More than 40 years ago Paul Michael Glaser made his film debut - and it almost put him off for life.
Before he landed the starring slot in TV series Starsky & Hutch that made him famous, the American actor played a minor role in the famous 1971 film version of the musical Fiddler on the Roof.
He recalls: “It was the first movie I did. We shot here and in Yugoslavia and I remember coming out of it and being put off by the whole movie experience.
“I was there for five months and worked 25 days.
“I spent so much time doing so little and I immediately took myself off to Rome and decided I was going to be a writer.”
Currently in England, where he’s staying in London, he adds: “I wrote a screenplay, which is now in a very secure place – on a shelf!”
Glaser still writes, as well as doing some directing and producing, and, more than anything, he enjoys a challenge. Besides a return to film, and that famous role of Starsky alongside David Soul’s Hutch in the hit series that won over a generation of British viewers in the Seventies, he’s done more than 50 stage productions in America plus, over here, a role in pantomime, as baddie Abanazar in Aladdin at Sunderland Empire in 2008.
Now he’s heading back up north in Fiddler on the Roof – this time starring in a new stage production by choreographer and director Craig Revel Horwood. Bound for the Theatre Royal in Newcastle in September, Glaser takes the lead as Tevye, the traditonalist at the heart of a story, set on a Jewish shtetl in 20th Century Tsarist Russia, about five daughters who rebel against having a matchmaker in favour of marrying for love.
In the film version he played Perchik, a suitor of one of Tevye’s daughters, and laughs at remembering how he had to learn a dance which did not much impress the film’s director Norman Jewison who said he looked like a “cowboy”.
But he doesn’t have to worry about living up to Craig Revel Horwood’s exacting dance standards: “Tevye doesn’t have a lot of dancing which is just as well as I have two left feet.”
It’s early days for the production but he’s been having a run-through with the musical director, he says, and “it went quite well”.
He adds: “I love it when in life you’re learning something, stretching and trying to go a little further.
“It’s like some people stepping onto a rollercoaster – they want to scare themselves!”
Looking back over his career he says he was probably always pushing himself to try something new.
“I didn’t consciously look for it but I think it was probably part of my make-up.” This show, which he says is “an amazing musical – it translates to so many languages and transports people on a journey they can identify with” – was also an opportunity to have a break from his pursuit of the last 18 months or so: raising funds to promote his new book Chrystallia and the Source of Light which he has self-published.
Set on Christmas Eve and written from the point of a 14-year-old girl, it explores how to cope with feelings of fear in life and is aimed, he says, for “the child in all of us” as it draws upon what he has learned in a life touched by tragedy. His first wife and young son died from an AIDS-contaminated blood transfusion.
He is honorary chairman of the board of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, which works to ensure better overall medical treatments for children, and the story behind the book is one of having experienced huge loss and coming out the other side. For more visit chrystallia.com
For ticket details for Fiddler on the Roof, which runs at Theatre Royal, Newcastle, from September 24-28, visit www.theatreroyal.co.uk or call 0844 811 2121.