Interview with Michael Sheard
By Eddie Mishan
In Memory of Michael Sheard
1940 - 2005
In April of 2005, The Indy Experience.com conducted a brief interview with actor Michael Sheard, the man who portrayed Adolph Hitler in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. We had planned on doing a series of follow-up questions, but sadly, Mr. Sheard passed away in August of 2005. So our interview remains brief and in ways incomplete, but nevertheless it stands in remembrance of Michael Sheard's work as an actor. We at The Indy Experience are honored to have gotten the opportunity to speak with such a fine and articulate actor about his work, and we hope you enjoy our interview.
Now Mr. Sheard, when did you first start acting?
From school to R.A.D.A. then in to rep. Read my book, Yes, Mr Bronson!
Could you tell us about your role in Raiders of the Lost Ark?
Not a lot to tell, but again, it's all in the book! I was cast in the first one - you can just see me - but the rain got in the way and I had a TV series lined up and which I'd signed for. So Steven said he'd find me something else.
When were you first approached to do play the part of Adolf Hitler in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade?
The moment he (Steven) got the script.
What was it like working with Steven Spielberg?
Excellent - we got on very well and he is, of course, a very good director.
What led you to play Hitler in four movies? Did you have a particular interest in the man or was it the fact that you looked the part?
No particular interest. What I am interested in is good parts for an actor and Hitler is one of them. I do look like him and I have in fact played him six times! Never forget, however, that it's only a part.
Did you have your own style when playing Hitler,or did you try to keep your performance as accurate as possible?
I played him as I understood him. That said, it's rather like playing Dr Who. Put the costumes on and you're more than half way there.
Did Spielberg allow you to play the role of Hitler as you had in the past, or did he give specific direction as to how he wanted you to perform?
Oh, certainly as I wanted to play him. Steven gave directions of course and we discussed the way the part should go. And I think it worked, so many folk remember and enjoyed that scene.
What’s going through your mind when you’re playing Hitler?
Hitting my marks and getting it right!
Your portrayal of Hitler is very convincing and in ways frightening. What did you do when you were preparing to play Hitler? Did you watch film of him, study books or did you just wing it?
I never "wing" anything, but equally I just played him. After all I had played him a few times before!
Some fans have pointed out that you signed Indy’s diary with your right hand while Adolf Hitler was actually left-handed. Was this a mistake or was it just overlooked? Does it bother you that the mistake was left unnoticed?
That "cut in" was done long after I'd left the movie. Some other guy put the gloves on and signed and, yes, I guess it was overlooked.
Was the moustache real or fake?
Yes it was real, coloured in. I've mostly had a moustache all my adult life - see Yes, Mr Bronson!
We understand you have Jewish relatives, what was the reaction to your many roles as Adolf Hitler?
My wife is half Jewish. When I asked her what I should do she said, "Don't be silly, you're an actor"!
Could you share with us some stories from your work on Last Crusade?
It was the last time I met Pat Roach and the last time I worked with by dear friend Ronald Lacey. Very sad, but they wouldn't have wanted to go in any other way.
Overall, what is it like playing Adolf Hitler? Is it difficult to portray his hatred? Or did you have fun with it while filming?
I always have fun and hatred is not difficult, particularly if you are quite good at your job - as am I!
Do you ever get recognized for your roles as Hitler?
Not that I can remember. It's Grange Hill and Star Wars which mostly do it.
What’s next for you in your career? Do you have any films or new projects in the works?
Always. But these must be kept under wraps! I've just completed an interesting piece called The Green Door and there's a new sci fi series coming up.
Have you heard anything about Indiana Jones 4? Would you like to be in it, maybe not as Hitler but would you like to play a bad guy?
Of course I'd like to be in it, but I bet you it'll never happen.
You played the part of Admiral Kendal Ozzel in The Empire Strikes Back. How has your brief but memorable role effected your career?
I do lots of conventions, so in that way it's affected my career, but it was just another job - sorry! I have done over 800 TVs and 46 movies.
Did you enjoy working on Star Wars?
I always enjoy working.
What do you think of the Star Wars Prequels?
Next question, please!!
Recently, the Indiana Jones and the Star Wars trilogies were released on DVD with some restoration done to the films. What do you think about restoration of film and the concept of creating "Special Editions"?
They make money - not for us I hasten to add! - but I like the originals.
Do you have any advice to give to budding actors who want to break into Hollywood?
If you really want to do it and you really can't think of doing anything else, then go for it and give it your best shot.
Thank you very much for your time and giving us this chance to interview you, it has been a great honor.
I hope there's something there that will suffice. Again, I'm sorry my answers are a bit short, but there's a pile of stuff waiting, including three more interview requests!
All the Best,