Monday, March 01, 2010

The first Hannibal Lecter


I watched Brian Cox – the actor - talking to Mark Lawson last night on BBC4 and Mark there’s nothing wrong with wearing glasses on TV but do clean them first. He asked Brian if he had been jealous to see Anthony Hopkins win all the kudos for his Lecter when Brian had created the part. The answer was negative; once when playing the lead in ‘The Borderers’ he had been sharing a dressing room with Michael Jambon, when some important visitors came round after the show and not seeing Brian behind the door one of the producers said he wanted Michael Jambon to play the lead in his production - which ‘pole-axed’ both actors . ‘When you have survived something like that and let it go,’ he said ‘you realise you have no jealousy about other actors.’


I didn’t know much about him but had watched him playing Michael Martin the Speaker in the House of Commons in the play ‘On Expenses’. They had much in common – both about the same age – he was born in1946 - both Scots and from Catholic working class families. He said he empathised with Martin who had a sweet, good nature but acted more like a Trade Unionist than a senior politician. Very different from the impression the press had given in my opinion. I couldn’t wait for him to be ousted from his post and regretted all the honours and financial rewards heaped on him.


He said one should be able to show the humanity of a character even when playing a paedophile which he had done in a film. However he didn’t agree with Dan Day Lewis’s idea of living the part and who famously saw his dead father as the ghost when playing Hamlet. He didn’t mean disrespect to Dan but that was ‘crap with a capital C’. What if you were playing a mass murderer? He agreed you could use your emotional memory in acting but mainly you should use your imagination and the art of pretending.


He had a sad childhood: his father died when Brian was aged 8 and he never got to say goodbye to him. That inspires him now to take care of himself so as not to let the same happen to his children. He had a bad time in the eighties playing Lear facing constant rejection on stage and rejection in real life and was driven one night to tell his understudy - ‘You do it!’ He was in therapy much of the eighties and at one stage realised for the first time how loved he was by his family. He has now gone back into cognitive therapy to heal wounds left by a broken marriage. He believes in love, honour and marriage and was depressed when he separated from his wife in the eighties. His mother had had electric shock treatment which caused her to lose her memory and behave in an eccentric manner - writing to the BBC telling them they should employ her son.


At the beginning of his career he was lucky in the people he met who gave him work and he related to Blanch Dubois who relied on ‘the kindness of strangers.’ At one time when struggling to bring up a young family they had 13 lodgers. His acting can be very intense and he was told:

’You find it very hard to be boring. And that is very tiring.’


A delightful part of the programme was when a you- tube video was shown of Brian instructing a toddler how to recite the famous speech from Hamlet. I was going to reproduce it here but it is too jumpy (Brian Cox with Leo.) Another amusing part was when he illustrated to Mark Lawson how he spoke originally – it would have taken Jimmy Bastard to translate.


He said his problems in the past stemmed from not loving what he did. He does now and he had excellent advice form the late Fulton Mackay:

‘Just be a good actor Brian’

He was looking forward to being directed by Ralph Fiennes and – hopefully - working with Vanessa. Redgrave that is he added.

In turn I empathised with him and wish him good health and success.

20 comments:

Gadjo Dilo said...

What a very "human" person he sounds - I warm to him. I'm pretty sure I've seen him on the London stage, possibly in a production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, but I'm not sure.

Pat said...

Gadjo: I've never seen him in the flesh. What a wonderful book/film/play that was.

Four Dinners said...

He was terrific in Red Dragon.

I also thought he brought a certain kudos the X-Men as well.

Pat said...

FourD:I haven't seen much of his work but like what I've seen.

R. Sherman said...

I've always liked him, though over here, we see his work primarily in the movies, i.e. Braveheart and Troy.

Cheers.

Pat said...

Randall: golly I've a lot of catching up to do.

savannah said...

i've seen his work and appreciated it, but had no idea of his background. thanks for the backstory, sugar. xoxoxo

Granny Annie said...

I have watched many performances of Brian Cox and enjoyed every one. I regret to say I could not have told you his name. With this great post of yours, I will now know him every time I see him. Thanks.

Eryl Shields said...

His film career seems to have had a late flourishing, he pops up in all sorts of unexpected places! But he never looks quite the same so I always have to double check.

I might treat myself later to watching the programme on iPlayer, or wherever it is to be found.

Pat said...

Savannah: pleasure.xoxox

Grannie Annie: I think he deserves recognition.

Eryl: if you do check I didn't imagine Mark's dirty glasses:)

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Great Post, Pat....I have always admired Brian Cox' acting. I think he is very very talented--I've not seen him on stage, but in many films....That sounds like a really good "on-depth" interview.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

"IN" depth. Arrrrgh.

Pat said...

Naomi; It would be so much easier if I could do shorthand - or if I could read my writing. Fortunately, if I'm interested, I remember much of it.

Maggie said...

What a great post. Thank you.

TLP said...

Very lovely post.

White rabbit, white rabbit!

Pat said...

Maggie and TLP: thank you. Very kind of you both;)

Kanani said...

I think this is really key: "his problems in the past stemmed from not loving what he did"

Isn't that the truth? I'm finding that when I stay true to myself, that's when I end up doing what I love.

I'm glad he found it. He sounds really marvelous.

Pat said...

Kanani: I think he is an example of how therapy can be helpful. He's not the sort of person who would have time for psycho babble.
He said it helps him to deal with adversity, rejection, anger, loss of trust and to avoid the 'poor me', feeling.The therapy is based on studying the survival mechanism in the holocaust.
Incidentally a prime example is Alice Herz-Sommer who I wrote about recently.

Daphne Wayne-Bough said...

Gorbals Mick was a trade union man down to the hem of his ermine robe.

Pat said...

Daphne: but was that appropriate for the Speaker?