Casting “The Great Escape”

It’s that time of year when TV schedules fill with all the classic films again, from “White Christmas” to “The Great Escape”, “The King And I” to “Ice Station Zebra”.

One of the things I love about them is the characters. The personality types. And then matching people I know to them.

Take “The Great Escape”, and “The People’s Friend” staff.

Who’s Who?

In the film, Roger Bartlett was the officer in charge, the mastermind. “Big X”. Well, obviously that’s Editor Angela, her finger on the pulse, strategising, knowing everything there is to know about the “Friend”, past and present.

Bartlett was supported by Ramsey, “The SBO”. Steady, reliable, a safe pair of hands, out of the spotlight. Well, I’d like to think that’s me, just working away in the background.

Steve McQueen as Hilts, “The Cooler King”. The cool rebel. Has to be Judey from production.

In any group of people there’s always someone who can get anything, or knows where to get it. In “The Great Escape” it was James Garner playing Hendley, “The Scrounger”. I think that’s our Tracey. (Though she’s always seen herself as Donald Pleasence’s “The Forger” because of her failing eyesight…)

I could go round the whole office but I’ll quit while I’m still on safe ground!

Try It!

Try it next time you’re at a boring meeting: go round the table and cast the attendees. “The Great Escape” works for me, but how about “Dad’s Army”?  I’ve just discovered that Tracey and Judey play the same game with “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum”, the “Carry On” films, “Are You Being Served?”….

It’s a fun distraction. But my point is that a story cast relies on that same kind of personality type: the good guy, the bad guy, the safe pair of hands/listening ear/wise counsel, the eager youngster, the fixer, the cool rebel, the figure of fun…

For more about writing creating characters, try our Writing Tools on the subject.


Shirley Blair

Fiction Ed Shirley’s been with the “Friend” since 2007 and calls it her dream job because she gets to read fiction all day every day. Hobbies? Well, that would be reading! She also enjoys writing fiction when she has time, long walks, travel, and watching Scandi thrillers on TV.