I was a professional pilot after leaving school, followed by special flights agent, encyclopaedia salesman, legal interpreter and customer service manager. Then I started doing amateur dramatics, then background work until I decided I would only do featured roles as an actor. I got my Equity Card and an agent and worked my way from corporate videos to feature films.
You are known as Phil Appleton and Philip Delancy. What is your real name? And why do you use two names?
My real name is Phil Appleton. I worked on The Phantom Menace under my real name. I decided to register my actor’s name as Philip Delancy soon afterwards to get French-speaking parts. I have dual nationality and am bilingual French/English and can speak English with an authentic French accent too. I play a very nasty Frenchman in The Secret Philosophy, which is currently in post-production. I use my real name when doing corporate work, eg presenting or coaching. See www.philappleton.com.
You were featured in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. How did you get cast for this movie?
I had worked with the second assistant director AD Bernie Bellew before and I think word got around that I had been a real pilot. People say I look like a pilot too.
In The Phantom Menace you played a Naboo fighter pilot. Can you share some memories regarding the filming of this movie?
I had two weeks filming at Leavesden Studios which is on the site of the old Rolls-Royce airfield which I had flown into a number of times as a real pilot. So I had a feeling of déjà vu when I was asked to be the Royal Starship co-pilot. It was a bit of a surprise though to find that my new cockpit was made up of bits of wood, plastic and the odd vacuum cleaner pipe! I was working behind Ralph Brown (Ric Olié) at a workstation a bit like the Systems Panel I used to work at on the Trident airliner I flew as third pilot for BEA back in 1981.
We filmed under the studio lights during one of the hottest days of summer wearing four layers of woollen uniform which was not very comfortable but working on the biggest film of all time made up for it. The Royal Starship cockpit was a bit cramped at times, with Ralph, Hugh Quarshie, Jake Lloyd, Ewan McGregor and myself all trying to find space.
I remember having lunch next to R2-D2 and being impressed when Ray Park made his entrance as Darth Maul. I also remember the clapperboard showing R2-D2 and C-3PO as director and cameraman! Everyone was very friendly and I remember a shy and very pretty young girl only a few years older than my daughters called Keira Knightley.
You were directed by ‘the creator’ George Lucas. How is he to work with?
Great. He seemed so relaxed. Perhaps a little shy but everyone respected him for what he had achieved. He came over to speak to me on set and I wish to this day that I had had more experience and created a better impression. I remember talking about flying which wasn’t going to help my acting career. George listened to me politely, leaving me with “if only I’d have said.…” ringing in my ears. I really admire people like him who make things happen.
There must have happened strange, funny or remarkable things when filming The Phantom Menace. Can you tell something about these moments?
Everyone was so professional, there wasn’t much that went wrong. Money wasn’t an issue so Rick McCallum, the producer, was as relaxed as anyone. I remember the surreal experience of taking a call from Rick’s office when I was just about to go on the Space Mountain ride at Eurodisney.
Besides acting you’re also a professional actor coach. Can you tell something about the job?
I’m a communication skills coach. I have coached acting in youth drama groups but most of my work is in the corporate sector. A lot of businesspeople get so wrapped up in the technical side of their jobs, they can forget they are human beings. I use techniques derived from acting to improve people’s interpersonal and personal and impact skills through roleplay and forum theatre in a variety of financial, government, manufacturing, legal and service industries. This has taken me to Azerbaijan, Hong Kong, New York and many places in Europe. Are there well known people you have trained/coached?
No, but having met many well-known people over the years, particularly when working on VIP flights, I realise they are all human too and have emotions and behaviours the same as everyone else. And yet everyone is different and unique. I enjoy working with disadvantaged people, particularly children and young adults. I set up a practice interview scheme at my local school to give some of the teenagers their first real interview with feedback on how they presented themselves. That was one of the most rewarding jobs I have ever done.
What are you up to new? Any new projects on the horizon?
I have been cast as Victor Trebor in Drum Bass & Piano, which looks like a very exciting project. Victor is a concert pianist and a bit of a womaniser. My father is a first class pianist, so I hope I’ve inherited something from him for the role.
Regarding the future: what are your goals and dreams?
More feature film work and to finish a book I started in 1981 when I was in the aviation business. I’m sure my role as a Star Wars pilot will get a mention!
Final question: please finish the following sentence: “When I look back at my work on Star Wars, I ….”
feel privileged to have been associated with such a group of talented people on a project which is designed to bring a smile to people’s faces, whatever their gender, race, creed or culture.