Sir Michael Caine has said the BBC taped over the only recording of the television drama that launched his career.
The King Of Thieves star said archive recordings of Johnny Speight’s The Compartment were taped over by the corporation in an attempt to save money.
The 1961 drama saw Sir Michael, 85, play a troubled youngster who shares an awkward train journey with a nervous businessman, played by Frank Finlay, in a single compartment.
In an interview with the Radio Times, he said: “I was writing an autobiography and rang them and said that I’d forgotten about it and could they let me have a tape of it. I was told: ‘We don’t have one. We don’t have anything on the show.’
“They were going through an economy drive and had re-used the tape. I just thought, ‘Bloody hell — taping over a great little drama just to save a few quid’.”
While not critically received, the 1961 television drama played a crucial role in launching the star’s acting career.
It led to him being signed by the agent Denis Selinger, who managed Peter Sellers and David Niven, and eventually to further television and film work.
BBC tapes were commonly reused in an attempt to save the corporation money.
The veteran actor stars alongside Ray Winstone, Sir Michael Gambon and Jim Broadbent in King Of Thieves, the semi-comic tale of the 2015 Hatton Garden heist, which was released on September 14.
The raid was among the largest in UK history and in 2016 four elderly men were convicted for the crime.