Andrew Sachs’ autobiography is called I Know Nothing, but Fiona Leckerman discovers that the man who played the most famous waiter in TV history knows a great deal indeed.
You know him as Manuel from the hit comedy series Fawlty Towers, but actor Andrew Sachs explains that penning his life story – which has just been released in paperback – gave him the opportunity to show so much more than the hapless Spanish waiter he portrayed in the 1970s.
“It’s always interesting to me that I am so well-known for Manuel, even though it was such a short period of my life and I acted in so many other roles,” Sachs explains, “so it was satisfying to be able to communicate more about me and my life – my childhood and the other acting.”
The life to which he alludes in I Know Nothing is fascinating: raised in Nazi Germany and witness to Kristallnacht and heinous Nazi brutality he made a lucky escape to London with his family where, as immigrants, they started a new life.
The influences of his time growing up in Germany had an irrevocable effect on Sachs although, even now aged 85, he still cannot decipher it. “I identify as the son of a Jewish father and a Christian mother,” he explains. “I was so young when we escaped from Germany that I didn’t understand what was going on. I was bewildered to lose childhood friends when Nazi propaganda started to take hold in Germany, but excited when we left Germany to create a new life in England.
“Perhaps there have been consequences I’m not aware of,” he considers. “I have always tried to be courteous and kind, for example; perhaps that is just my character, perhaps it reflects a desire to keep everything safe and good and perhaps that has something to do with my early life. But I’m not an expert in these things.”
Sachs says writing the book was a balancing act. “I always wanted to write a book and I knew this was the book people would want,” he admits. “I tried to keep a balance of being honest and open, while respecting my own privacy and that of others.”
From his early childhood, through his career and up to the present, I Know Nothing – which has a foreword by John Cleese – is a warm, relatable read, emphasised most notably in the way he tackles the infamous incident with Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand.
Five years on and Sachs maintains a dignified bewilderment about it. He says: “I was always a bit bemused by this incident – somewhat shocked and hurt. I still feel those things. I think the book simply records what was going on in me and my family at the time. I was reluctant to include it in the book, but it seemed such a strong area of interest to other people that I agreed to put it in.”
The creative process was very important to Sachs, who wants to be a good writer as well as a good actor, perhaps emulating his mother’s love of writing.
Moreover, he simply hopes the book “gives people a more rounded view of me,” which, to my mind, it certainly has.
I Know Nothing by Andrew Sachs is published by The Robson Press and is available in paperback priced £9.99