plays Captain Robert Falcon Scott
Martin Shaw did not hesitate when he was offered the role of Captain Scott in Central's 'The Last Place on Earth'. Until now best known to television audiences for his gritty portrayal of Doyle in 'The Professionals', Shaw is an actor of considerable versatility. "We were convinced he was the right person for the part," says executive producer Robert Buckler, "and luckily for us he was prepared to leave a successful West End run in 'The Country Girl' to take up our offer."
"Scott's character has unusual depth and range which I knew would challenge me as an actor," says Shaw, "so I welcomed the opportunity. At the start my knowledge of him was pretty sparse but he was a childhood hero to me in much the same way as he is to most English schoolboys."
As Martin prepared for his metamorphosis into Scott by reading everything he could about the explorer, he was able to balance Scott's undisputed courage and sense of adventure with the less positive elements in his personality. "All the things I read disagreed, so eventually I stopped and let osmosis and the script do the rest."
Shaw's experience filming in the Canadian Arctic gave him further insight into Scott's motivation. "My work there was the hardest thing I've ever done from a physical point of view" says Martin. "High winds are commonplace and the chill factor means a drop of one degree for every mile per hour of wind. But though we endured very low temperatures, and worked twelve to fourteen hours a day hauling sledges loaded wiht 200 lbs., we had the merest glimmer of what it was like for SCott and his men working hour after hour, day after day for months.
Born in Birmingham, Martin Shaw is the son of a furnace engineer. Encouraged by his school drama teacher to take up acting as a career, he enrolled at LAMDA in 1963. After graduation and some repertory experience, he had an acclaimed London stage debut in a revival of 'Look Back in Anger' at the Royal Court. At the same theatre in 1969 he appeared in 'The Contractor', directed by Lindsay Anderson.
His first film role was as Banquo in Polanski's 'MacBeth', then in 1973 he won further recognition in the television series 'Helen, a Woman of Today'. For the next few years he combined roles in such prestigious National Theatre productions as 'The Bacchae' and 'Saturday, Sunday, Monday' with West End appearances in 'A Streetcar Named Desire', 'Miss Julie' and 'Teeth in Smiles'.
In 1977, he took a calculated risk and signed a 5-year contract for 'The Professionals'. Although he enjoyed the regular income and the "games" he and his partner, Lewis Collins, played with toys, guns and cars, he felt desperately constricted tied to a single character for so long. One welcome break came in 1979 in Dennis Potter's award-winning 'Cream in my Coffee', but it wasn't until 1981 that he again became a free agent.
He shed his 'Professionals' image completely in his next role, as the "neurotic Jewish wimp" in the musical 'They're Playing Our Song' at the London's Shaftesbury Theatre. He later travelled to Perth, Australia in 'Otherwise Engaged', and in 1983 was back on the London stage in 'The Country Girl'. In April this year , Martin takes on another challenge when he begins rehearsals for the leading role in Alan Bleasdale's new stage musical about Elvis Presley.
Shaw and his wife, an alternative therapist and psychologist, live in Stoke Newington, London, but take every opportunity to escape from the pressures of city life to their cottage in Scotland.
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