Line!

Sharpe Reviews
Jason Salkey on Sharpe
Video Diaries of Rifleman Harris 1
Video Diaries of Rifleman Harris 2
Video Diaries of Rifleman Harris 3
Video Diaries of Rifleman Harris 4
Video Diaries of Rifleman Harris 5

Prices and how to order
Rifleman Harris website

By JASON SALKEY (also known as Rifleman Harris)

So you want to know what it was like behind the scenes of the television show Sharpe.

The best way would be to buy my video diary series, but until then I'll try to give you a little insight into life on the Sharpe unit.

At the press premiere of Sharpe's Waterloo back in '97, I stood in the plush, cavernous rooms drinking champagne with Daragh O'Malley, surveying all before us.

The screening of the last ever episode had gone successfully, we were all tucking into the splendid fare laid on by Carlton and Daragh turned to me and said "Well, that's your closure on Sharpe, Jason."

I thought about it for a second, in between sips of bubbly, leant toward Big D and said: "Closure? I married a Russian interpreter and conceived my child out in Yalta; I will never have closure on Sharpe."

As it turned out, I was right and bloody glad too.

I'm damn proud of my part in the bringing to life of Bernard Cornwell's fantastic invention. It wasn't always easy, but my five years on the show have indelibly stamped their mark on my life.

As well as playing a nicely written character who's a member of a very special club, I worked, travelled and drank in the culture of three different countries. Where else would I have learned to order beers in Russian, Portuguese and Turkish?

But what was it like to be an everyday, year in, year out, Sharpe carnival?

It was awesome, thrilling and wonderful; but there were the moments of loneliness, fear and depression. It was thrilling to shoot such an awesome set of films in wonderfully new [for Westerners] surroundings.

But being far from home for long stretches of time, filming injury-inducing action, in a place where the very basics of human existence are a luxury, couldn't help but put the fears up you!

Even before the famous Paul McGann injury on the first Sharpe, Gavin O'Herlihy [Leroy/Eagle] broke his wrist coming off a horse, a stuntman was stabbed in the arm pit by Nolan Hemmings [Denny/Eagle], the food was repulsing us daily and the unit was being decimated by the 'Giardia Lamdlia' stomach bug.

In fact during that disjointed first year we had only our prodigious party spirit and the knowledge that we were helping to create televisual legend, to keep us going.

Things did get better over the three years that Sharpe was shot in the Ukraine, but it was always going to be blighted by the upheaval of change that resulted from the break up of the Soviet system.

Being up close and personal behind the rusty Iron Curtain was certainly for me interesting enough to be distracted by the film unit's troubles.

Shooting in Portugal and later Turkey swiftly solved the shortcomings in the food, accommodation, but maybe at a cost of diluting the unit's firm bond of camaraderie forged in our difficult Crimean years.

Wherever the Sharpe film unit encamped I think we embraced and enriched the surroundings and their inhabitants. Our openness crossed language barriers making it a breeze to work with crews from three different countries.

The physiognomy of Sharpe and the Chosen Men changed from year to year, but in our minds we fought on as that original unit: Sharpe, Harper, Hagman, Harris, Cooper, Tongue and Perkins.

It is that ethos and spirit that you see up on the screen episode after episode; something that helped give the films that extra bit of truth.

If you really want to know more then order 'The Video Diaries of Rifleman Harris', available through this web site.

NB: There are six episodes of this series now available on DVD for all regions. The films are shot on Hi-8 and digitally transferred to Applemac's Final Cut Pro 6.

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