Richard Wilson reveals whether he will ever return to the stage

·3-min read

One Foot In The Grave star Richard Wilson has ruled out a return to the stage following a heart attack in 2016.

The Scottish actor, who played the curmudgeonly Victor Meldrew in the hit 1990s sitcom, said he was choosing his parts “more carefully now” and that long theatre runs were “too much”.

The 84-year-old has told how the incident in London’s Hampstead has affected his memory and that he would have died were it not for a medical professional walking past him as it happened.

“One Foot In The Algarve” Christmas Special – Richard Wilson and Annette Crosbie – Portugal
Richard Wilson and co-star Annette Crosbie film a One Foot In The Grave Christmas special (Neil Munns/PA)

Appearing on Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4, he said: “I fell off this tiny balcony and hit my head, and that is what caused the problem.

“I can’t remember quite so much now. Sometimes I do remember bits which I had forgotten about.

“I choose more carefully now. Doing theatre work for example – eight shows a week is too much for me now.”

Wilson, who is a supporter of the Stonewall charity, told host Lauren Laverne being outed in 2013 when Time Out magazine included him in a list of influential gay people had not been an wholly negative experience.

He said: “I was delighted that it had come out. I was a bit worried that my sister might find it difficult but it didn’t seem to worry her at all.”

Richard Wilson and Lauren Laverne (BBC/PA)
Richard Wilson and Lauren Laverne (BBC/PA)

The veteran actor also recalled trying to turn down his most famous role as the grumpy Meldrew in One Foot In The Grave.

“It was stupid to say but I didn’t think I was ready to play old men,” he said.

“I think I was 55 and Victor was 60. I thought, ‘I’ve got another five years to go before I have to do that’.

“The other reason I wasn’t too keen to play it was that I thought it would only be enjoyed by old people. But, in fact, old people didn’t like it.

“First of all, he swore a lot. The BBC wanted to stop him swearing and fortunately (writer) David Renwick decided to keep him swearing.

“But also the idea that a lot of old people had was One Foot In The Grave meant they were going to die.

“But of course the whole point of Victor was it was the foot that was out of the grave that was the important one, that was still working away.”

The sitcom originally ran from 1990 until 1995, followed by Christmas episodes each year before a final series in 2000.

The series ended with the death of the cantankerous Meldrew, who was known for his crotchety catchphrase “I don’t believe it!”.

Wilson’s musical choices included The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face by Roberta Flack and Hammond Song by The Roches.

Desert Island Discs airs on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Sounds at 11am on Sunday.

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