Arsenal lover Bill makes TV debut at 85 years young
- Credit: Archant
Theatre veteran is oldest producer in Britain
He has raised £8million for a cancer charity and produced one of the first gay plays to ever grace the stage.
Now an adopted Gooner with a passion for pilates has become the oldest producer on British television.
Bill Freedman, 85, who owns Pilates Central in Gaskin Street, Islington, thought up the idea for Warren United as a product of his 44-year love affair with Arsenal.
The cartoon, which is now running on ITV2, follows football fanatic Warren Kingsley as he attempts to balance his passion for his beloved Brainsford United with his family life, and has taken eight years of work to get to the screen.
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Bill – who has spent much of his life working in theatres in the West End and was a producer on Staircase, the first play about homosexuality – believes the show makes him the oldest producer in the country.
“There’s another lady who I think is a similar age to me but she’s not willing to announce her age, so we’ve agreed that makes me the oldest,” he said.
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“I’m very proud of it. I’ve been lucky at 85 to still be able to work on a project like this where it’s something of my own.”
The script for the cartoon, aimed at adults, is written by the man behind hit 90s comedy Men Behaving Badly and is put together by the same production company as Gavin and Stacey and The Mighty Boosh. Much of the humour comes from Warren trying to fit football around his family, which consists of his Scandinavian wife, his son and daughter, and his exhibitionist mother who lives with her French Canadian lover in the granny annex.
The show debuted on ITV4 in April but has been promoted to ITV2 for a second run.
Now Bill is planning on putting together a feature film.
“I think there’s a bit of me in there, as there’s hopefully a bit of every football fan in it. The main difference is that the Arsenal are quite good and Brainsford United aren’t,” he said.
“It’s about the two most important ‘F’s in life – family and football. This show is also about the passion of being a fan. Yes, supporting Brainsford United often brings Warren more pain than joy but that’s what makes him a true fan.”
Bill moved to London from Canada in the 60s with his wife, actress Toby Robins, who appeared on screen in films such as the 1981 James Bond flick For Yours Eyes Only.
But Toby tragically died from breast cancer in 1986 which is when Bill dedicated himself to the cause, helping to raise £8million to found the UK’s first dedicated breast cancer research centre and starting the Breakthrough Breast Cancer charity.
He now divides his time between his projects, pilates, golf, and taking his grandchildren to watch Arsenal. He has been going since 1968.
But he has been following sport since he used to watch ice hockey in his native country in the 1930s.
“I was in a restaurant and the owner said I’ll get you tickets for the Arsenal. They were only £1 each then,” he said.
“I take my two oldest grandchildren now and they love it.
“I’m a Londoner now, there’s a whole big group of us with my three children and seven grandchildren.”
Bill puts his ability to keep working at the age of 85 down to pilates and started his centre 10 years ago.
“I had a bad back and I was at a health farm in Arizona when the woman there said ‘you must try pilates’,” he said.
“I opened the centre here and it’s really taken off.
“I do five to 10 minutes every morning and I’ve still got all my own joints.”
You can watch Warren United at itv.com/itvplayer.