The Name's Rimmer ... Shane Rimmer
The rise of a renowned British actor
Widely recognized as the voice on a ’60s 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. He moved to Great Britain in the 1950s, retaining a distinctive North American accent which made 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 Rimmerby phone from his home in Hertfordshire. “I could have moved to Los Angeles instead. 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.”
As a voice actor, Rimmer left his mark on the 1960s British sci-fi show “Thunderbirds” where he voiced Scott Tracy, pilot of the Thunderbird 1 aircraft.
The action show became extremely popular with kids 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 (series creator) 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 co-pilot 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.”
Rimmer joined the Bond family in the 60s and 70s, making spy films 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.”
Rimmer also penned TV scripts and his 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.”
Note to readers: as of this publication, Shane Rimmer passed away at the age of 89 on March 29, 2019.
Nick Thomas teaches at Auburn University at Montgomery, Ala., and has written features, columns, and interviews for over 700 magazines and newspapers.