John Challis Believes Only Fools And Horses Is So Popular All Over The World Because The Ducking And Diving Characters Are Universal

The 78-year-old actor played used car salesman Boycie in the Peckham-based sitcom and after being surprised by a Serbian television crew at a book signing he was invited to appear on a chat show in the Eastern European country where he learned that it is the country’s most popular TV show.

John teamed up with his friend Lazar Vukovic to make the documentary ‘Boycie in Belgrade’ which saw him travel around the city to explore why the misadventures of Del Boy and Rodney Trotter are so beloved by the nation.

The star believes the connection between Serbia and John Sullivan’s comedy writing is down to the fact that the country is full of wheeler dealers and dreamers just like Del Boy – who was played by Sir David Jason.

Speaking to BANG Showbiz, he said: “I can only think those characters are universal, I mean that’s its appeal isn’t it? I mean in every country in the world everybody’s ducking and diving, trying to make a living, falling flat on their faces and getting up and out there, having another go.

“I think that’s why it works so well in Serbia and Croatia because they’re a very similar sort of people in a lot of ways. They are a lot more volatile than we are, and are very emotional, but they have been through a hell of a lot.

“During the terrible wars they had out there somebody told me that the show was the only thing that made them smile during during the wars.”

In the doc, John visits the Royal Palace, a brandy distillery, gets a tour of Red Star Belgrade football stadium and even attempts to teach university students the nuances of cockney rhyming slang.

The film has been eight years in the making and John was admits he was greeted like a pop star in Belgrade.

He said: “People stopped me in the street and I found myself in places with Serbian people waving at me shouting, ‘Boycie, Boycie!’ I thought, ‘Wow, this is for real.’

“It sort of seems to appeal to people on two levels really; they find it entertaining and funny, but also very interesting, historically.

“It’s one of those parts of the world they do things a bit differently out there. I found myself in all sorts of parts of their world. They had plum brandy and I saw how that was being made, I tried to drink some, not easy! But it is delicious. They have a bottle before breakfast, crikey I don’t think I could have a sip before breakfast. I got to visit the stadium of Red Star Belgrade who I have been interested in since I was a kid, for some reason. I went to the Royal Palace and the British embassy … I had an extraordinary time.”

‘Boycie in Belgrade’ is out on DVD and digital download from June 14.

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