"Fawlty Towers" actor says prank call helped career

Fri May 1, 2009 4:15pm EDT
 
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LONDON (Reuters) - Actor Andrew Sachs said a controversy over prank calls to him by BBC broadcaster Jonathan Ross and comedian Russell Brand had helped his career even though they had hurt his family.

"I came out of it very well ... my profile's up. Great! They did me good. Thank you very much," the 79-year-old "Fawlty Towers" actor said in extracts published on the Guardian newspaper's website on Friday.

Sachs is best known for his role as Spanish waiter Manuel in the classic 1970s comedy show which starred John Cleese as the inhospitable hotelier Basil Fawlty.

He is about to start a short stint on popular ITV soap opera Coronation Street, the paper reported.

The broadcast of the lewd calls left on Sach's mobile phone led to a media furor that resulted in the resignation of a senior BBC executive and the suspension of Ross, one of the corporation's highest paid stars, for 12 weeks.

The BBC's supervisory body said the calls were "so grossly offensive" they should never have been transmitted, while Britain's media regulator fined the publicly funded broadcaster 150,000 pounds ($223,000).

During a radio show last October, Ross and Brand joked that Brand had slept with Georgina Baillie, Sach's 23-year-old grand-daughter and wondered aloud whether he might kill himself after the disclosure.

Sachs said the controversy had caused pain for his wife Melody and daughter Kate. "It was horrible and I felt for my daughter particularly, Georgina's mother," he said. "I was upset because Kate was upset, because Melody was upset."

But he said the story had been widely misreported. He said he was not particularly close to his grand-daughter, nor entirely shocked, as suggested, by her career as a burlesque dancer. "I didn't say much. People interpreted that as he's so dignified. I'm not dignified, I just didn't know what to say. What was there to say?"

(Reporting by Tim Castle)