Peter Cushing – The Good Man Behind Evil Characters
as the fanatical scientist Baron von Frankenstein and
Dracula’s perennial nemesis, the determined and steely Van
Helsing. Now he has become Grand Moff Tarkin, the
Governor of the Imperial Outland regions, whose insatiable
political ambitions to become Emperor have driven him to
ruthless means to quell an intergalactic rebellion.
Although Peter Cushing has had a remarkable career
portraying deadly characters in horror movies, he is a
decidedly unsinister person off-screen. As greatly loved for
his gentleness by his co-workers as he is loved for his evil
ways by horror movie cultists.
Carrie Fisher says, “I like Peter Cushing so much that it is
almost impossible for me to feel the hatred I need to act
Cushing is delighted, but not overwhelmed by the
enthusiasm his name brings to members of the vast horror
film audience. “I have no deep personal interest in the
horror genre, but I do enjoy making films.”
When asked about his technique for personifying evil,
Cushing explains, “I don’t think Peter Cushing is all that
much like Dr. Frankenstein. But the challenge to the actor
is enormous in these strange, weird parts, and I like that.
The depth of such roles rests in combination of one’s own
imagination and the ways in which one looks on a particular
but millions want to see me as Dr. Frankenstein. Audiences are the most important thing to an actor. I have been awfully lucky in the
amount of work I’ve been able to do. However, I don’t think people should be called comedy actors or horror actors. They’re just
As an actor away from horror films, Peter Cushing’s credentials are quite substantial. On British television he starred in GASLIGHT,
THE BROWNING VERSION, and THE WINSLOW BOY – “Every one a winner and every part superb, “ Cushing notes, “which is
a great help to an actor because once you’ve got a good part in a good play, you have to be very bad to fail.”
starring in the popular series of horror films produced
by Hammer Productions. “I heard they were
considering a remake of FRANKENSTEIN. I
remember like the earlier version with Karloff playing
the monster and Colin Clive as Frankenstein, so I rang
up my agent, who informed Hammer I was keen to
work with them. I had no idea what I was beginning,
though I soon found out that everything I did afterwards
was described as a horror film, even the SHERLOCK
HOLMES film I did.
“I think what I do is more fantasy than anything else.
People enjoy being scared that way. It allows them to
purge themselves of worries. They don’t have to worry
about Dracula in their private lives, but they do have to
worry about muggers and thugs on the streets after they
come out of the theatres.
“The horror movies give so much pleasure. And that’s
what filmmaking is all about, isn’t it? That’s why I
wanted to do STAR WARS. It’s a fantasy. People can
experience emotions watching STAR WARS that they
can’t experience in their ordinary lives,” Cushing said.
“Certainly I want to do other things than Horror films
and play villains. I enjoyed playing in Laurence Olivier’s
production of HAMLET. But I hope there are Dracula
and Frankenstein films I can play in a wheelchair when I
get old. Give up playing Van Helsing in DRACULA?
Over my dead body.”