THE cast list was coruscating. Laurence Olivier, Michael Jayston, Janet Suzman, Michael Redgrave, Fiona Fullerton, Timothy West, Jack Hawkins and – “simply wonderful” said the critics – Roderic Noble.

You must remember Roderic Noble? He became manager of JT Atkinson’s, the builders’ merchant in Northallerton. His first film was to be his last.

We’d touched last week upon the extraordinary, hitherto untold story of the 1971 film blockbuster Nicholas and Alexandra and of 12-year-old Roderic’s starring role in it. Produced by Sam Spiegel, winner of several Oscars, it had a royal premiere – the Queen had chicken pox, Princess Anne stood in – and is still shown several times annually on British television.

Julie Noble’s a hairdresser. “It’s quite amusing,” says Ric. “People still tell Julie that they saw someone who looked exactly like her husband on television last night.”

So how long since those heady days back in 1971 that anyone’s told the story? “Oh,” says Ric – always Ric – “about 40 years.”

Film fun, last week’s column also appealed for a copy of a long lost, low budget, half-forgotten 1949 C-movie called Tinker, set on the Durham coast and featuring those aerial bucket-flights once familiar on Durham’s blackened beaches.

Not only have we come up with two copies – “Amazing, some enthusiasts have been looking for years,”

says Maurce Logan-Salton, who initiated the hunt – but found one of the Durham lads who played a key supporting role.

Firstly, though, back to the court of Tsar Nicholas II and to the unlikely star from Wheatlands Secondary Modern.

SAM Spiegel spent four years preparing and making Nicholas and Alexandra after becoming enthralled by Robert K Massie’s book on the Tsar and his German princess. The cast, says a film brochure, was “dazzling”.

“Spiegel looked at every possible actor before filling each role in the film with meticulous care. He determined that every part should be played by the actor with exactly the right blend of talent and temperament – and this called for infinite patience.”

Ric Noble lived in the village of Darley, near Harrogate, had failed the 11+, supposes himself “average”

in the A-stream at the secondary modern. Phyllis, his mother, was an enthusiastic amateur drama actress and producer who’d enrolled her son into the Summerbridge Players and into Michael Wilde’s elocution class.

“I don’t think she had any thought of my becoming a star,” says Ric.

“She just wanted to do something about my Yorkshire accent.”

Wilde knew a make-up artist who knew a casting director who knew that Spiegel was searching for someone to play Alexis, the Tsar’s son and heir. Ric auditioned, was interviewed and screen tested, made many journeys to London before the part was confirmed.

“It’s amazing to think that I got it from all those thousands who applied.

There must have been some natural talent, I suppose, but it was mainly because of my resemblance to Alexis.”

Problems arose, however, when he gained four inches in three months.

“It was just my growth spurt. They had to alter all the costumes, especially as the beginning of the film was shot at the end.”

It was filmed over four months in and around Madrid, Ric chaperoned by his mother. “I think I took it in my stride, you fear nothing when you’re 12,” he says. “It was a big learning curve, but my mother protected me from a lot of what was going on. I just turned up and did what they asked me to do. It sounds like a performing dog.”

He still recalls the occasion when a distinguished cast member came over to introduce himself. “It was Sir Laurence Olivier, my mother was shaking. I’m afraid that I hadn’t heard of him.

“Probably some of the established people were friends with my mother because of their age group. I was just a 12 or 13-year-old boy who happened to be there.”

He had no agent, receives no royalties.

“I don’t think it turned my head. Certainly the money I received wasn’t life changing.”

The whole school turned out to watch the film in Harrogate. “I don’t recall a great deal of interest from my contemporaries, but I suppose there could have been a little bit of jealousy,” says Ric. “Because I lived in a small village I did the same things and kept the same friends.

There were a few nice stories to tell, though. Then girls started to take an interest, too. I suppose that’s why I was sent to an all-boys school.”

The school was the fee-paying Scorton Grammar, near Richmond, where he started in the fourth form.

Subsequently he trained to be a site engineer, broke an arm playing football, moved into retail and is now regional general manager for a kitchen firm based in Washington, Wearside.

“It’s just like acting. If you’re selling anything, you have to paint the smile on just the same.”

HE met Julie in amateur dramatics at Thirsk – “I don’t think anyone knew my history, I wasn’t going to tell them” – lives with their daughter Katie, 22, in a smart detached house in Northallerton.

Katie has a theatre degree – “My mother’s genes must have passed on,” says Ric – longs for a film or stage career but, resting, presently works in a pub.

It was she who’d answered one of those on-line “Where are they now?”

queries about her dad. “We were having a dinner party, talking about those days and I just Googled him.

“It was quite surreal. It asked where Roderic Noble was, said they’d been searching for years, and he was sitting beside me.”

There’s a Nicholas and Alexandra poster in the utility room, a framed still in the kitchen – Jack Hawkins, Timothy West, John Hallam, Roderic Noble. Still he keeps the script, the shots, the fan mail. “There were some real eye-openers, I can tell you.”

After Nicholas and Alexandra he appeared in an episode of the 1972 series The Main Chance – “I was a boy who’d travelled withoutpaying on a train, David Main had to get me off”

– but never again appeared on screen, big or small.

Again there’d been interviews and auditions. “The problem was that I was too old to be a man and too young to be a boy.

“I had an interview with Kirk Douglas, but I was too big and with Orson Welles, but I was too small. He was a very big man. I had some history and it opened doors for me, but there wasn’t necessarily the drive to take it forward, either. If I’d been 19 instead of 13 I might have made a bit more of it, but I knew how hard it was in the acting world; it made me realise how lucky I was to get the part in the first place.”

He left amateur drama in his 20s.

supposes he might have another go in retirement – “I had trouble remembering lines in my 20s, never mind my 60s” – seldom goes to the cinema.

“Unfortunately I’m quite cynical about a lot of films. Because of what I know about making films, I just get a feeling when something isn’t right.