F Scott Fitzgerald’s sparkling, waggish tales of 1939 Hollywood delightfully rendered by LA-born actor Paul Birchard. Pat Hobby, script hack who was hot when the movies were dumb, lurches from job to job, managing by luck and low cunning to more or less avoid the abyss of unemployment and despair. Paul Birchard himself left Hollywood in a bizarre flash of sanity to study acting in Glasgow and is presently in Edinburgh with the Fringe, bringing The Pat Hobby Stories. Paul spoke with The Fountain about his influences and the shows he is keen to see at the Fringe.
TF: You are performing at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, how exciting?
Exciting is not the word! On second thought – it IS the word! To bring these wonderfully funny, vividly immediate Hollywood stories to discerning audiences at the world’s largest performing arts festival is a dream come true! Everyone’s in for a delightful surprise: F. Scott Fitzgerald – the sombre author of The Great Gatsby and Tender Is The Night – was actually comic genius! Seeing The Pat Hobby Stories is like watching an episode Frazier or Cheers! As deft, witty and waggish as Curb Your Enthusiasm. Who knew?
TF: The Pat Hobby Stories certainly sounds intriguing, what is the premise?
Well, Pat Hobby – Fitzgerald’s hero – sort of – is a clapped out screenwriter in Hollywood in 1939. Pat “was hot when the movies were dumb”, and he reached his career peak working on the last silent pictures just after Sound came to Tinsel Town. Now he lurches from job to job, haunting the studio lot and managing by luck and low cunning to more or less avoid the abyss of unemployment and despair. Might sound grim, but I assure you the results have audiences roaring with laughter.
TF: And what drove the project, where did your influences lie?
Well, I grew up in Hollywood myself – which I left in a bizarre flash of sanity to study Acting in Glasgow! When I discovered The Pat Hobby Stories I saw the real Hollywood that I knew, with all its humour, the people who work there, the situations – which are astonishingly unchanged despite the passage of eighty years – and I just knew I could deliver these tales in a way that would make people everywhere comprehend the wonderful, day to day, sparkling mundanity of the Dream Factory.
TF: Have you been to the Fringe before? Is there anything you are keen to see whilst in Edinburgh?
I’ve helped out fellow actors with their shows on the Fringe from time to time, props, lighting and so on, but this is the first time I’m really doing a solo show here, and I can’t wait to dive in! One show I’m very keen to see is AGATHA CHRISTIE IS MISSING! written by and starring Prudence Wright Holmes. She is a superb character actress – she worked for the Coen Brothers in THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS. I don’t know her yet, but we have mutual friends, andI’m eager to see her in action!
TF: And what are your future plans beyond The Pat Hobby Stories?
I’m lucky I’ve some very good recent work on view at the moment: Backdraft 2 on Netflix, and a couple of episodes of the French spy series The Bureau. Pat Hobby will probably ride again before too long. But my immediate plan is to get through today with as much dignity as humanly possible! A bit like Pat Hobby – and more of us than we may care to realize!
American actor Paul Birchard performs The Pat Hobby Stories – F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Hilarious and Touching Tales of Hollywood – at the The Gilded Balloon Sportsmans from July 31 to August 26 at 12.30