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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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Robin Hood returns to BBC One – Clive Standen as Archer

BBC One audiences are in for a treat when Clive Standen bursts onto their screens as the swashbuckling half-brother of Robin Hood and Gisborne in episode eleven of Robin Hood this June. Best known to viewers as Private Harris in Doctor Who, 27-year-old Clive, seems to have been destined to play the dashing new action hero, Archer.

Clive was born in Holywood (County Down), where his father was stationed in the army, but within a few years the family moved to Leicestershire; so fate would have it that Clive was to grow up just down the road from Nottingham.

Moreover, as Clive's parents were fans of the romantic adventure movies made by the big studios during the Thirtiess and Forties young Clive grew up watching the antics and prowess of arguably Hollywood's best action heroes, Errol Flynn and Burt Lancaster. Classics he remembers from then are Fynn's groundbreaking The Adventures Of Robin Hood and Lancaster's high octane, The Crimson Pirate.

So when Clive was around ten years old and Kevin Costner's Robin Hood And The Prince of Thieves was a smash hit in British cinemas, he was already well versed in the legendary adventures of the famous outlaw. And, perhaps this insight helped Clive get his first paid job, in Sherwood Forest no less.

Clive explains: "I think the success of the film made everyone wake up to the commercial potential of Sherwood Forest as a major tourist attraction. A massive live show was conceived and played out in the forest to unsuspecting tourists from around the world.

"I was a small tour guide known as Wolf Little, the son of Little John. I'd start showing around the visitors then suddenly someone would appear shouting, 'It's the Sheriff and Guy of Gisborne run for your lives'. The American tourists used to really panic and I'd be taken hostage by Gisborne. Then Robin Hood would appear in front of the Major Oak with a big shaft of light behind him and save me and everyone would cheer. It was great fun and to keep it fresh we'd change the routine every few weeks. It was a brilliant experience and a perfect place to learn stunts and sword fighting," says Clive.

Clive's physical prowess and enjoyment of performance continued unabated and by his late teens he was both a National Thai Boxing Champion and a regular member of the National Youth Theatre and the National Youth Music Theatre. His teachers kept steering him more towards a career in the performing arts arguing he really should take it more seriously. But it was encouragement Clive took with a pinch of salt, until he gained a place at the prestigious London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA).

"When I got to drama school the penny dropped about how far I could take my passion for martial arts," laughs Clive, "I realised there really weren't any long term career opportunities getting my nose broken; so I focused much more on drama and had the most brilliant three years there."

But never one to take life easy Clive continued to hone his choreography and fighting skills while a student and went on to gain an advanced gold certificate in sword fighting from the British Academy of Stage and Screen Combat.

Here Clive talks about how he got under the skin of Archer the mysterious half-brother of Robin and Gisborne.

"Archer's not so much a Jack the Lad as a 'Jump straight into it Mate'," explains Clive. "He's a chancer, a buccaneer who has sailed the world and explored the spice routes and had all kind of exotic experiences.

"But Archer belongs nowhere and has no home and has no loyalty to anyone except to himself.

"Unlike his half-brother Robin, Archer's never had a sense of belonging and never been loved and revered. He's not a Locksley and has no real identity and doesn't even have a surname.

"All he's got is a birthmark shaped like an arrow and a reputation as a formidable archer and fighter.

"Yet in spite of Archer's lack of loyalty to anyone but himself he's very attractive and charismatic. His charm is infectious and he's brilliant at pulling the wool over people's eyes.

"But while Archer is strong and intelligent, he's not a leader of men like Robin. In many ways he's a bit empty inside in the way Gisborne is. He's cynical because of his life experiences.

"Then suddenly his brothers, who he didn't even know existed, turn up to free him from prison there's a chance his place in the scheme of things may change, but audiences will have to wait and see what twists and turns are around the corner."

Clive insists that no-one could want for better screen brothers than Jonas and Richard but reveals that he was really nervous when he first joined the Robin Hood cast.

"They are all so good at what they do and have worked together for three years. I was filled with trepidation. I needn't have worried as everyone was fantastically welcoming and friendly when I arrived.

"They were also really polite. I'd been told that it would be cold. I'd stuffed my suitcase full of jumpers and arrived in layers of winter stuff and wearing a big hooded top. It was baking hot and everyone was wearing shorts and t-shirts!"

After acclimatising, the next challenge Clive had to face was how to fire a bow and arrow. "Here I was in Hungary playing, Archer, who is supposed to be as good a shot as Robin Hood, and I'd never fired a bow and arrow in my life!"

Clive's first attempt was, by his own admission, amazing... amazingly lucky. "Bela Unger, the stunt coordinator, took me to one side to give an archery lesson.

"I exaggerate not when I say he fired his arrow and nearly got a bull's eye.

"Then I fired my first arrow and nearly split his arrow! Everyone watching went, ‘Wow'. But then I had to do it again and it flew straight over the target and ended up impaling the set.

"That was it. I get pretty compulsive obsessive about getting things right so I practised like mad from then on. If you've in a scene which demands you fire ten arrows in less than a minute you can't keep checking your bow!"

It looks very likely that Clive's dedication to his craft will be attracting legions of young fans as the charismatic Archer, but none more so than his six-year-old boy, Hayden, who can't wait to see his dad on telly and has already made an Archer figure in Lego to sit alongside his Robin Hood model.

But away from acting, where his roles have included the leading role of Major Alan Marshall in the television dramatisation of the infamous SAS mission in Sierra Leone known as Operation Barras, Clive enjoys family life with Hayden, and his daughter, Edi, who is nearly three years old and his wife, Francesca.

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