How did you feel about being offered the role of Nigel Powers?
I was quite flattered. I felt that I was ideal for it. From the very first time I saw "Austin Powers", I realised Mike had based it on a character I played many years ago - Harry Palmer in "The Ipcress File". The 60s, the glasses, and the accent - I knew it was me. So I felt like I was the creative father of the character anyway. I felt not only was I ideal to play it, I felt I was the only person who could play it. Mike wrote me a letter explaining all that. He also explained his relationship with his father, who liked all those films. "Austin Powers" was about recreating an era his father loved, and all the movies his father loved. And I happened to be in a couple of them. For me as an actor, I meant more to him in the casting than just casting an actor who could play the part well. It's a sentimental thing. I'm probably about the same age as his father would've been - who died of Alzheimer's. I have a very close relationship with Mike - almost like a father/son.
Beyond the glasses, where do you see the connections between Austin and Harry Palmer?
It's the girls! Also, what I liked about Harry Palmer was that complete disregard for authority, a bit like Austin. We were working in the 60s then, where we had told authority they would no longer be regarded. They had to earn our respect. This country was built early on as a society based on respect according to class. The 60s said to those people that they would have to earn our respect.
Mike's depiction of the 60s is very colourful. Do you have similar memories?
More so. My whole view of my life... I was born in 1933, and right up until the 50s it was black-and-white. After the 60s, my life has been in Technicolor. That's how I see it. The 60s were incredibly important. It seems frivolous - but the miniskirt and burning the bra were ways of throwing away restrictions.