What an absolutely extraordinary man Peter Cushing was.
But you all already know my feelings on the British actor who so beautifully brought to life every role he ever played.
In 1990, he was interviewed by Peter Williams on the program “The Human Factor” in an episode entitled “For the Love of Helen”. He was 77 at the time, had already been diagnosed with cancer, and was only 4 years away from joining his beloved Helen in eternity. She died in 1971.
This incredibly personal interview was for me, of course, a heart-wrenching yet uplifting glimpse into the life of my favourite actor. But Peter Cushing was more than his tremendous stage presence. He was also an exceptional human being; one who suffered a shocking amount of shyness and self-doubt as a child; and was plagued with unsurety as a young man.
“For the Love of Helen” touches on Peter’s childhood: From being dressed as a little girl by a mother who longed for a daughter, to the rather cruel punishment of being locked in the cellar by a father who was determined to make his son a man.
Peter eloquently reminisces about his wife, Helen: The kind of person she was, and her remarkable ability to always know just how to help him. It’s no exaggeration to say that she changed his life. Said Peter of their relationship:
“It was the most extraordinary relationship because it wasn’t the normal sort of falling head-over-heels in love, it was exactly as though we were picking up from where we’d left off in some other age. Quite extraordinary.”
Cushing also touches on his love of painting, as well as his thoughts on religion, and what he supposed heaven would be like. “Helen will be there. That’s enough for me.”
But my favourite part of the interview is the following exchange when the interviewer transitions to Helen’s death:
Williams: “You lost her in 197–?”
Peter interrupts: “No, I didn’t lose her, no, darling, she’s just elsewhere.”
My dad says this same thing about my mom all the time. ♥
I’ve embedded the interview video below. It was very interesting to learn about Peter’s struggles as a young man. He always had such strong, unshakable presence, and commanded each and every role he was given. So it was quite shocking to realize just how shy and unsure of himself he was. But even if you’re not a fan of his screen work, I hope you’ll watch it anyway. Cushing had such an incredible outlook on life that I think we can all benefit from.
Truly, there has only ever been one Peter Cushing.
“People tend to complicate their beliefs in their religion, and I think it’s much more simple than I think people make out. Because I think we’re shown simply by the seasons — when you think in the spring, everything comes to life; in the summer it flourishes, comes to fruition, as indeed it does in the autumn. But they begin to get a little tired. [And in the winter] everything dies. But what happens again next spring? It all comes to life again. I think that’s a simple way that God has shown us that, don’t worry about what happens to you down here, just learn how to behave so when you come wherever I am, you’ll find you’ve learnt a great deal and you’ll be able to behave yourself as you should have done in your proper life.”
And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.
~ John 16:22
(16:55 – 18:55 in the video for context)