Widely recognized as the voice on a 60’s British children’s show, Shane Rimmer also worked alongside the BBC’s original Dr. Who, helped R2-D2 into an X-wing fighter, delivered an atomic bomb in “Dr. Strangelove,” and battled villains with two James Bond actors.
Originally from Canada, Rimmer made a film career playing technicians, military men, and numerous supporting characters (see www.shanerimmer.com). He has lived in Great Britain since the 1950s, retaining a distinctive North American accent making him much sort after in the British film industry.
“I hit England at a lucky time when there weren’t many North American actors here,” said Rimmer by phone from his home in Hertfordshire.
“I could have moved to Los Angeles instead,” he said. “But you really had to put your career ahead of everything else, and I just didn’t like the idea of handing over my life to Hollywood.”
In 1966 he appeared in an early episode of “Dr. Who” which, still in production today, is now well-known in the U.S.
“William Hartnell played the first ‘Doctor’ back then,” recalled Rimmer. “My first day on the set, he came up and asked if I was from north or south of the Mason-Dixon Line! He could be a rough old bugger, but once you got to know him he was fine.”
But it was in the 60s British sci-fi kids show “Thunderbirds” where Rimmer made an impact, voicing Scott Tracy, pilot of the Thunderbird 1 aircraft.
The action show, created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, became extremely popular in Europe, Canada, Japan, and Australia and used marionette puppets, detailed miniature models, and dramatic special effects to portray the adventures of an international rescue team.
“Gerry Anderson heard me on a BBC serial and thought my voice would be good,” said Rimmer. “He wanted a mid-Atlantic sound – not totally British, nor American. I still remember the recording sessions because all the actors were crowded around one gigantic microphone. They had some beautiful receiver mics in those days – ours looked like Big Ben in the middle of the studio!”
A 1964 role as copilot of a bomber sent to Russia in “Dr. Strangelove” gave his movie career a boost. “A big film like that gets your name out there and entry to other projects you might never have had.
As a result, Rimmer joined the Bond family in the 60s and 70s, making three spy films working with both Sean Connery and Roger Moore.
“Connery had a tremendous presence. I liked him, but you didn’t fool around and stuck to the script. Moore was charming and took it all more lightly. He reworked the Bond character to fit his personality.”
As for the latest Bond incarnation, Daniel Craig, Rimmer approves. “I quite admire him. He brought back the edginess that Connery had.”
In 1977, Rimmer appeared briefly in the original “Star Wars”.
“I was an engineer and had to help R2-D2 into the spaceship cockpit,” he recalled. “You’d get his leg in, then an arm would fall off. It took a day and a half to film that sequence!”
With connections to so many iconic films and TV shows of the 20th century, Rimmer is a popular guest at fan conventions.
“They’re big over here and draw two to three thousand people every weekend,” he said. “I still do a lot of those, plus voiceover work, and I write.”
Works penned by Rimmer include TV scripts and his recent autobiography, “From Thunderbirds to Pterodactyls.”
“You’ve got to be multidirectional in this business,” he says. “When one area dries up, you need something else you can turn to.”
Nick Thomas teaches at Auburn University at Montgomery, Ala., and has written features, columns, and interviews for over 400 magazines and newspapers.