David Jason? He'd be a terrible Del Boy

Only Fools writer's fears

Only Fools And Horses creator John Sullivan has revealed he didn’t think David Jason would be able to play Del Boy.

The writer says he thought Jason wasn’t up to playing the ‘tough guy’ market trader – but added: ‘Thank goodness I was wrong’.

Sullivan said: ‘Nicholas Lyndhurst, as Rodney, was the first casting. I’d seen him in a few things and I thought that was a brilliant idea.

‘I’d written Only Fools after working at markets when I was 12 and watching these men there with their sheepskin coats and the gold and the rings, which was Del, and they always had this rather sad lookout, which was Rodney.

“But when they told me about David, I didn’t think he could play this tough guy.

‘I’d seen him do physical slapstick roles and thought he was great but I just didn’t see him as Del.

‘I met him at the BBC bar for a chat and David told me his dad used to work at Billingsgate fish market in London. I talked to him for a bit and I thought, “Yes, he’s sharp, he can play Del.”

‘We hadn’t been talking for long before I ordered a bottle of champagne. I said, ‘We’ve got it.’ The chemistry between those two was instant.”

Sullivan also said the programme was initially called Readies – but the BBC were unsure when he came to them with the new name.

‘They didn’t like or understand it,’ Sullivan told The Sun. ‘They did a straw poll in the bar and most people thought it was either a Shakespearean quote or a name for Lester Piggott’s memoirs.

‘I took a real gamble and said, “Well, you think of something better. I can’t think of anything.” Luckily, they couldn’t.’

The show was almost dropped after the first series didn’t attract big ratings in 1981, but a rerun broadcast to fill airtime during a production strike proved a hit, and the second series was commissioned.

Sullivan also defended the three feature-length comeback shows shown in Christmas 2001, 2002 and 2003 – which were critically scorned for being a pale imitation of the original shows,

But Sullivan, 61, said: ‘A lot of people ripped into them. But what they didn’t understand was that it wasn’t meant to be the actual show. We weren’t being very serious.’

The Sun is giving away DVDs of the first two series of Only Fools free over the next two weeks, and has plenty of clips online here.

Published: 21 Jan 2008

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.