Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

Tom Baker

From The Doctor Who Cuttings Archive
Jump to navigationJump to search

  • Publication: Look
  • Date: 1971-10-19
  • Author: Henry Ehrlich
  • Page: 60
  • Language: English

As the monk Rasputin, he sets the film "Nicholas and Alexandra" afire with evil excitement

Grigori Efimovich Rasputin, the huge peasant monk who exercised sinister and mysterious control over the imperial Russian family just before the Soviet Revolution, has picked up perhaps his first admirer since his death (left) by poisoning, shooting and drowning in 1916. The admirer is Tom Baker, the English actor who plays Rasputin in the movie adaptation of Nicholas and Alexandra. The Englishman has a lot in common with the Russian. He is hulking, straggly-bearded and he has hysterical eyes. He was once a monk himself. Baker loves drink, and admits matter-of-factly to hyperactive infatuation with women. It angered him recently when an Englishwoman who had been in St. Petersburg when Rasputin was murdered dismissed him as a smelly old monk.

"You've got to believe in his character," says Baker. "There was something marvelously dangerous about him. He convinced women that you had to be steeped in sin, to put your soul at ease with God when you repented. He practiced as he preached, which is one reason he was so interesting to ladies—he certainly plowed an awful lot of them around the court. The way he dominated the Romanov family, he could hardly have been a bloody slouch. And who knows whether he smelled or not?"

Baker's glossy outline of history accentuates the dramatic. But that is typical of him on the subject of everything, including his own zigzag course from childhood in Liverpool to the Old Vic—and now, at age 36, to the movies. Who knows where it will end? He longs only for enough money to move his sister, her children and their belongings into the beautiful big house he wants to buy them. On the $65 a week he was earning at the Old Vic, this would have been impossible. On what he stands to clear from a five-picture deal with Sam Spiegel, producer of Nicholas and Alexandra, it can happen easily.

Tom was brought up by his mother as a Catholic zealot, though his father was Jewish ("A contradiction in sperms," he says). Like the holy man he portrays in Nicholas and Alexandra, above, bachelor Baker enjoys a jolly romp in the hay and a welcome pint.

He volunteered at 16 for a monastery and a life of virtue, because among the people he knew in Liverpool, a priest was a hero. But by the time he was 22, he was so filled with feelings of guilt and imperfection that he constantly demanded to go to confession. On the advice of a Jesuit, he resigned, and soon transferred his obedience from the Church to the army. Now the only way to make life bearable was through "comical masochism." He was the sad sack, "violently keen on KP." He cried for effect during inspection, saluted everybody, wore red slippers on parade—and got such a laugh that he kept on wearing them. Finally, the brass shifted him to feeding the pigs. "I was the village idiot," he says, "whose function was to make people feel good." Drama school—a small one in London—was the next important stop—it had lovely gardens and roses for him to tend ("Actually, Kew Gardens near London is my idea of bliss").

Not until he'd turned 34 did Baker get a chance to channel fantasy to the professional stage. At the Old Vic, Sir Laurence Olivier cast him as Rosinante, Don Quixote's horse—"a clapped-out old bloody jade," says Baker, "but a famous horse if you had to be one." (It was not to be his only part as an animal. In The Winter's Tale, his first and only movie until this year, he showed up as a bear.)

"My luck changed," he says, "though I was making only $40.80 a week. But who cares about money when you're in the best place?" The answer to his question is Tom Baker, who cares enough to scrub stairs, work on building sites, tidy up garbage areas, when funds are low. He and eight other actors once performed a whole play for an audience of one in Edinburgh. "We needed the 17 shillings, six pence," he says. He lives now in a room 11 feet by seven, with just a bed, a chair and a chest. It would take him 40 minutes to pack all he owns, he says: an overcoat and raincoat, a Samuel Beckett novel, a Bible ("There's a lot of action in there"), a decorative 1900 telephone, a few hundred first-day stamp covers, three shirts, two pairs of shoes—no suit or hat.

What does any actor need with things? To Baker, acting is enough of a reward—though bloody hard. "I want to reach the highest standard of excellence possible," he says. "But it's nice just to have people say, 'You played a lovely part last week, Mr. Baker.'"

Caption: To his assassins, who shot him in a palace carriage house, it seemed that Rasputin would never die.

Disclaimer: These citations are created on-the-fly using primitive parsing techniques. You should double-check all citations. Send feedback to

  • APA 6th ed.: Ehrlich, Henry (1971-10-19). Tom Baker. Look p. 60.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Ehrlich, Henry. "Tom Baker." Look [add city] 1971-10-19, 60. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Ehrlich, Henry. "Tom Baker." Look, edition, sec., 1971-10-19
  • Turabian: Ehrlich, Henry. "Tom Baker." Look, 1971-10-19, section, 60 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Tom Baker | url= | work=Look | pages=60 | date=1971-10-19 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=2 December 2021 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Tom Baker | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=2 December 2021}}</ref>