By Lyria Wollich
In 1992, Highlander - The Series premiered to television
audiences world wide. In the 6 seasons it ran, it created a new
mythos that spanned over 400+ years of history and created memorable
characters that became truly immortal. In 1995, Maureen wrote her
first Highlander video. "My first project for DPP (Davis*Panzer
Productions) was The Life and Times of Duncan
MacLeod. That came out in 1995"
And her journey wouldn't end there. In 1998,
Maureen Russell created the book that would encapsulate the series
that took 6 years and 118 episodes to make - capturing the essence of the
men and women who through a labor of love, made Highlander truly
great. "Well, the story goes that for several years, Bill
Panzer would talk about "Maureen's book," but now neither one of
us can remember whose idea it was. I think perhaps we just started talking
about it and for Bill, he always knew he wanted to do it. I know that he
did see the rave review that the generous folks at TV Guide wrote about my
"Days of Our Lives" book, so perhaps that was the initial
inspiration. In any case, a fine idea it was; I think."
of the many wonderful things about Bill and Peter is that they hire good
people and then give them their wings. Many of the cast/crew/production
have mentioned this. Bill and Peter trust you. I think once or twice early
on, I called Bill and asked him a couple of things. And his reply was
always the same, it's your book, you write it, you do what you want. Of
course, as with all things Highlander, Bill gets final say. But when he
read the manuscript of the book, he made very few changes. A couple of
places he told me that we got too wordy and to tighten it up. He was
right. But other than that, he really trusted my vision and I appreciate
that. We did have one running joke, which was that Bill kept telling me,
"Get more dirt. People want to hear dirt." But, of course, they
all like each other so much, they could never think of anything. Peter
Wingfield wondered if maybe them all going out to the pub counted as
"dirt," then decided it just reinforced how much they all like
and respect each other. They are friends off set, as well as on set."
of the set, what was it like to get to sit in on the filming of the
series? That must of been a great experience.
a very talented and hard-working cast and crew. I was incredibly impressed
with how much they got done and how good it all was and how great it all
looked. They're working on a television budget, with a television time
schedule and yet they were basically producing mini-movies once a week.
The writing, the directing, the acting, the swordplay, the production and
post-production values are all first-rate."
at the enormity of the information in the book, I had to ask how
difficult is was to put together.
only "difficulty" was that I had a short deadline. Otherwise, it
was a joy from start to finish. I am sure you have heard other people say
it, but Highlander was and is a family. They are a great group of people
who are wonderful and interesting to interview and to just "hang
remember one evening when I was on the set in France doing my interviews
for "Highlander: the Complete Watcher's
Guide." Director Dennis Berry walked over to me and said that
on behalf of himself and all the crew he wanted to thank me for writing
the "Watcher's Guide" and for telling the story of the men and
women of Highlander. He explained that for them it was a real journey, a
true labor of love, a family and something very special. They were happy
that I was going to share their story."
then related some memorable moments about her interaction with Peter
Daltrey who played the fun loving Fitzcarin.
Daltrey was most definitely the funniest interview. I even left his own
quote in the book: "This is an extremely silly interview." He
was having great fun, playing Fitz full out. I just laughed and laughed.
And, of course, as he said, he was speaking very candidly about his
character. He has a line that gave Betsy Mitchell (our editor at Warner
Books, a lovely, charming and talented lady), a bit of pause. I can't
repeat it in a family forum, but for those of you who have a copy of the
book, you can turn to page 115. But Daltrey says that Fitz is the only
Immortal who would rather "something" than fight. We thought
about that line. Should we leave it in the book? Then we thought about it.
Daltrey is a bit outrageous and wildly charming and, darn it... he's Roger
Daltrey. Of course we leave that in. It fits for Fitz. A recent LA Times
review of The Who concert at the Hollywood Bowl read, "Daltrey, who
proudly displayed his well-sculpted torso..." And I thought...
yeah... it's Daltrey."
the Watcher's Guide, Maureen then got involved in making The Best of Highlander - a video and companion book
that involved behind the scenes interviews with the writers, directors,
and cast. Maureen talked about how the concept came into being.
network, which ran Highlander re-runs, had a viewer's poll and asked
people to vote for a "top ten." On the Highlander Cruise 1998,
Peter Davis told me that DPP was interested in doing something with that
idea and asked me if I was interested. I was. The idea was to tape
interviews that would compliment and highlight the chosen "best"
episodes. Of course, if you have the boxed set and the book, you know that
we actually ended up with 13 episodes, but how could we split episodes
like "Comes a Horseman" and "Revelation 6:8" or
"Something Wicked" and "Deliverance?" We also ran a
little longer than was originally intended. I believe we have something
like 45 hours of dailies/interviews that were edited into 3 ½ hours of
supplemental footage. That's amazing for 13 'one-hour' episodes."
how long did the project take to complete?
worked pretty quickly. The majority of the interviews were done February
to May 1999 and the book and boxed set of tapes were released in the Fall
of that year."
creating the project, Maureen had the chance to watch three episodes of
Highlander with Adrian Paul.
were the three episodes that Adrian directed that are in "The Best of
Highlander:" "Homeland" "Revelation 6:8," and
"Methuselah's Gift." We watched them so that Adrian could give a
play-by-play, as it were, commentary on the episodes. If you have seen the
"Under the Kilt" section from "Homeland," you can see
a bit of it, when he's talking about the bugs. His recall is amazing. He
really does remember every shot. And as I wrote, when I asked him about
this, he replied, "Of course, I remember them; I lived them."
Because not only was he directing the episodes, he was starring in them as
well. Adrian is very talented and hardworking. The crew praises him most
also spent two days spent in the park with F. Braun McAsh and Anthony
DeLongis. That must have been some outing!
let me first credit Peter and Bill. The idea for shooting the sword
demonstrations was mine and was not in the original plan or budget. But
after I spoke to F. Braun McAsh, I thought, he is so knowledgeable and so
full of energy, we will bring so much more to the project if we give him
swords to play with. And McAsh is amazing. I think he deserves so much
credit. Think about it. "Highlander: the Series" first sword
master was the legendary Bob Anderson. Bob began his career with Errol
Flynn. His sword master credits range from "Star Wars" to
"Highlander" to "The Princess Bride" to
he left "Highlander: the Series" in stepped F. Braun McAsh. And,
as McAsh says--I am paraphrasing here--"I couldn't fill Bob
Anderson's shoes, so I brought my own." His very first episode,
"Samurai" is the only episode that has katana against katana
fights. And look at that episode. Those fights are amazing from the ronin
on the beach to the final fight between Kent and MacLeod. Talk about
hitting the ground running. And he did, what? "
like 300 fights from the first episode of season three to the last episode
of season six. Just look at the range of McAsh's sword choreography from
the episodes in "Best of Highlander," from those in "Comes
a Horseman" and "Revelation 6:8" for which he designed all
the weapons to the "comedic" fights in "Till Death" to
those schooled intricacies on the mysterious circle in "Duende."
That's quite a resume. So, you can see why I really wanted to get him on
tape talking about and demonstrating his sword choreography. I look
forward to seeing his work in Highlander: Endgame."
when I asked Peter and Bill, they liked the idea and said to "go for
it." And I think we got some great stuff. The location of the shoot,
in fact, was Bill's idea. He knew we could get some interesting shots. We
did. Of course, the one thing we didn't quite count on was the fact that a
shooting permit gives you permission to film, it doesn't mean everyone
else in the park has to go away. So there was all sorts of activity going
on around us... a children's birthday party, complete with the breaking of
the piñata, a touch football game, people riding by on their horses... it
was busy, I'll say that. But I am sure that we created a whole new
generation of swashbucklers. Two men clashing swords in the park draws a
whole lot of attention. I think nearly every child, and more than a few
adults, came by to watch."
and Anthony and the whole crew were great. We literally shot two days,
sunrise to sunset. I think on Sunday night, we went home and collapsed. So
I want to thank them all. They really gave their best."
was interested to find out how Maureen got started writing. She relates,
"I've always liked to write. I wrote long letters home from camp and
from vacation. My theory is that you can find something entertaining or
provocative or interesting in nearly any situation. You just have to know
where to look. And once you find it, how to share it."
notice you write non-fiction. So what about fiction novels?
"I like non-fiction. With
due apologies to the great fiction writers, I don't think that there's
anything in fiction that can top real-life stories. What's the old
cliché? "Truth is stranger than fiction?" That's why I like to
write non-fiction. And I like to tell the tales of real people doing real
jobs. I want to share their passions and concerns and hard work with the
Her passion for non-fiction
extends to her reading as well.
"I just finished reading a
wonderful collection of essays by Sarah Vowell entitled "Take the
Cannoli: Stories from the New World." I also like sci/fi - fantasy.
I've just begun reading the "Songkiller Sagas" by Elizabeth
Scarborough. And, of course, I like all things Highlander."
what is Maureen doing now that Highlander is done?
Ryan (just back from touring with "Eric Idle Exploits Monty
Python" and soon to be seen at South Coast Rep in "Entertaining
Mr. Sloane") and I have a book in development about sword masters of
the silver screen. We have already interviewed the legendary Bob Anderson - a sword master that I am sure all
Highlander fans know - and Henry Marshall. Marshall co-founded the Society
of British Fight Directors with Bill Hobbs. We have spoken to Bill Hobbs
and Terry Walsh about interviews. And we've already done the work covering
the first generation of sword masters, sadly, those who are no longer with
us, but whose work lives on... Fred Cavens, Ralph Faulkner, Jean Heremans,
and Henry Uyttenhove."
We are very excited about this project. Everyone loves a good sword fight,
don't they? And, as I've said, I like to tell real stories. And you cannot
get much more interesting than swashbucklers, can you?"
if your a Highlander fan! We look forward to seeing her new project
and hope to bring you news of it when it is completed.