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IN 1972 when making the film version of Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood on location in Fishguard, Richard Burton was one of the richest, most famous actors in the world.

But that did not stop him writing a humble "thank you" note to a Fishguard local who invited him to her home for a cup of tea and some cake.

John Roach, now 61, was a 19-year-old when stars including Burton and his close friend Peter O'Toole moved into Lower Fishguard which was used as the fictional village of Llareggub for the film.

Music-teacher John, who grew up in Lower Fishguard but who now lives in Haverfordwest, said: "As you can imagine this was an amazing experience for a place like Fishguard.

"Everyone was excited by it and I remember once virtually the whole of Lower Fishguard stayed up until 4am to watch Ryan Davies (Second Voice) complete a night shot when he had to ride on the back of a pig. My late mother Elizabeth was an extra in the film and on one occasion she was asked if she'd provide refreshments for Richard Burton (First Voice) and Ryan Davies.

"She prided herself on her tea and her cake-making and not long after she was delighted to get a hand-written note from both Richard Burton and Ryan thanking her for her hospitality.

"Richard Burton was really famous at this time but he was very down to earth.

"He'd go into the local Ship Inn after filming and chat with the locals but never put on any airs and graces. He and Peter O'Toole had a reputation for drinking but there was no hellraising, they were very nice ... perfect gents."

Shot on location in Fishguard, the movie, which featured Peter O'Toole as Captain Cat and Elizabeth Taylor as Rosie Probert (she did not go to Fishguard, doing her scenes in London), was based on Swansea-born poet Dylan Thomas' original radio play.

The 1972 film also contained a host of Welsh stars including Victor Spinetti (Mr Mog Edwards), Glynis Johns (Myfanwy Price) and Ruth Madoc (Mrs Dai Bread Two) and a young David Jason played Nogood Boyo.

Tomorrow Dr Andrew Sinclair, who directed the movie, will speak about his experiences on set as he attends a special screening of the film in the Torch Theatre in Milford Haven, followed by a question and answer session with the audience which will be led by John.

The music teacher said: "I'm hoping to meet some of the other Fishguard people who acted as extras in the film and who remember the time Lower Fishguard became a glamorous film set." Novelist Dr Sinclair, who is also a Cambridge University academic and former Hollywood "script doctor", has donated the film rights of the 1972 movie "to the Welsh nation" with the aim of raising money for cultural projects in Wales.

Speaking about the making of the movie, Dr Sinclair revealed Port Talbot-born Richard Burton was "desperate" to do Under Milk Wood. He said: "Burton felt guilty over Dylan's death because he did not lend him money for his last literary tour to America (on which he died).

"Dylan was always sponging off his friends but apparently Burton, who was a stage actor at the time, told him: 'you are earning more money off the BBC than I am'."

Sinclair added he had "made a fortune" doing Hollywood script work so secured the rights to Under Milk Wood. He said he was shocked in 1972 when his old friend Peter O'Toole rang him to say Burton and Taylor wanted to do the film.

Sinclair said: "I had not only one, but three of the biggest stars in the world."

According to Sinclair, Taylor took an instant dislike to him and on one occasion had to be "carried" onto the set in a London studio by Burton and O'Toole.

He said he caught Taylor doing her own make-up and looking "like Cleopatra".

"I told her she was meant to be a Welsh whore called Rosie Probert but she insisted she always looked like Cleopatra," said Sinclair.

Sinclair, then 37, explained: "She hated me from day one."

Dylan Thomas


Under Milk Wood with Elizabeth Taylor, Peter O''Toole and Richard Burton
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jun 16, 2013
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