The Avengers return. The KRO will be showing the new series of this English program on the screen, starting October 21 every Thursday at 8:25 pm on Ned 2. And with that we see The Avengers here even earlier than the English themselves. This new series could only be started eight years after the previous one, thanks to the help of French backers! Dick Schaap went to England for Studio to talk to the three (!) Avengers about their new adventures.

The New Avengers

Promotion in 1980

London, October 1976

Sally Croft, the maternal publicity lady of “The Avengers Enterprise LTD”, over a cup of tea with milk in Pinewood Studios outside London, calls Joanna Lumley an act of thousands. That's right. The handsome, slender, blonde, green-eyed, Kashmir-born major's daughter has been selected from a thousand other applicants for the coveted role of Purdey, John Steed's new co-star in The Avengers. She was chosen because of her ideal measurements, which are even now being used to make mannequins in London, and she managed to floor a stuntman very charmingly.

"Joanna is not afraid of anything," Sally says admiringly. “She doesn't want to know anything about doubles in dangerous scenes. She herself walks the narrow edge of a wrecked rain gutter and has taken private fighting lessons to compete with the super villains in The New Avengers. She is also a sweetheart of a child. I don't understand why the gossip columns in the London magazines call her haughty and prudish. She does speak decent English. But for her role next to that super-English Steed, she only benefits from that.”

At that moment, the subject of the conversation tears into the year 1980 with a bright orange sports car; the year in which the new fantastic adventures of The Avengers take place. A fierce battle is underway between John Steed, Purdey, Mike Gambit and the “Cybernauts”, chilly metal robots with felt fedora hats trying to rule the world. Mike Gambit is the third Avenger, played by Gareth Hunt. In addition to John Steed and Purdey, he forms an entirely new character in the series. A man from 1980. A perfectly dressed hip figure with a warm dark look and the speed of a silently moving cobra. As an old Formula 1 racer, he moves very quickly with a Jaguar XJ-S.

In everyday life, Gareth Hunt is also “quite a character”, as the English like to say. An ex-sailor who had to do three months in prison because he decided to drift off his ship in Naples on his way to New Zealand. But before he started starring in Shakespeare and West Side Story in London, he endured a period of twelve crafts and thirteen accidents. He peddled merchandise past the houses and was once a salesman for a washing machine factory. In his spare time he took a BBC course in design. "Unfortunately, I designed all kinds of things that were impossible to manufacture," says the third Avenger, somewhat helplessly.

He started his acting career as a sidekick behind the scenes of the Windmill theater. What followed were some parts at the Mount Vernon Theater. After that, he auditioned for Webber Douglas drama school and was accepted.

“At school I already dreamed of theater,” says Hunt. “I had no math skills. Sports, drama, and chemistry, it was all in a day for me. I was fascinated to discover how easy it was to blow up the chemistry classroom! But I thought the best was when Mrs. Bradbury, one of the schoolteachers, shouted, "Hey Hunt, you're tall and slim, just what I'm looking for for the role of a cop!"

“If I ever possessed something like ambition, I would have liked to play at the Royal Court, the Royal Shakespeare Company, and the National Theater. Well, I did, but that doesn't mean I'm resting on my laurels now. I want to play a lot more roles.”

Joanna Lumley plays the role of the beautiful, restrained Purdey, extremely feminine and deft. She delights in wearing nice clothes, half-length skirts with an exciting slit and not only races in a sports car, but also on a motorcycle on the road. That is grist to the mill of the Sunday newspapers. They write that she is a fierce anti-feminist, who loves being a man's dream in The Avengers and loves violence. Joanna is moved. "Miss Gossip, some friends call me," she says angrily. “In this country live thousands of actors about whom a letter is never written. But the newspapers always have to get me. I like to dress up for men. Every woman who takes care of herself does that for men. But it is not true that I am fiercely anti-feminist. I think women should earn the same as men, but they can never be completely equal. Differences remain.”

“I took those private fighting lessons at the instigation of the director to make the violence in the series seem real. The violence in The Avengers is also very nice. You know no one will ever get hurt. The idea that the violence in the series will spread to the audience is pure nonsense. It's way too ridiculous for that. You are doubling in your chair when you see John Steed floor a sturdy crook with a tap of his bowler hat.”

And John Steed, is he the same Englishman in the bowler hat as in previous episodes of The Avengers? He is still the man with the perfect manners and appreciation for the better things in life, a good French brandy, horse racing, a game of cricket. He still knows that “Britain rules the waves” and that he is called to defend her against powerful enemies. But John Steed, Patrick Macnee for the registry office, is also a man from 1980 in the new series.

He still keeps his expensive flat in London, but usually lives in a big house in the country called "Steed's Stud". There he surrounds himself with beautiful women and beautiful horses. The old Bentley is there in the garage, because for the hard work Steed now prefers to use a practical Range Rover or a Big Cat, a hand-made Jaguar Racing Coupe of no less than 200 hp.

Twenty million guilders have been put into The Avengers to make all those things. Fortunately for the poor British, that money has not come out of their wallets this time. The series was funded entirely by French backers. "And that's good news for the British film industry and the European Community," say the makers of The Avengers.

But Joanna Lumley cannot help but remark that this is exactly what typifies England today, “Every now and then I get terribly fed up with the people in this country. They think they are still regreening the world, but they don't really dare anymore. They even had to get the money for The Avengers from abroad. Those French must have been delighted with the offer to finance The Avengers. The previous episodes of this series have been the best-selling English products!”

Photo caption: A face in The Avengers has remained the same, although a little older — that of John Steed (a.k.a. Patrick Macnee, top right). He is assisted by two new characters (see the other photos): the beautiful Purdey and Mike Gambit, played by Joanna Lumley and Gareth Hunt respectively.

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