PATRICK McGOOHAN - An Appreciation by Jeffrey Cava
Born (March 19, 1928) Died January 13, 2009 (aged 80)
Patrick McGoohan's last directorial effort was the COLUMBO episode, "Murder With Too Many Notes," which aired in March of 2001. I was the original writer, and this script sale was my first in the odd business that is Hollywood screenwriting.
Patrick and his longtime friend Peter Falk were most gracious with me, extending an open invitation to stay on set for the full duration of production. This is fairly unusual. (And I begged them both to let me have a cameo as a corpse on a slab in the background of the morgue scene, but neither would have any of it.) In his characteristically dry humor, a few days into shooting, as the story I had imagined on paper began to materialize in front of me, Patrick turned and quietly asked, "Does it hurt yet, Jeff?"
I feel a need to preface anything further I have to voice about Patrick McGoohan with a brief story surrounding the last time he and I encountered one another. This recollection will no doubt appear on face value to completely lack sensitivity, especially so soon after Patrick's passing, however that's exactly why I know he would have wanted me to tell it.
It was ridiculously early in the morning at a Staple's office supply store in Santa Monica, on Wilshire. And I mean "Patrick McGoohan Early." 6:45 am and he's already written 15 script pages while the rest of us are stumbling out of our doorways, barely able to crack open our eyes and read the morning paper.
I was killing time before an audio dubbing stage session at a sound facility down the street, and found this particular Staple's store was open. (Don't ask me why I chose Staple's. I like paper products, I suppose.) I walked into the store, which was vacant with the exception of one older gentleman perusing the desk calendar selections. As I stepped past this man, I recognized that it was indeed Patrick. I bid him hello and upon recognizing who I was, he cracked a wonderfully welcoming smile.
"What in the world are you doing here so early, Patrick?" I asked.
"I am in need of a new desk calendar, Jeffrey."
I could not let the opportunity pass to be irreverent to this gentleman who himself could be very irreverent.
"Cheated death another year, have we, Patrick?"
McGoohan let out one of his infamous deep laughs which echoed into the corners of the empty store. In the few years that had past since we'd last seen each other, I'd forgotten that I had become pretty adept at actually making Patrick laugh once in a while. That hadn't been easy, I have to admit.
Patrick McGoohan was a tough nut to crack. In my early experiences with him, Patrick, while though welcoming, was a seemingly hard man externally who many might feel was perhaps too thick-skinned to get to know or even approach. And while that distinctive character trait may have been counter to the manner in which I felt our joint COLUMBO venture should be realized on screen, it was never thick enough to prevent me from wanting to spend as much time as I could around him, no doubt much to his irritation.
In the course of the production of our COLUMBO episode, at least as much as that sort of condensed time period allows, I managed to develop a bond with Patrick. Not necessarily a friendship, but a connection that was mutually recognized and, at least for me, appreciated then, and now that he is gone, will be appreciated always. (His appearance as "Number Six" on "The Simpsons" was replayed last week. I think it's only the second time I've cried during a "Simpsons" episode.)
It goes without saying that Patrick McGoohan was well known for being disrespectful of authority, as many strong filmmakers often are. But Patrick did not practice his aversion to the Hollywood "higher-ups" in a stereotypical, "passionate" or "temperamental" manner. No, Patrick's disrespect of authority was perfectly serene, manifested with an ease that was no doubt all the more irritating to the countless studio and TV executives who felt they knew better than he.
Luckily for all of us, Patrick has left behind a vast body of work, both as a filmmaker and as an actor, that is as graceful in it's questioning of authority as it is as strong and as timeless in its storytelling and performances.
But above all, Patrick was unique. No one anywhere is like him, or ever will be. Not as a filmmaker. Not as an actor. Not as a man. Patrick McGoohan was a singularly one-of-a-kind human being. No one in our business will ever be able to say, "Quick! Get me Central Casting! I need a Patrick McGoohan-type!"
For Patrick McGoohan is simply irreplaceable.
Jeffrey Cava, March 14th, 2009, Los Angeles, California