Archive for the ‘British Actors I admire’ Category


Christian Who?

June 8, 2008

In the recent Hay festival Christian Bale was approached by a young lady director thrust a script into his hand

“I am so glad to see you, Have a read of this”

Christian starts thumbing the script

“I am so glad that I managed to get Christian Slater to read my movie script”

Christina looks up bemused

“Sorry I’m Christian Bale, not Christian Slater”

The lady mouths “Oh” takes the script back and fades out

Classic pure classic


Clive Owen- King Arthur to Shoot em up

March 20, 2008


Few actors get to enjoy the status of “overnight sensation”. Next to none get to enjoy it twice. Yet this has happened to Clive Owen, the latest addition to the UK’s canon of international superstars. Breaking through, back in 1990, as the wisecracking, sharp-suited wheeler-dealer Stephen Crane in the hit show Chancer, he was the hottest thing on TV. Then, after spending the best part of a decade seeking cinematic success, came the sleeper smash Croupier. Failing dismally in the UK, it looked at first to be a disaster. Yet the US critics loved it and, Stateside, it raked in millions, at the same time lifting Owen into the upper echelons. And, this time, he was ready.

Clive Owen was born on 3 October, 1964, in Coventry. His father, a Country and Western singer, walked out when he was three (he’d not meet him again for 16 years), and he was raised by his mother and stepfather, the latter working in the ticket office for British Rail. Clive was the fourth of five brothers. The eldest was Garry, now a salesman. Then came Alan and Lee, musicians (they’d release a single called Heartbeat), then Clive and Scott.

Attending Binley Park Comprehensive School, Clive was initially a good student, in the top stream. Then something thoroughly unexpected happened. Clive has often said that, for some unknown reason, he always wanted to act. But it was only after he played the Artful Dodger in a production of Oliver! that everyone else knew it too. Bitten badly by the bug, he couldn’t concentrate on anything else, putting all his energy into the youth theatre he joined at 13. His schoolwork fell away dramatically. Sitting nine O-levels, he passed only one – English.

His persistence was amazing, really. When he first announced in class that he wanted to act, his teacher encouraged all the other kids to laugh at him. Thankfully the steely intensity he exudes onscreen is a real part of his character and he kept at it.

After his catastrophic exam results, Clive was all for jacking school in. But one teacher saw his potential and was keen for him to continue his studies at drama school. Being a prickly little sod, Clive was having none of it. No one can teach you how to act, he said, it’s all inside you already. The teacher fought back, arranging an audition for him at Mountview college and even buying him a train ticket to London. Owen made the journey, and was accepted by Mountview. Yet even this didn’t work. Absolutely convinced that drama school was useless, Clive turned Mountview down, deciding instead to keep working with his youth theatre group and seek work.It would be a bad two years. Another alumnus of Binley Park had been John Bradbury, drummer of the band The Specials, and The Specials’ Number One hit Ghost Town had pretty accurately described the state of Coventry at the time. Work was near impossible to find and, gradually losing contact with his theatre group, Clive began to waste away. “I was doing what half of Coventry was doing at the time,” he said later, “playing pool and waiting for the next Giro”.

Come 1984, his situation was desperate, so desperate that his altered his anti-education stance and, applying to RADA, was accepted. His fellow pupils including Ralph Fiennes and Jane Horrocks, he did well, graduating in 1987. He also had a stroke of luck, experience-wise. While at RADA, his class worked on a new Howard Barker play, then being performed at the Royal Court with Gary Oldman in the lead. When Oldman fell ill, Clive was asked to step in – being the only other actor in the world who knew the part.

After graduation, Owen went looking for stage work. He appeared in The Cat And The Canary at Watford, and Twelfth Night at the Crucible in Sheffield. Then he won a place at the Young Vic, playing in Romeo And Juliet and Measure For Measure and, in Manchester, The Doctor’s Dilemma. He also met his wife. Onstage. In an incident so romantic it borders on cliché, while playing Romeo he fell for his Juliet, Sarah Jane Fenton. Though their relationship would occasionally be turbulent, with the couple splitting up several times, it would last, the pair marrying in 1995 and eventually producing two daughters, Hannah and Eve.

It was all looking good. In 1988, Clive made his film debut, in Vroom. Here he and David Thewlis played two northern lads who restore a classic American car and take off on the road. Before they leave, though, Clive picks up sexy widow Diana Quick, who adds serious spice to the trip. Next he showed a very dark side with his portrayal of the psychotic Gideon Sarn, alongside Janet McTeer’s Prue Sarn, in the historical costume drama Precious Bane. And then came a big TV hit when he played John Ridd, the man who takes Lorna Doone to the altar in RD Blackmore’s classic. Polly Walker was his Lorna and Sean Bean, of course, was the brooding Carver Doone.

Then, suddenly and quite unexpectedly, he was a star. Chancer, where he played the natty, waggish Stephen Crane, pulling scams on a weekly basis, was immensely popular, throwing Clive’s life into turmoil. The tabloid press were deeply interested in this good-looking newcomer and invaded his privacy wherever possible. He should have enjoyed it, but he didn’t. Hating the constant attention of the tabloids, he refused to co-operate with them, gaining a reputation as a “difficult” actor. Also, as a serious thespian, he was aware of the danger he was in. The public might forever see him as Crane, or at least as a loveable rogue. Threatened with typecasting, he decided to bail out.

Onscreen, this meant controversy. His next part was in Stephen Poliakoff’s Close My Eyes, where he played Richard, younger brother of Saskia Reeves’ Natalie. They’re working-class, trapped in the stuffy middle-class world of Natalie’s husband, played by Alan Rickman. And there’s something else. They’re closer than they should be and actually WAY too close when they embark upon a doomed incestuous affair. The public were shocked that charming Stephen Crane should get up to such beastly antics. And Clive lost an advert, too. He turns them all down, as a rule, but for once had accepted a beer commercial. With Close My Eyes causing such a stir, it was not to be. “They pulled out,” explained Clive “because they didn’t want their Beer Man to shag his sister. How mad’s that?”

Clive would not be seen onscreen for another two years. Keen to let his Chancer-based fame die away, he took to the stage. At the Hampstead Playhouse, he played Leonard Charteris in George Bernard Shaw’s The Philanderer, directed by Brian Cox (later to be his co-star in The Bourne Identity). Pushing even harder against type, he also appeared as a bisexual in Sean Mathias’s Donmar Warehouse revival of Noel Coward’s Design For Living, a show that would see the breakthrough of Rachel Weisz. The Mathias connection would prove useful again later.

Come 1993, and Clive was back onscreen and, for the first time, working in the US. In Class Of ’61 he was Devin O’Neil, an Irish West Point graduate sent off to fight in the Civil War. A modern drama, it concentrated on people issues – friendships broken, tangled relationships, etc – most notably the race question. Then came The Magician, a British TV drama involving Scotland Yard, the IRA and a great deal of counterfeit cash.

After this, Clive was back with Stephen Poliakoff, in Century. Set at the end of 1899, it had Clive as a researcher in a medical centre, working for the grand and brilliant Charles Dance. First he falls for a girl working there, the sexually liberated Clara, played by Miranda Richardson. And then he realises, much to his horror, that Dance is actually practising eugenics, pre-figuring the Nazis by killing and sterilising the poor and “undesirable”.

His next project was serious, too. In Nobody’s Children, Ann-Margret played an American woman who loses a baby and decides to find another in Romania – a Romania wracked by the revolution against Ceaucescu. As Bratu, Clive appeared as an appropriately intense Eastern European, alongside such Brit stalwarts as Katrin Cartlidge and Frances Tomelty, Sting’s ex-wife.

From 1994 to 1996, it was TV all the way. In escaping his Chancer reputation, Clive took all manner of roles, the only similarity being that each was radically different from the last. He was excellent alongside Paul Merton, Martin Clunes and Caroline Quentin in the football-based comedy An Evening With Gary Lineker. Then came Doomsday Gun, where Frank Langella played a supergun-builder who helped first the CIA, then Saddam Hussein. Here Clive joined a heavyweight cast including Kevin Spacey, Francesca Annis and Edward Fox. Next came a starring role in Thomas Hardy’s The Return Of The Native where, as Damon Wildeve, he’s a publican in love with Eustacia Vye (Catherine Zeta Jones), a wild girl who wants to be “loved to madness” and taken away from bleak and lonely Egdon Heath. To spite her, Wildeve marries someone else and, as is the way with Hardy, everything slowly slides towards tragedy and death.

After this period drama came something deeply contemporary in The Turnaround. This was a pilot for a TV series that saw Clive as “seedy but saucy” cop-turned-PI Nick Sharman, having a tough time on complex cases in South London. The role gave Clive plenty to get his teeth into. Sharman has lost his job and his wife due to drink and drugs, so he’s bright but flawed, confident but regretful, an interesting character. The series itself would run in 1996.

Before that, it was back to America for The Rich Man’s Wife, a winding, Usual Suspects-type thriller. Here Halle Berry is trapped in a terrible marriage and conducting an affair with Clive, her husband’s business partner. Meeting a stranger, she mentions how great it would be if her hubbie were out of the way and, horrifically, he very soon is. Clearly, it’s a very messy situation.

This classy thriller was followed by a genuine oddity, when Clive lent his image to the space age videogame Privateer 2. Here Clive, having been frozen for a decade while a cure is found for his terrible injuries, wakes up on a strange planet and has to go searching across the galaxy to find out who he is and what the hell happened. The rest of the cast is a spectacularly bizarre mish-mash. Lending weight are Christopher Walken, John Hurt and Jurgen Prochnow. Adding sci-fi pedigree is Mary Tamm, formerly Dr Who’s assistant, Romana. Then there’s David McCallum, Brian Blessed and – well REALLY, Rigsby – Don Warrington from Rising Damp.

Still battling to broaden that CV, Clive now took on perhaps his most challenging role. Teaming up once more with Sean Mathias, he took the lead in the film adaptation of the stage hit Bent. As Max – a role originated by Ian McKellen in London, then played by Richard Gere on Broadway – he was a gay man in Dachau, who refuses to confirm his homosexuality and receives a yellow (Jewish) label instead. In the camp, though, he falls for the proudly gay Horst and gradually learns to stand up for what he is – even if it means death. Clive, who lost nearly three stone to play Max, was excellent in the part, at first manipulative and grabbing, then open and strong.

The same year (1997) saw Clive back on the London stage in Closer, a sexy, modern, bitter take on relationships that was described as “Private Lives for the Nineties”. A National Theatre production at the New Ambassadors, it would soon move to Broadway, where Rupert Graves would take Clive’s role, as he had done when Design For Living crossed the pond (Graves had also appeared alongside Clive in Bent and Doomsday Gun). Closer would not be the last time Clive would test himself on the boards. In 2001, he’d star alongside Victoria Hamilton in A Day In The Death Of Joe Egg, about a marriage crumbling under the strain of raising a multiplegic child. Clive had in fact played that role before, back in 1994 at the King’s Head in Islington (the area where Clive now lives).

And now came Clive’s big break – though it didn’t seem that way to begin with. In Mike Hodges’ Croupier, he played a South African wannabe writer who, thanks to his con man father, is schooled in most things shifty. Getting a job in a casino, he’s smart, cool and efficient, consequently he catches the eye of Alex Kingston, who’s planning a scam. Clive goes along with it – but only because it might make great material for a book – and so we enter a world of deception, paranoia and rampant double-crossing. It was a pretty good movie, with Clive standing out as the taciturn, constantly plotting lead. Yet there was no audience in the UK – Croupier sank without trace.

Clive moved on. In the dark Christmas tale The Echo he was Michael Deacon, a maverick reporter who, chasing up the story of a tramp found dead in the garage of rich woman Joely Richardson, discovers far more than he’d bargained for. Then there was an Australian production, Split Second, where he was a lawyer who accidentally kills a cyclist and runs away, only to have his whole life collapse around him.

And then came yet more TV success. In Second Sight he was Detective Chief Inspector Ross Tanner, investigating the savage murder of a 19-year-old kid. Trouble is, Tanner has AZOOR, an acute problem with the eyes that’s causing him to lose his sight. He doesn’t want to tell anyone till he’s solved the case, but it becomes apparent to Detective Inspector Catherine Tully, played by Claire Skinner (his wife Thomasin in The Return Of The Native) who, deciding to help him, becomes his eyes. The show – as pacey as ER, clever and taut as Prime Suspect, and with a dash of The X-Files – was a big hit, spawning three sequels straight away, with more in the pipeline.

By now, Clive’s life had changed. Croupier had enjoyed fabulous reviews in the US. In fact, popular belief had it that, had the movie not already been shown on Dutch TV, it would have received Oscar-nominations. Hollywood was at last taking notice, and the parts were coming his way. First though came Greenfingers, where he played a prisoner with a talent for gardening. Spotted by horticultural expert Helen Mirren, he finds himself entered in a national competition. There’d also be a string of five short films for BMW. In each, he played the mysterious Driver, engaged in various exciting missions. These were not simply adverts for the cars. The directors included John Frankenheimer and Ang Lee, one was penned by Seven writer Andrew Kevin Walker, and co-stars included Mickey Rourke, Stellan Skarsgard and Madonna, who played a spoilt, arrogant pop star in Star, directed by her husband Guy Ritchie. 2002 would see a further three episodes, seeing Clive work with such luminaries as John Woo, Tony Scott, Gary Oldman, F. Murray Abraham and James Brown.

Now the big hits began. In Robert Altman’s country house murder mystery Gosford Park, Clive found himself at the centre of the action, as a butler with a secret past that might well have something to do with the housekeeper – Helen Mirren once again. Then came The Bourne Identity where an amnesiac Matt Damon is on the run and trying to discover his own identity, while everyone, including Clive as the shady Professor, is out to kill him.

Success allowed Clive to generate his own projects and, with Mike Hodges, Croupier’s director, he put together the existential gangster flick, I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, concerning an ex-enforcer drawn back into the London underworld when his drug-dealing brother is raped and driven to suicide by crime boss Malcolm McDowell. In its themes it was very much like Hodges’ earlier classic, Get Carter.

After this came Beyond Borders. Here Clive played an impassioned relief worker who gets involved with philanthropist socialite Angelina Jolie as they continue to bump into each other across the planet, in the midst of wars and dreadful natural disasters. Originally, the movie was to have been directed by Oliver Stone and to have starred Kevin Costner. According to producer Peter Guber, though, Costner was so demanding they had to dump him, with Clive’s old RADA mucker Ralph Fiennes coming onboard. But then Stone left, and Fiennes too. Once in, Clive would not let it slip, making the most of dramatic scenes like the one where he carries a starving Ethiopian child into a London charity ball and accuses the wealthy guests of dangerous irresponsibility. It was a good role, but a weak movie, not helped by constant delays. Though budgeted at $35 million, it would take only $4.5 million at the US box office.

Nevertheless, Croupier and Gosford Park had raised Clive’s cinematic profile to such a degree that he was chosen by uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer to take the lead in Disney’s historical re-imagining of the legend of King Arthur. Here Owen would play the once and future king as a Roman general leading a band of Sarmatian auxiliaries in occupied Britain. Then, as Rome begins to fall and his knights reach the end of their tours of duty, he must decide whether he will stick around and lead the Brits against the invading Saxons.

He moved on to the infinitely more claustrophobic Closer, taking the role he’d originated in Patrick Marber’s play. As doctor Larry, he’d be set up for humiliation with photographer Julia Roberts by writer Jude Law, but actually enjoy a relationship with her, before forging a bond with Law’s own girlfriend, a self-destructive stripper played by Natalie Portman. It was harsh and testing emotional stuff, with Clive stealing scene after scene from his world-renowned co-stars. It came as no surprise when he won a Golden Globe and found himself Oscar-nominated, too.

Following this, he’d join another all-star cast for Sin City, Robert Rodriguez’s adaptation of Frank Miller’s legendary series of intertwining comic strips. Here he’d play ex-news photographer Dwight, horribly messed around by his dream-girl , manipulated into murder, nearly destroyed. Saved by Rosario Dawson and the girls of Old Town, he then becomes their violent protector. Clive would then move on to Derailed, adapted by Collateral scribe Stuart Beattie from James Siegel’s novel. Here he was an ad exec made despondant by a sexless marriage and a daughter with chronic diabetes. Missing his commuter-train one day, he takes a later one and catches the eye of sexy Jennifer Aniston. They hit it off and, eventually, wind up at a seedy hotel where they’re attacked by a thug, Aniston being raped and Owen badly beaten. Even more unfortunately, the thug steals their details, realises they’re both married and attempts blackmail, leading a guilty Owen to seek incompetent revenge.

Now considered a true Hollywood up-and-comer, 2006 would see Owen making no fewer than four appearances on our screens. First he’d pop up in a 2-minute comedy cameo in Steve Martin’s The Pink Panther, dressed in a tuxedo, chasing bandits and being sprayed with poisonous chemicals in jokey reference to the James Bond role he’d recently lost to Daniel Craig. Then would come Spike Lee’s Inside Man where he’d play a charismatic, cold and clinical crook who, when a bank raid goes wrong, must be talked out of executing the hostages by cop Denzel Washington.

Having missed out on starring alongside Julianne Moore in Savage Grace, Owen would next join her in The Children Of Men, based on PD James’ novel and directed by Alfonso Cuaron. This would be set in the chaotic world of 2027, where all men are impotent and the country is run by the sinister Warden, who promotes the suicide of the elderly, the exile of criminals and the enslaving of immigrants. Owen would play a fusty academic, used to an ordered existence, who’s drawn into activism and agrees to help a miraculoualy pregnant Moore reach a sanctuary at sea where she may help scientists save the human race. Following this, he’d return to Sin City territory for Shoot ‘Em Up, a gun-loving bullet-fest described as a John Woo wet dream, where Clive would deliver a woman’s baby during a gunfight and then have to protect it against a huge army of shooters.

Having escaped unwanted flash-fame, then worked hard to earn genuine respect through a series of challenging roles, coming into his own in his late thirties, Clive Owen is doing all he can to take control of his own life. And anyone who’s ever spent time playing pool and waiting for the next Giro would understand that.

(sourced from the internet)


Kate Beckinsale- Brit Sexy Vamp

March 19, 2008


It was only with her role alongside Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett in the $130 million blockbuster Pearl Harbour that Kate Beckinsale finally came to be regarded as a major screen actress and personality in her own right – as opposed to the damaged daughter of a famous father. Being smart, well-read and occasionally outspoken – much like her screen heroines Geena Davis and Katherine Hepburn – she had producer Jerry Bruckheimer say of her: “She has such subtlety and style. She can switch to humour from high drama in a split second. She reminds me of Meg Ryan some years back”, while legendary director John Schlesinger added that she has the “same combination of freshness and intelligence” as the young Julie Christie. High praise, hard earned.

As said, Kate took some time to emerge from the shadow of her father, the much-beloved comic actor Richard Beckinsale, star of Rising Damp, The Lovers and Porridge. Born on July 26th, 1973, she was only five when he suddenly and unexpectedly passed away, leaving her to be raised by her mother, the actress Judy Loe (Kate has a half-sister, Samantha Beckinsale, herself an actress and former star of London’s Burning – they met when very young, but not again till 1995). Yet, so popular was her dad, and so shocked was the nation by his untimely death, that she would for years be talked about as his tragic daughter, rather than her own person.

Her bereavement affected her deeply. She describes herself then as “a furious and passionate child” who went off the rails at school. She was further disturbed at the age of nine when Loe began a relationship with director Roy Battersby and moved in with him – Kate now having to share her space with Battersby’s daughter and four loud sons. She remembers feeling “invaded”, and hoping that her mother would not remarry, though she now gladly acknowledges Battersby’s positive influence on her life.

Attending public school at Flexlands, Godolphin and Latymer, she was a bright student, tomboyish and encouraged to be foul-mouthed by Battersby, a working-class Londoner who found it hilarious to hear a posh girl swear. But her fury at her father’s death gradually turned inwards, making her troubled and withdrawn, with a paranoid fear of illness, till she reached breakdown in the form of anorexia – anorexia, as she says, being “the mode of nervous breakdown most available to teenage girls”. By the age of 15, she weighed just five stone yet, with the support of Loe and Battersby, and the aid of five years of Freudian analysis, eventually recovered. Now she claims that anorexia and the learning process it forced upon her were “the best thing that ever happened to me”.

Throughout this crisis, though, her passion and creativity were undimmed (she proudly claims the same birthday as Jung, Aldous Huxley and George Bernard Shaw). She won the prestigious WH Smith’s Young Writers competition two years running, once for her short stories, once for poetry. And, having been asked all her life whether she would follow her parents into acting, she decided that she would. She’d always enjoyed theatre, once following The Rocky Horror Show round the country, all togged up and hurling obscenities and tampons at the stage. Now, she joined a youth theatre near her home in Chiswick, and began seeking employment.

Parts came relatively quickly. Her first professional performance was a small voiceover as the tormented Alice Mair in a TV adaptation of PD James’ Devices And Desires. There was Rachel’s Dream, a 30-minute short for Channel 4, concerned with environmentalism and capitalist wickedness, in which she headlined along with Christopher Eccleston. And the first big break, when she appeared in One Against The Wind, starring Judy Davis and Sam Neill. Here Davis played a Red Cross worker helping the Allies in Occupied France in WW2, with Beckinsale as her daughter, engaging in a treacherous affair with a Nazi officer.

With all going so well, Kate considered enrolling in drama school, but instead decided to widen her horizons by enrolling at New College, Oxford, to study French and Russian Literature (this would also, she reasoned, allow her to act in several different countries). Yet she continued to act, joining in with student community theatre groups, appearing notably in a presentation of Arthur Miller’s A View From The Bridge. And it was here that, having mostly kept away from boys, she began her first serious affair, with fellow student actor Edmund Moriarty – the pair first meeting when engaging in an increasingly torrid onstage kiss.

Still pursuing professional roles, Beckinsale had her ups and downs. One major down was missing out on the part of Cathy in Wuthering Heights, Juliette Binoche at the last minute nabbing the chance to haunt poor Ralph Fiennes. Yet there was also a most excellent up (dude) when she passed an audition to play along Keanu Reeves, Denzel Washington and Emma Thompson in Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing, her first celluloid venture. Filming in Tuscany in the summer break of 1992, she shared a villa with Reeves and Robert Sean Leonard, but still managed to concentrate on work enough to avoid turning her character, Hero, into the usual wimp. “I don’t want to play drippy women”, she explained later “because I don’t know any”.

Somehow managing to maintain her studies, in the Easter holiday of 1993, she went to Copenhagen to film Prince Of Jutland. Directed by Gabriel Axel, of Babette’s Feast fame, this was a retelling of Hamlet that returned to the original Danish source material, and starred Gabriel Byrne, Helen Mirren and Christian Bale. Beckinsale worked again in the summer, filming Uncovered, a now-hard-to-find thriller about a picture-restorer who accidentally discovers a clue to an unsolved murder. She also appeared as main guest in Headcase, the first episode of the Imogen Stubbs-starring crime series Anna Lee.

Kate’s third year of college was to be spent in Paris. She enjoyed her freedom here, particularly the break from Oxford life which she now found too empty and frivolous. But her acting career was now taking over from academia. She won the lead in a French movie, Marie-Louise Ou La Permission,and attempted to score the part of Flora Poste in a BBC production of Cold Comfort Farm. Considered too young for the role, she revealed her acumen and ambition by writing to director John Schlesinger, asking to try out for him again when they were both in Paris. She achieved her goal and, having left university early in the spring of 1994, found herself filming alongside Ian McKellan and Rufus Sewell by late summer. Cold Comfort Farm was the BBC’s standard-bearer on New Year’s Day, 1995 but, more importantly, when released to American art cinemas the next year, it was an underground smash, grossing $5 million and forcing a UK cinema release in 1997.

Meanwhile, Beckinsale was having a rough ride. Tired of playing young innocents, she took the part of the mischievous and possibly malevolent siren in Haunted. Directed by Lewis Gilbert, who’d helmed Alfie and Educating Rita, and co-starring Aidan Quinn and Anthony Andrews, this was a superior ghost story but Beckinsale – quite reasonably – had a problem with the nudity and sex. Though originally a tiny part of the screenplay, this exponentially expanded as shooting began. “I despise that”, she said later, just as she despised it at the time, demanding the use of a body double.

Next would come Pearl Harbour, where she took her first major starring role, as Ben Affleck’s lover, nurse Evelyn Johnson (she actually got the part when Charlize Theron pulled out to do Sweet November). For this she took no fee from producers Disney, instead agreeing to a percentage of profits. Quickly she moved on to rom-com Serendipity where, Christmas shopping in New York City, she met and fell for John Cusack. Obsessed by Fate, she wrote her details in a book and sold it, the assumption being that if they were meant to be together Destiny would drop the book back into Cusack’s eager hands. Years later, when both are attached to others but still bemoaning Destiny’s tardiness, things begin to happen.

2002 would bring an onscreen lull as Beckinsale appeared only in Laurel Canyon. Here she and Christian Bale were Harvard lovers who move in with Bale’s music producer and sexually liberated mother, Frances McDormand, at the time working and sleeping with Brit rock star Alessandro Nivola. This pervy pair then decide to include a curious Kate in a sexy triangle, while Bale seeks his kicks elsewhere. Other than this, Kate would be seen only in a Gap ad called Denim Invasion, paired with Orlando Bloom and directed by Cameron Crowe.

But seismic changes were on the way for Beckinsale. On the set of her next picture, Underworld, she fell for director Len Wiseman and ended her 7-year relationship with Michael Sheen (he’d go on to appear in Bright Young Things, Timeline, and alongside Julianne Moore and Pierce Brosnan in Laws Of Attraction). The tabloids were incensed. Not only was Kate failing to behave like a traditional English Rose, she appeared to be doing exactly what Kate Winslet had done when achieving Hollywood success several years before. On top of this, Sheen was actually IN Underworld. During the press tour for the film, the new couple were careful to say very little about the split. Instead they purposefully promoted the movie, a crazy take on Romeo And Juliet in a world where vampires battle endlessly against werewolves, Kate playing the fearless vampire warrior Selene. Togged up in the tightest of rubber cat-suits, her character’s name just had to be a reference to Michelle Pfeiffer’s Selena Kyle/Catwoman in Batman Returns. The suit certainly fitted her well – the film’s poster would make her a bona fide sex symbol before the movie was ever released.

With offers now pouring in, Beckinsale began to really mix it up. Her next outing was in Tiptoes, a freaky romantic comedy where she played the pregnant girlfriend of Matthew McConaughey. Given that McConaughey’s brother, Gary Oldman, is a dwarf, the couple at first fear that latent genes might restrict their baby’s size. Then, to complicate matters further, Kate begins to fall for little Gary.

2004 would see her really hit the heights. First she returned to the world of vampires in Van Helsing, Stephen Sommers’ big budget follow-up to the successful Mummy movies. Here she played Anna, the genteel but tough sidekick to Hugh Jackman’s titular vampire hunter, joining in the mayhem as he visits Eastern Europe to do wage war against Dracula, the Wolfman and Frankenstein’s Monster. She’d back this up with her most challenging role to date, playing Ava Gardner in The Aviator, Martin Scorsese’s long-awaited biopic of Howard Hughes, with Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role. With Cate Blanchett taking on Katherine Hepburn, another of Hughes’ lovers, the onscreen competition would be fierce. Many wondered whether the slight Beckinsale could ever match Gardner’s mighty charisma – the woman did, after all, torment Frank Sinatra so intensely that he blubbed like a little girl and pretended to commit suicide. Beckinsale was taking one of the biggest gambles in recent screen history. Already a headlining star after Underworld, she would now either win everlasting respect as a big-screen actress or be laughed at for years. The girl certainly had guts.

Having married Len Wiseman in May, 2004, the couple immediately continued their working relationship with a sequel to Underworld. As the original had cost only $20 million, it was considered a fair hit, and the sequel’s budget was double. Showing the origins of the vampire and werewolf species, and featuring the mighty thespian talents of Derek Jacobi, it would be far more epic than its predecessor. With a high-profile ad for Diet Coke also on show, Kate was now an undoubted star.

And she’s more. Smart and funny, she’s still her father’s daughter. But now Richard Beckinsale is Kate Beckinsale’s dad.

Sourced from Tiscali


Daniel Craig- rugged faced Bond

March 19, 2008


The world is full of what ifs, what might have beens. Where would we be now if we’d been braver, more loyal to our dreams? Would we be richer? More famous? Happier? Daniel Craig is a fine modern example of how things can turn out for the best. After the uproarious success of the series Our Friends In The North, he was cast by the tabloids as tough northern totty. Stereotyping TV offers came flooding in, lifestyle magazines were constantly knocking at his door. At the very least, he was all set to be the next Jimmy Nail.

Instead, loathing this trivial publicity, he turned down the offers and walked away. With his eyes set on a more glittering prize, he honed his craft in a series of art-house and European productions, entering the mainstream only when a part demanded deep emotional exploration. And eventually, inevitably, his remarkable intensity saw him recognised at the highest levels. First Sam Mendes snapped him up to star alongside Tom Hanks and Paul Newman in Road To Perdition. Then it was the turn of Steven Spielberg. And then came James Bond. Craig’s earlier, risky choice bore rich fruit, indeed.

He was born Daniel Wroughton Craig on the 2nd March, 1968, at 41, Liverpool Road, Chester. His father, Tim, was a former merchant seaman turned steel erector (later landlord of the Ring O’Bells in Frodsham, Cheshire), while his mother, Carol Olivia (called Olivia), was a teacher. He had one sister, Lea, older than himself. Olivia had attended Liverpool Art College and won a place at RADA (which she didn’t take up), and it was this background that most influenced Daniel after his parents divorced, Olivia taking him and Lea to live in central Liverpool when he was just 4. His mother spent a lot of time at the city’s famously left-wing Everyman Theatre, then in its heyday with Bernard Hill, Julie Walters, Willy Russell and Alan Bleasdale strutting their stuff. The young boy would soak in the life onstage and in the Green Room, enjoying the larger-than-life camaraderie. It was this, and seeing these familiar faces on TV, that convinced Craig that he too would become an actor. He now claims this epiphany took place when he was just 6.

When Daniel was 9, the family would move to Hoylake, on the west coast of the Wirrel, looking out over Liverpool Bay. Here, having failed his 11-Plus, he was sent to a tough secondary modern. At Hilbre High School at nearby West Kirby (other former pupils include cyclist Chris Boardman and pop stars The Coral and Orchestral Manoevres In The Dark) he played rugby (he also played for Hoylake Rugby Club), supported the then near-invincible Liverpool FC and joined in with the school’s plays, taking the lead in Oliver, Romeo And Juliet and Cinderella. Academically, however, he was not a good student. This is not to say he was disinterested as he reacted well when his mother (who’d get remarried to the artist Max Blond) fed his imagination with literature. Indeed, having received Ted Hughes’ Crow on his 10th birthday, he would even sneak into a local girls’ grammar school to hear Hughes read selections from his work (he recalls Hughes’ voice being a disappointing monotone). It was just that play-acting was all he ever wanted to do, and this meant the “realistic” play-acting of the Everyman. To Craig and his classmates, Shakespeare was a foreign language and classical theatre just upper-class poncing around onstage.

This was not easy for Olivia to accept. Like most mothers, she wanted her son to gain a proper education, particularly as Liverpool in the middle of Margaret Thatcher’s reign was a depressing black hole of unemployment and despair. Yet when Daniel had reached 16 and was clearly not up for further studies – he’d left school, tried a foundation course, then chucked it in – she supported him. She applied on his behalf to the National Youth Theatre and sent him to the troupe’s Manchester auditions in 1984. And her efforts paid off – he was accepted.

Moving down to London, Craig worked to finance his seasons with the NYT, toiling mostly in restaurant kitchens and as a waiter. These were hard times. He crashed on friends’ floors many, many times and was not above renting flats and doing a runner when payments were long overdue. But there were many great moments. His parents watching his proper stage debut as Agamemnon in Troilus And Cressida was one. The NYT tours to Valencia and Moscow, under the guardianship of director Ed Wilson, were also a relief from the constant poverty.

What he really wanted, though, was a place at drama school, and it was not readily forthcoming. At repeated auditions he admits to “failing miserably”, but at last he was taken on by the renowned Guildhall School of Music and Drama at the Barbican, being tutored by the Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal Court stalwart Colin McCormack. Here, between 1988 and 1991, he would receive one of the country’s finest and harshest thespian educations, and was in good company, his early peers including Rhys Ifans, Ewan McGregor and Alistair McGowan, then later Joseph Fiennes and Damian Lewis.

His career proper would begin very promisingly, being cast, even before leaving the school, in the high-budget movie The Power Of One. This followed the story of an English-speaking orphan in South Africa who’s sent to an Afrikaans school. Here he falls foul of a Brit-hating neo-Nazi clique and is bullied mercilessly. Tired of the beatings, when grown he turns to trainer Morgan Freeman and learns to box, his victories making him a symbol of racial unity. Craig would turn up as the former head bully, now a cruel and corrupt officer in the state security force, menacing the hero’s girl and generally asking for it big-time. And, of course, this being John Avildsen’s anti-apartheid version of his own Rocky, get it he does.

Craig would later explain that the only roles available to British actors in the early Nineties were Nazis or fops. He even admits to cultivating a tousled mop in the hope of scoring a Merchant-Ivory part. This situation certainly explains why his second outing saw him as a mean German officer, battling it out with Sean Patrick Flanery’s Young Indiana Jones in Daredevils Of The Desert. This, written by Frank Darabont (soon to find fame with The Shawshank Redemption), had begun as an episode of the Young Indie TV series, then been extended to two hours and released to video. In it, Flanery would aid the Brits and Aussies in an attack on a Turkish-held desert town, become involved in intrigue with a glamorous spy (Catherine Zeta Jones in a very early Hollywood outing) and finally get into a major scrap with Daniel. The film was also notable for its extensive use of action footage from director Simon Wincer’s earlier work The Lighthorsemen.

Both these productions would be released in 1992 (as would a Zorro movie, tacked together from two episodes of the TVseries), a busy year for Daniel. He’d also appear on TV in an episode of Boon, and onstage at Hammersmith’s Lyric Theatre in No Remission, with the Midnight Theatre Company. This was a tough prison drama where a bank robber, a double murderer and a paratrooper who’s torn someone’s ribcage open would be forced to share a cell. Craig would play the soldier, cold and carrying himself with military precision until he cracks when his cell-mates reveal that Christabelle, the girl he adores, is no more than a common tart. It was a great success, for Daniel in particular, The Independent review saying that he”contains his violence like an unexploded mine”.

There was also a further opportunity on TV, unfortunately one that turned to dust. This was Covington Cross, a mediaeval family drama set around the time of the Crusades. Made by Thames TV ostensibly for the American market, there’d be jousting tournaments and Robin Hood fugures, witches and romance. The series would furthermore reunite Nigel Terry and Cherie Lunghi, Arthur and Guinevere from John Boorman’s brilliant Excalibur (Craig’s future co-star Alex Kingston would also pop up). Sadly, in the US only seven of the first 13 shows were aired while, in the UK, the pilot was screened at Christmas, 1992, but the series remained unseen. Nevertheless, things were looking good for Daniel. Having met and married Scottish actress Fiona Loudon (they were both 24), 1992 saw him become a father for the first time, his wife bearing him a daughter, Ella.

This busy beginning did not, though, lead to a meteoric rise, rather a gradual consolidation. 1993 saw Daniel appear in episodes of the news satire Drop The Dead Donkey, the hard-hitting police corruption series Between The Lines, and the soft country cop caper Heartbeat. Onstage, he appeared at the Royal National Theatre in the original London production of Angels In America, the fantastical, Pulitzer Prize-winning AIDS drama. Here he would play four roles, one being that of Joseph Porter Pitt, a married but secretly homosexual Republican protege of the infamous Roy Cohn. There’d also be two major TV dramas. First came Sharpe’s Eagle, a continuance of Bernard Cornwell’s Peninsular War saga. Here Sean Bean’s Sharpe takes over a useless batallion, much to the chagrin of the regiment’s commander who sets two beastly officers, one being Daniel, to insult, undermine and generally rile our hero. Daniel sets about this with much gusto, even setting about Sharpe’s girlfriend with a riding crop and consequently accepts Sharpe’s offer of a duel. Before this can take place, though, they’re sent out on patrol together and Daniel is done in just as he’s aiming to sneakily cause Sharpe’s demise. As with his earlier fascists, he made a fine fist of another brooding hoodlum. The year would end with a brief role in the black comedy Genghis Cohn, where Robert Lindsay played a former camp commandant haunted by a Jewish comedian he’d murdered.

The next year would see Craig onstage once again, in The Rover, for the Women’s Playhouse Trust. This was a dark Restoration comedy, involving mercenaries enjoying a night on the town (literally raping and pillaging), and featuring Dougray Scott and Andy Serkis. It was a very lively production, staged in a sand-filled arena, with actors whizzing around on bikes and rickshaws, and would be filmed by the BBC. Then, on the big screen, there’d be the Disney movie A Kid In King Arthur’s Court, a rewrite of the Mark Twain novel, where an American kiddie is summoned accidentally by Merlin and expected to save Camelot from an evil knight, who plans to steal the kingdom and marry the king’s beautiful daughter, played by Kate Winslet. Daniel would appear as Master Kane, a stable-boy that Winslet loves and longs to marry.

In 1996, his work paid off. His major breakthrough came with the lauded and popular TV series Our Friends In The North, which followed four Newcastle buddies (Craig, Christopher Eccleston, Gina McKee and Mark Strong) from innocent beginnings in 1964, through the social turbulence of the Thatcher years, and on to a happy-ish reunion in 1995. While Eccleston and McKee entered the world of Labour politics, Craig’s Geordie Peacock would give up on a dodgy pop career to work for London porn baron Malcolm McDowell, getting involved in all manner of sexy shenanigans before being sent down for McDowell’s sins and swearing revenge. It really was the most eye-catching part, as he returned home to start selling drugs for corrupt coppers before descending into dosserdom and, after a spot of arson, getting jailed for life – only to escape and rediscover his old mates. It was no wonder the tabloids latched onto him as a sexy reprobate and began to push him into a box reserved usually for soap opera hard-men.

Craig quickly tired of the media circus, wishing instead to be seen as a “serious actor”. This was fair enough, as Our Friends In The North was just one of many very varied onscreen appearances in 1996. Aside from showing up beside Gayle Hunnicutt and Ute Lemper in an episode of Tales From The Crypt, there was also a headlining role in the complicated police drama Kiss And Tell. Here Craig would play a sloppy cop, on the verge of being fired, who stakes his career on catching a man suspected of killing his missing wife. Daniel gets his psychologist ex-girlfriend to romance the subject in order to con a confession out of him, but grows desperately jealous when he listens in on their conversations. Meanwhile, the missing wife, if she’s alive, must be found and treated for cancer.

On top of this, there was Andrew Davies’ high-profile and bawdy adaptation of Daniel Defoe’s The Fortunes And Misfortunes Of Moll Flanders. With former colleague Alex Kingston in the title role, this told the tale of a street girl who attempts to wangle her way to a fortune, using her body as a passport and a weapon. Returning from an initial trip to the new world of Virginia, she poses as a lady in order to snag a rich hubbie, only to fall for highwayman Daniel, himself pretending to be wealthy so he can catch a wife capable of restoring his bankrupt estate. Obviously made for one another, they would nevertheless endure a tempestuous relationship that set a big TV audience’s pulse racing. Naturally, this didn’t help Craig in his avoidance of beefcake status. He stopped doing interviews altogether.

Craig’s final appearance of 1996 would be in the far less populist Saint-Ex, a BBC production. This would be a biopic of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the French author of The Little Prince and a daring pilot for the French postal service and air force, before and during World War II. Daniel would star as Saint-Exupery’s best friend Guillaumet, a charismatic hero who survives a crash in the Andes and inspires the writer to ever greater heights, only to be lost in the war. It was a very classy production, involving such heavyweights as Miranda Richardson, Janet McTeer and Katrin Cartlidge, and, though some compared it to The English Patient (released the same year), it was a far more complex piece, working as a tone poem and a re-examination of the biopic, as well as being interspersed with interviews with real-life acquaintances of Saint-Exupery. It was no wonder, in a year that saw Craig deliver comedy horror, psychological drama, rough-house period romance and an art-house epic, that he didn’t just want to be seen as a northern beefcake.

Though he’d come to feel that movies would be his future, Daniel would still take TV and theatre parts if he found them sufficiently interesting. 1997 saw him move on to The Ice House where three women, suspected of lesbianism and witchery, live together in a country house (as one of them is the sultry and dangerous Frances Barber, lesbianism and witchery are easy accusations to make). The discovery of a corpse on the estate revives an investigation into the disappearance of one of the women’s husband ten years before, with the locals and chief detective Corin Redgrave keen for a conviction. Daniel would appear as Redgrave’s second-in-command, a man who, his marriage on the rocks, complicates the issue by falling for one of the women, a magnetic but exasperating Kitty Aldridge. Love and loyalty are tested as the deadly intrigue continues.

After a one episode spot in the erotic vampire series the Hunger, alongside Karen Black and Jason Flemying, he returned to the stage and a run in Hurlyburly at the Old Vic for Peter Hall’s company. Daniel and Rupert Graves played divorced casting agents who indulge in a riot of drink and drugs, treating their women (one being Kelly MacDonald) very poorly indeed. Andy Serkis would again co-star, along with Elizabeth McGovern. One show would be interrupted by a bomb scare, the cast, much to the delight of the critics, performing the last 20 minutes on the green outside. More important, though, certainly in terms of Craig’s off-screen life, would be Obsession, where he played a Zimbabwean stone-cutter doing restoration work in Berlin and seeking a photo of a man crossing the Niagara Falls on a tight-rope fifty years before, a man he believes had a tragic affair with his grandmother (Craig’s grandmother, that is, not his own grandmother – though, given the nature of some of Daniel’s later subject matter, that would not be beyond the realms of possibility). An incident involving an old shoplifter and brutal police is then the catalyst for a love triangle involving Craig, girl band member Heike Makatsch and a French scientist. His relationship with Makatsch would also blossom off-screen. She was a big star in Germany, with her own light entertainment show, and was just beginning to delve into more serious material. Outside Germany, audiences would know her best as the sexually predatory secretary who seduces Alan Rickman in Love Actually. She and Craig would be together for seven years, finally splitting in January, 2004.

1998 would be another good year onscreen, his best yet. First came a small but impressive role in Elizabeth where he played a monk involved in the Babington plot against the Queen, using a rock to smash in the head of one of Francis Walsingham’s spies (an improvised moment, said Craig later). Then came another breakthrough when he starred alongside Derek Jacobi in John Maybury’s Love Is The Devil. This was a biopic of the artist Francis Bacon, Jacobi playing him as cold and emotionally careless. Daniel would appear as George Dyer, a petty crook who breaks into Bacon’s house and stays to become his lover, the price he pays being the gradual disintegration of his personality as Bacon treats him with growing disdain. It was a hard part and Craig was brave to take it, as not only did he have to engage in various sado-masochistic love scenes (one involving the burning of Bacon’s flesh with a cigarette) but he also had to survive a scene-chewing performance by Jacobi. Revealing a rapid growth in his confidence and abilities, he did both with great aplomb.

Jacobi would say later that Craig was living fast during the making of Love Is The Devil, drinking all night and getting by on two hours sleep. His work, though, remained top-notch as he moved on to Love And Rage to play James Lynchehaun, the brilliant and psychotic manipulator who inspired JM Synge’s The Playboy Of The Western World. Here he wormed his way into the affections and employment of Greta Scaachi, an estate-owner in County Mayo, then began to take over, gradually revealing a murderous streak that ultimately sees him beat her to a pulp, bite off her nose and leave her to die in a fire. It was a fascinating real-life story, as Lynchehaun would flee to America where he’d be feted as a Republican freedom-fighter for his blows against the English. Even President Roosevelt would get involved in saving him from extradition. The movie would see him return, years later, for a final violent confrontation with Scaachi. Like George Dyer, this was a fascinating role to play, further proof that Craig liked to find twisted characters and dig deep to find their reason and humanity.

1999 would continue Craig’s run of fine form with The Trench, William Boyd’s WWI saga, which examined the misery and madness of the front. Set during the run-up to the Battle of the Somme, this saw Daniel as Sergeant Telford Winter, an experienced soldier attempting to keep discipline and morale high among a band of fearful recruits. As the time approaches to go over the top, he risks his position and even his life by confronting an officer who refuses to share his whiskey with the men. Eventually, despite his need to keep things together, his experience tells him what is about to happen and fear begins to erode his courage.

Next would come The Visitor, part of Channel 4’s Shockers season. This would see three young house-sharers awaiting the cousin of the fourth, who’s away for several months. When Daniel shows up, they assume he’s their man and let him in. By the time they discover their mistake, he’s already insinuated his way into their lives and does not want to leave. It was a very effective thriller, with Daniel excellent as the nameless invader. One review would compare it to a Pinter play, where the intruder is a cross between Iago and Vinnie Jones.

With very rare exceptions, Craig was now concentrating on films, and he moved on to the epic I Dreamed Of Africa, directed by Hugh Hudson. This saw Kim Basinger as an Italian socialite divorcee persuaded by Vincent Perez to go live in the harsh highlands of Kenya back in 1972. Once there, she’d discover Perez was far more interested in hunting trips with his pals than caring for their land, so she’s left to deal with poachers and wild animals, and with the tough task of impressing Daniel’s flinty-eyed Declan Fielding, the manager of their 100,000 acre ranch.

Returning to indie movies and “difficult” characters, now came Some Voices, adapted from Joe Penhall’s play, which saw him as a schizophrenic released from care back into the life of his brother. Falling for his former Hurlyburly co-star Kelly MacDonald, Craig decides that his newfound happiness will allow him to come off medication, and consequently begins to hallucinate, his condition threatening both his relationship and his freedom. It was another tremendous performance, including a naked run down Goldhawk Road, that kept the film from mawkishness and saw it deliver a sympathetic portrait of mental illness. A more comical approach would be taken by his next venture, Hotel Splendide, which concerned a guest house on a remote island where weird rules on discipline and health have been long-enforced by a fierce matriarch, now dead. Everyone on the island, both family and strange guests, have been brainwashed into thinking that leaving means death and attempt to continue as normal. But rebellious son and chef Daniel knows better and, when his ex-girlfriend Toni Collette arrives, bringing the real world with her, the place falls into chaos.

2001 would bring a real change of pace when Daniel turned tortured aristocrat for a TV miniseries of Evelyn Waugh’s Sword Of Honour, adapted by William Boyd, his director for The Trench. As Guy Crouchback, he suffered at the hands of his spiteful, unfaithful wife (Megan Dodds) then volunteered for action in WWI, being forced due to his age into misfit outfit the Halberdiers. We see him pass through crazy training before a combat misadventure that sees him and his men mistakenly hailed as heroes. Craig was here great again – reserved and troubled at home, then expansive in war – and the performance would quickly prove to be one of the most important of his career.

The same year would see Craig’s first error of judgment. This was Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, the screen adaptation of the notorious computer game, where Angelina Jolie would play the titular adventuress, racing about the globe in her attempt to prevent the sinister Illuminati from gaining control of time itself. Daniel would play her former lover Alex West, now a mercenary who’s teamed up with the bad guys. Craig’s problem wasn’t that the film was a failure, rather that, as it was a riproaring effects-fest with little attention paid to the story, he felt that it was a waste of his time.

He’d make up for this straight away as his role in Sword Of Honour now had its effect. While casting for Road To Perdition, director Sam Mendes had watched the show with playwright Patrick Marber, the latter noting that Craig might be excellent in Mendes’ new picture. And so it was that Craig became Connor Rooney, the nutty son of mobster Paul Newman. It would be his actions that drove the movie forward, first when he commits an unnecessary murder in front of hitman Tom Hanks’ son, then when he takes it upon himself to wipe out Hanks’ whole family, beginning a cycle of vengeance that destroys the whole operation. With Hanks taciturn and Newman quietly ruthless, it was left to Craig, with his psychotic jealousy, to bring passion to a deliberately dark movie. Consequently his was the stand-out performance. He was on his way.

This success did not cause Craig to immediately decamp to Hollywood. Instead, he would continue his quest for testing roles. His next project was a brief spot in Ten Minutes Older: The Cello, where eight directors, including Godard and Bertolucci, were given ten minutes to express a vision of time. Daniel would appear in Michael Radford’s segment, Addicted To The Stars, playing a spaceman who returns to Earth after 80 years, having aged only ten minutes. Next would come Copenhagen, adapted from Michael Frayn’s acclaimed play, where Craig would play Werner Heisenberg, head of Nazi Germany’s atomic energy programme, on a visit to his mentor, Stephen Rea, in occupied Denmark. It was fascinating stuff, not only discussing quantum science but leaving us unsure whether Craig is digging for Allied secrets, trying to justify his position, or very subtly explaining that he’s actually retarding the Nazis’ progress.

After popping up in the short Occasionally, Strong, a tale of gangsters and lost lottery tickets, Daniel would return to confrontational thespianism with The Mother, written by Hanif Kureishi and directed by Roger Michell (amazingly the director of Notting Hill). This saw a long-married couple visiting their grown-up kids in London, where the husband proceeds to die of a heart attack. Soon the wife, now aged 60, moves down permanently and takes a shine to Daniel, a carpenter who’s building a solarium for her son. Daniel’s in an unhappy marriage with an autistic son and reacts well to her approaches. They’re comfortable with each other, laugh a lot and, despite the 30-year age gap, inevitably enter a sexual relationship, shown graphically. Unfortunately, he’s already having an affair with the woman’s daughter, who’s been expecting him to leave his wife, and now all hell breaks loose as desires and disguises are unflinchingly revealed.

In some ways, Craig’s next part was equally controversial as he now played the poet Ted Hughes (who he’d seen perform so many years before) in Sylvia, a biopic of Sylvia Plath, many of whose fans still believe that she was driven to suicide by her husband Hughes. Colin Firth had been the original choice, but refused to screen-test. The movie, with Gwyneth Paltrow in the title role, would follow the couple from their college meeting, over to Massachusetts and back to England, where Hughes becomes famous (and unfaithful) and Plath succumbs to mental illness, destroying his office, burning his papers and eventually putting her head in the oven. Of course, Paltrow’s efforts would be more showy, but Craig’s were more powerful, containing much of Hughes’ famed charisma.

Late 2004 would see Daniel back onscreen and still varying his roles wildly. First would come Layer Cake, based on JJ Connelly’s London crime novel and directed by Matthew Vaughn, producer of Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels. Here Craig would play a nameless coke dealer who wants to retire but is pushed by Mr Big (Kenneth Cranham) to take on a job in Holland. Of course, it all goes horribly wrong and Craig finds himself pursued by angry gangs and cold-eyed hitmen. Fortunately, it possessed none of Lock Stock’s over-stylised slapstick, instead having more in common with Light Sleeper or American Gigolo. Extra gravitas was brought by Michael Gambon, one of Craig’s co-star in Sylvia who had also, in 2002, played with Craig downstairs at the Royal Court in Caryl Churchill’s A Number, directed by Stephen Daldry. This had seen Daniel tested in three separate roles, cloned brothers speaking directly to the audience, who gradually reveal their different natures – all of it leading to a horrible revelation.

Following Layer Cake would come Enduring Love, again directed by Roger Michell, where Daniel played a lecturer who’s picnicking with girlfriend Samantha Morton when a hot air balloon takes off with a young boy trapped inside. Several men, including Daniel, run to grab the ropes, with terrible results, and Daniel suffers appalling guilt. His relationship with Morton slides and he also has to deal with the attentions of his old Guildhall peer Rhys Ifans, who was there at the accident and appears to be infatuated with him. The eventual effect of these conflicting obsessions is hugely disturbing and earned the movie excellent reviews.

2004 also saw Daniel in the headlines for other reasons. Having split from Heike Makatsch in January, he was seen out several months later with supermodel Kate Moss. They claimed to just be mutual friends of Paltrow and Ifans, but the tabloids were relentless in their pursuit, Craig making a reluctant return to restaurant kitchens when he had to flee through them and out the back door. When it was all over, after four months, he said he had not enjoyed the realities of that kind of fame, and would not allow it to happen again. By October he was seeing Satsuki Mitchell, an executive producer he’d met while filming his next Hollywood picture, The Jacket. Having already produced Robert De Niro’s Godsend for 2929 Productions, Mitchell would move on to a remake of the horror classic Black Christmas.

2005 would bring continued success for Craig. First there’d be a brief spot in Sorstalansag, a historical drama adapted from Nobel Prize winner Imre Kertesz’s masterpiece about a young Hungarian Jew caught up in WW2 then the Holocaust. Shot in beautiful blues and grays, the movie was deeply touching and disquieting, more ambiguous and consequently fascinating than Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, Craig appearing as an American GI liberating the camp at Buchenwald. Following this would come The Jacket, reuniting Craig with director John Maybury. This would see Adrien Brody as an amnesiac Gulf War veteran, placed in a Vermont asylum, who comes to believe he can travel through time. On his real or imagined trips he sees the girl of his dreams and the moment of his death and, back in the real world, attempts to reunite with the former and avoid the latter. Craig would appear as a fellow inmate who, amidst his rebellious ramblings, advises Brody to disassociate his mind from the mediaeval medicinal punishments inflicted on his body, thus inspiring the film’s flights of disturbed imagination.

Having turned down big money to take the role of Biggles on TV, Craig moved on to Archangel, set in communist Russia, where he played an academic who, after meeting a former bodyguard of Stalin, seeks out Stalin’s notebook, apparently snatched from the dictator’s death-bed by the infamous Beria, head of the NKVD and directly responsible for the death of millions. Naturally, murder and deceit abound, with Craig drawn into a circle of politicians, thugs and prostitutes, all covering up a secret that could change the course of modern history. After some delay, there would then be Steven Spielberg’s Munich, concerning Mossad’s pursuit of the Palestinian terrorists who murdered Israeli athletes at the Olympics in 1972. Craig would play a South African Jew recruited into a secret Mossad hit squad employed to track down and eliminate the perpetrators of the atrocity. At first he’s the most gung-ho of the gang, convinced of the rectitude of an eye for an eye. But gradually, no longer convinced even that they’re killing the right people, he comes to wonder if his revenge has any moral justification.

Flitting from disturbing indies to a Spielberg blockbuster, Daniel Craig had surely entered thespian nirvana. He was even – along with Eric Bana, Clive Owen, Dougray Scott et al – mentioned as a potential James Bond. Unlike the others, though, he was actually chosen, October 2005 seeing him named as the successor to Pierce Brosnan. And the fans went mental. He was too short, he was too craggy, he was too blonde – the Internet was awash with criticism, most of it personal. Craig attempted to keep his distance and concentrate on the work, but the madness clearly got to him. After all, this was a guy recently freaked by Kate Moss’s level of fame. Now he was Bond, and a bad Bond to boot. It can’t have been easy.

2006 would clearly be a big year, the biggest yet. He began it by lending his voice to Renaissance, an excellent Sin City-style noir animation, set in Paris in 2054, where Craig would play a maverick cop hunting down a kidnapped scientist and falling for her sister (Catherine McCormack), all under the eye of the sinister Avalon corporation. After this would come Infamous, held back for a year to avoid direct competition with the very similar Capote. This would see Tobey Jones as the writer Truman Capote, dazzling New York high society with his sharp wit, hitting big with In Cold Blood then fading away as he cannot follow his masterwork. Craig would play Perry Smith, the Kansas killer whose crimes inspired Capote’s book. He’d be vulnerable but dangerous, threatening but also sexual, bringing a different edge to the famous Smith-Capote relationship. But though the movie boasted such stars as Sigourney Weaver, Sandra Bullock and Gwyneth Paltrow (again), and despite the fact that it dealt bravely with Capote’s sexuality, it was still overshadowed by its recent predecessor, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Oscar win still being fresh in people’s minds.

And then it came – Casino Royale. On many occasions the Bond producers had attempted to refresh the franchise by introducing contemporary elements – Roger Moore’s Seventies suavity, for example, or Timothy Dalton’s Thatcher age brutality. With Craig onboard, they did the psychology-thing and went back to the beginning with Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel (already filmed twice), showing how the legendary agent grew into his 007 role. Thus Craig would begin as a reckless and careless operative, earning his stripes before taking on the menacing Le Chiffe (a character apparently based on the notorious Aleister Crowley) in a high stakes Bahamas poker game. There’d be babes, of course, Eva Green being the main one, but there’d also be a very modern terrorist threat to world order.

Naturally, Craig was now a major star, but he was to face some difficult choices. His work so far – in Love Is The Devil, The Mother, Some Voices and the rest – had marked him out as a challenging, risk-taking performer. Like Dalton before him, he was an actor first, Bond second. Yet Bond had the power to wipe away everything that had gone before, and he desperately needed to maintain an identity outside the character.

His first release of 2007 would be The Invasion, the movie he was making when informed by Barbara Broccoli that he would be Bond. This had begun as a simple update of the oft-filmed Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, but had mutated into a more original piece. Now psychiatrist Nicole Kidman would notice a sneaky epidemic that changes people’s behaviour, would question whether it was due to extra-terrestrial interference, and would then be forced to protect her son, who may well hold the key to saving mankind. Craig would appear as Kidman’s colleague and love interest, who aids her in her struggle, as director Oliver “Downfall” Hirschbiegel took repeated stabs at the warmongering governments that rule over us.

The Invasion would do much to keep the non-Bond Craig in the spotlight. More important would be Northern Lights, the first in an intended trilogy based on Philip Pullman’s bestselling His Dark Materials. Here young heroine Lyra would seek out her kidnapped friend Roger, with Craig starring as her uncle, the aristocratic Lord Asriel, a famed explorer with a mysterious past. Adding further interest would be two of Craig’s recent co-stars – Nicole Kidman as the charming, evil Mrs Coulter, and Eva Green as the witch queen.

Despite Bond and Asriel, we can expect Daniel Craig to carry on in much the same vein as before, concentrating on indies far more than most actors in his exalted position. “Everybody wants to make a safe bet with roles,” he once said “But if you’re going to do stuff then you should be getting strong reactions. I don’t want audiences to be going ‘Yeah, that’s alright’.” Given his performances thus far, you can be sure he’ll be garnering strong reactions for years to come.

Sourced from the Net


Christian Bale Sequel to Dark Knight-Maybe

March 18, 2008


I can’t claim the credit for this one but this is directly sourced from Entertainment weekly for you guys

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Where are you in the Terminator process right now?
CHRISTIAN BALE: There are some wonderful people who have been brought in, and we are working to re-create that world.

Do you have a script?
We’re in the process of doing that, we’re working on that, et cetera.

Do you have a sense of when Terminator is going to start or how long it’s going to take?
I got a sense of it, but, you know, it’s important to make sure that you start a movie when you’re ready, instead of just starting it on a date, regardless. And so we’ll start when we’re ready.

In the meantime, you’re working on Michael Mann’s Depression-era gangster saga Public Enemies.
Yes, yes, that’s actually what I’m doing right now…. I don’t actually start until next week, but so far, just loving it, loving working with Michael, the research, the detail, liking it very much.

How do you feel about the way people discuss the projects you pick? You’ve always done a mix of genres and movies — in the past year or so, for example, you did a Western [3:10 to Yuma], you worked with Werner Herzog [on Rescue Dawn] — but people sometimes focus on the blockbusters. Does that frustrate you?
I certainly don’t do that for anybody but myself. I enjoy making all sorts, and it’s directors who I very much like working with. I don’t really give a damn if it’s a low-budget movie or if it’s a big-budget movie — it’s whatever serves the movie and serves the story best. I certainly enjoy watching both of those kinds of movies, so why don’t I go out there and make both? I don’t really understand why I’d have any frustration whatsoever. What? Frustration that people can’t say, ”Well, you’re predictable as hell, aren’t you? You just do the big studio ones. You just do the indie ones”? You know? That would be frustrating.

Is there a different mindset that goes into making different kinds of movies?
Listen, I think that there probably is, but I don’t really try to articulate that to myself. Because I do think that a story is a story, and I will see many low, low-budget movies that just are way better than some mega-budget movie. So a story’s a story, and I’m going to be interested in a story that I want to go see. And I’ve made mistakes in the past. I hope that that has given me experience, and hopefully I’ll make fewer mistakes in the future.

But you had a good time doing the work…
[Smiles] Um, not always! [Laughs]

Don’t you seek having a good time at least, or some sort of edification?
Well, that’s a funny thing. Everybody considers enjoyment in different ways. Some people would consider ”Hey, every day was a blast on the set, we all got along and went out drinking together after” [as enjoyable]. And, hey, that can be fun. But also I get a lot of satisfaction out of just nonstop work…. Actually, that gives me the most satisfaction, because I’m setting aside time to work on a movie. I don’t necessarily want my life to be the same as it is when I’m not working. I don’t really feel the need for hanging out too much or whatever; I enjoy taking it very seriously. And I absolutely can see the ridiculous side of that as well, because, you know, the majority of jobs are ridiculous. [His interviewer raises his hand, jokingly] Exactly! [He raises his hand and smiles] Both of our hands are up in that. But you have to recognize that and say, ”Regardless, I’m telling a story and I take that seriously, and I enjoy that immensely.” So, to me, that is having fun, when I’m working my ass off. And ultimately, when I’m finished, then I’m really going to enjoy myself in life, because I’ve actually been satisfied in my work. I mean, if I’ve done something that I’ve felt hasn’t really worked or that I haven’t really had to work at, then I can’t enjoy my free time as much because I’m feeling like I have to go answer to myself why the last thing may or may not have gone so well. And I’ve been very fortunate with directors — literally, in the last five years or so, really fantastic collaborations with people — so I’ve had that satisfaction for quite some time.

I know — you’ve got Michael Mann now, you worked with Terrence Malick… You’re running out of the big guys.
Well, you know, hopefully…

There’ll be new ones, another Christopher Nolan comes along…
Absolutely, Christopher Nolan is a new director who will be around for many years to come, I truly think. He’s one of the finest out there. Also, you can revisit working with these same people — hopefully it ain’t just a one-time deal and that’s the end. I worked with Todd Haynes a couple of times [on Velvet Goldmine and I’m Not There] and enjoyed that. I very much like collaborating with Brad Anderson [on The Machinist], and we’re kind of looking to do something else together. Jim Mangold [his 3:10 to Yuma director] as well. It’s been very nice. I’ve been a lucky bastard.


Christian Bale- Welsh Dragon to Dark Knight

March 11, 2008


When, in 2004, Christian Bale received a raft of glowing reviews for his shape-shifting efforts in The Machinist and then was announced as the next Batman, many of his compatriots wondered where this new British phenomenon had sprung from. Unlike most of his Brit film star peers, he had not served an apprenticeship in TV or on the stage, he was not a household name or face. His sudden rise to art-house and Hollywood prominence seemed oddly spectacular.

In fact, Bale, though still in his early thirties, was 18 years into his screen career. Chosen by Steven Spielberg to play the youngster battling to survive Japanese occupation in the epic Empire Of The Sun, he’d first hit the headlines back in 1987. Then, having shifted to Los Angeles when only 17, he’d undergone failure as an aging child actor, become a teen heart-throb due to Little Women and one of the original stars of the fledgling Internet, then gradually, through a series of risky challenges, moulded himself into a quite brilliant screen actor. Those few who witnessed his extraordinary work in 2000’s controversial American Psycho knew he had arrived. The rest would remain in the dark till he emerged as the new Dark Knight. His journey, bumpy and fraught with artistic dangers, is well worth examining.

He was born Christian Charles Philip Bale on the 30th of January, 1974, in Haverfordwest, otherwise known as Hwlffordd, in the far west of south Wales. His father, David, was then a pilot, stationed at RAF Brawdy, but would soon have his career ended by illness. This would allow him to indulge a life-long penchant for travel. Having been born in South Africa, he’d run away to sea in his early teens and seen the world. Now, taking a variety of jobs, including financial advisor (the kids were often not sure what he did to bring food to the table), he moved the family all over the country and beyond. They left Wales when Christian was 2 and began a nomadic existence that took in Oxfordshire, Portugal (when he was 11) and Dorset, such that by the time he was 15 Christian reckoned he’d lived in 15 different places.

This unconventional life for a long while suited Christian’s mother, Jenny, who worked as a clown and a dancer, riding elephants and introducing acts in the circus. Christian has recalled, at age 7, having a great time in a circus caravan surrounded by beautiful women wearing only fishnet stockings and peacock head-dresses. Indeed, his first kiss was with a young Polish trapeze artist called Barta.

Show-business actually ran deep in the Bale family. David’s father, also a pilot, had retired to South Africa to work as a gamekeeper, and had played John Wayne’s double in 1962’s Hatari! David’s uncle Rex, meanwhile, a cousin of Lillie Langtry, was a professional actor with 20 movies under his belt. Christian’s maternal grandfather had trod the boards, too, as a stand-up comic, children’s entertainer and member of the Magic Circle. The tradition would be continued by Christian’s siblings, all girls and all older. Though Sharon would become a computer expert, Erin would become a musician and Louise an actress and award-winning theatre director. What was important, according to David and Jenny, was that their kids felt there was no limit to what they could achieve. Freedom was the key, and it made great sense that the family were passionate activists when it came to the environment and animal rights. As a kid, Christian would be taken to many conventions and, to this day, contributes heavily to many animal charities.

As a child, Christian would take ballet lessons and, for a while, obsessively practise guitar. Once the family landed in Reading, though, he was inspired to follow his sister Louise into acting. Louise had scored a part in a West End production of Bugsy Malone and 9-year-old Christian would hang backstage, wishing he was in on the action. And soon he was, scoring himself an agent and a part in a Pac-Man cereal commercial, and enrolling at a Reading theatre group that, for a while, also included a young Kate Winslet. The next year would bring yet more success with a Lenor ad (he used his £80 wages to buy some DMs and a Rubik snake)and a West End stage debut of his own, when he appeared alongside Rowan Atkinson in The Nerd.

The Bale family’s final move within the UK would take them to Bournemouth, where Christian would be based for 4 years, the longest time he’d spent anywhere. He enrolled at Bournemouth School for Boys, took up rugby and settled down to an ordinary existence. It was not to be. Still attending theatre workshops and auditioning for roles, he’d already nabbed a part in Anastasia: The Mystery Of Anna, a lavish TV 2-parter that saw Amy Irving star as Anna Anderson, a young woman who excited high society by claiming to be the supposedly executed daughter of Tsar Nicholas II. The movie would place Bale on a credit-list with the luminous likes of Olivia de Havilland and Rex Harrison, the boy appearing in flashback scenes as Anastasia’s haemophiliac brother Alexei, his parents Nicholas and Alexandra being played by heavyweights Omar Sharif and Claire Bloom.

In itself, Anatasia would not have proved a breakthrough for Bale. Lying around looking sickly as Alexei Romanov was perhaps not the most flamboyant way to impress casting directors. But Amy Irving had taken note of his efforts and, rather fortuitously for Bale, passed his name on to her husband, Steven Spielberg, who was then casting his latest epic, Empire Of The Sun, an epic requiring a young male lead. Spielberg, having seen Anastasia, had actually not thought much of Christian’s Alexei but took note of his wife’s advice and was himself impressed enough by Bale’s readings for Empire Of The Sun that he cast him ahead of 4000 other hopefuls after a 7-month auditioning process.

In the movie, Christian would star as Jim (that is, the younger self of writer JG Ballard), a British kid separated from his rich parents when the Japanese invaded Shanghai in WW2. Obsessed with aeroplanes and for the most part enjoying the excitement of the war, the boy is taken under the wing of American King Rat-figure John Malkovich and learns to suvive in this hellish place, which serves him well when, along with Miranda Richardson and all the other suffering Brits, he winds up in a harsh POW camp. And Bale was excellent, his natural innocence and ebullience a fine foil for Malkovich’s cynical survivalism and Richardson’s dignified resignation.

By the time Empire Of The Sun was released (with all the fanfare you’d expect for a Spielberg epic), Christian had been seen in two other efforts. First came another major TV production, Heart Of The Country, a miniseries based on the book by Fay Weldon. Here Susan Penhaligon would play a well-off mother who’s dumped by her hubbie and left penniless to fend for herself and her kids (her son being Christian). Plagued by predatory males and humiliated by indifferent bank managers and welfare officers, she’s befriended and housed by a lower-class woman who shows her the ropes. It was a satire revealing the social vulnerability of women and exploding the notion that the suburbs are havens of serenity and neighbourly decency.

Also very moral, though very different in tone, would be The Land Of Faraway, Bale’s first released movie. Based on Astrid Lindgren’s children’s fantasy, this would see Nick Pickard as Mio, a lonely kid with a disappeared dad, who’s magically transported to the titular world of wonder, where his father (Timothy Bottoms) is the beloved king. Once there, he discovers that an evil Christopher Lee has been abducting kids and transforming them into birds doomed to screech their despair against the walls of his dark castle. Teaming up with Christian, playing his sidekick Jum-Jum, Mio embarks on a quest to find the Forger of Swords and arm himself for the struggle against the cruel Lee. It was fun-time fantasy stuff, though the actual shoot was infinitely more depressing. Filming took place just a few hundred miles from Chernobyl and had to be halted due to the infamous nuclear meltdown – and then they had to go back to finish.

These were both good experience but minor roles, not preparing Bale at all for what was to happen next. When Empire Of The Sun came out, everyone wanted a piece of him. On the promotional tour, frustrated by a constant barrage of the same questions over and over again, he first weirded-out journalists by repeatedly and silently stabbing an orange with a pen then, in Paris, he cracked completely, running out of his Champs Elysee hotel. Back in Bournemouth it was no better. Though he made a bit of pocket money selling signed photos of himself in the playground, the other boys’ jealousy at his success and consequent female attention saw him constantly picked on and drawn into fights. Trying to withdraw from the press attention, he made the fatal error of refusing to open a fete and was mercilessly lambasted by the local papers. He’d enjoyed working with Spielberg, meeting Drew Barrymore (he’d tried to kiss her but, though a year younger, she was far more sophisticated than he and spurned his advances) and the Best Juvenile Performance award he’d received from America’s National Board of Review (a category invented especially for him) but it wasn’t worth this. He told his parents that he would never act again.

And he didn’t. For a year or so. But he was drawn back in by Kenneth Branagh, then assembling the cream of the British crop for his Olivier-matching Henry V. Paul Schofield, Derek Jacobi, Judi Dench, all were there, and Christian would join them as the young sidekick of Robbie Coltrane’s Falstaff, eventually being carried across the body-strewn fields of Agincourt by the heroic Branagh himself.

There’d be more big name co-stars to come. The next year, 1990, would see him take the lead as Jim Hawkins in a high-class TNT re-adaptation of Treasure Island, with Charlton Heston as Long John Silver, Oliver Reed as Billy Bones and, once again, Christopher Lee as Blind Pew. Then it would be back to TV for a production of John Le Carre’s A Murder Of Quality. Here Denholm Elliott would play George Smiley, investigating murder, secret societies and sexual abuse at a boys’ school, Christian playing the mysterious Tim Perkins, a pupil who seems to have more answers than he’s willing or able to let on. Also in the cast would be Joss Ackland, Glenda Jackson and Billie Whitelaw, adding yet more gravitas to an already amazing CV of co-stars.

Having returned to the acting fold, Christian was now beginning to fret over the most advantageous career path. He was getting roles now, but would they dry up as he matured, when he was no longer “the kid from Empire Of The Sun”? Wouldn’t it make sense to enter formal training? While on the set of Henry V he’d asked the advice of Kenneth Branagh’s mentor Hugh Crutwell, former head of RADA, and was told to wait. At 14 he was still too young. He’d receive the same advice from Robert Duvall, the venerable co-star of his next movie, another Hollywood effort called Newsies.

At this stage, Bale’s life was even more up-in-the-air than usual. His mother had decided that, after years on the road, she’d had enough and split from his dad. You could see her point. With David now acting as Christian’s manager and the boy’s career going international, the family clearly would not be putting down roots in the foreseeable future. For his part, Christian had a simple choice to make – continue with sixth form college in Bournemouth, or fly to Los Angeles to star alongside Robert Duvall and Ann-Margret. A tough one. Goodbye Bournemouth.

Bale had auditioned for the part in England, then been flown by Disney to LA for a screen test that had proved successful. When he’d first received the script it had been a straight drama concerning strike action taken by young New York paper-deliverers in 1899 when publisher Joseph Pulitzer decided to cut their take by 10%. Christian was to play Jack “Cowboy” Kelly, a kid with a troubled past who dreams of migrating to Santa Fe and leads the others in their industrial action. Now, though, things had changed. The movie had been turned into a musical, indeed it was an expensive attempt to rejuvenate the musical genre as a whole. The pressure was most certainly on. Christian, who had some experience in dance but next to none in singing, was initially fearful. But, as would be the case throughout his career, he took on the challenge and entered an intensive 10-week programme of dance, gymnastics, karate and accent training.

The movie, landing somewhere between Oliver! and West Side Story, was cute enough, with the street urchins, aided by faded dance hall star Ann-Margret, battling bravely against the tyrant Duvall. And Bale clearly worked hard to transform himself into an all-singing, all-dancing street kid. Unfortunately, the musical genre was apparently not ripe for rejuvenation (that wouldn’t happen for another decade) and Newsies became the lowest-grossing Disney live action movie ever. Perhaps they should have instead released Blood Drips On Newsies Square, a spoof movie shot by the cast during filming that had a serial killer loose on the set. Soon, though, and under the strangest circumstances, Disney would find this financial blow lightened – and all thanks to their initial faith in Christian Bale.

Continuing to challenge himself both as an actor and performer, Christian now took on another musical movie, but this time with a far more dramatic bent. This was Swing Kids, concerning a zoot-suited group of German youths in 1939 who, though obsessed with the music of Benny Goodman and Count Basie and the dance styles of young America, are nevertheless drawn out of their little world to face the evils of the Third Reich. Robert Sean Leonard would have his sense of decency and justice challenged when his mother, Barbara Hershey, accepts the new order and even invites a Gestapo officer (Bale’s old mucker Kenneth Branagh, in an uncredited role) around for dinner. Christian, meanwhile, would play Leonard’s best friend, who tests him still further by entering wholeheartedly into the spirit of the Hitler Youth, baiting cripples and even grassing up his own father. It was another good role, involving fraught drama and hi-octane dance sequences, but this was a movie of dubious appeal to audiences both young and old and did not fare well.

In fact, on the face of it, things were not going too well at all. Christian and his father had now relocated to LA, with Christian thus losing his girlfriend of the last 5 years, who’d decided to attend a British university (Bale himself was now enrolled at an LA college). Newsies and Swing Kids had suffered at the box office, but were relative successes compared to Christian’s next two projects. The first of these was Godmoney, a real change of pace that was to see Christian as a young New Yorker attempting to escape a life of crime and drugs by shifting to the LA suburbs. Problematically, here he would be befriended by another dealer who offers him a life-changing sum of money if he’ll assassinate a rival dealer. So, what’s the price of his soul? Sadly, during filming the producers ran out of cash and director Darren Doane was forced to abandon the project. It was a shame for Bale as this was his first opportunity to try the kind of tough street drama that had proven so fruitful for his latest screen hero Gary Oldman (earlier, he’d been an enthusiastic fan of Steve McQueen).

Christian’s other movie of the time had been completed, but was struggling to find a release. This was Prince Of Jutland, another risky piece that recounted the original legend of Hamlet, or Amled, a brutal tale of murder and revenge set in the Danish outback. Here Bale would star as the young Amled, who feigns madness when his uncle Gabriel Byrne strings up his noble father Tom Wilkinson and lies his way into the bed of his mother, Helen Mirren. Sent to England to die at the hands of family friend Brian Cox, Amled instead turns the tables and returns to destroy his wicked uncle, marry Cox’s daughter Kate Beckinsale, and rule the land with tolerance and honour. It really was an odd movie, a kind of low-budget mediaeval Death Wish with the cheapest of battle sequences. But it was marked by some fine performances from the renowned leads, and a terrifically courageous effort from Bale who had to keep up his pretence of insanity by barking like a dog and crowing like a cockerel. So few actors would have dared do this, yet for Christian, who’d already played a POW camp intern, a Nazi thug and a drug fiend, it really wasn’t that extreme.

Despite his movies’ lack of financial success, Christian was about to make a major breakthrough – with a little help from a secret admirer. Winona Ryder, a couple of years older than Bale, was well aware of the pressures that can build on young actors, having hit big with the likes of Beetlejuice, Heathers and Mermaids while still in her teens. She was also quick to recognise those who rose above it. Having a near-encyclopaedic knowledge of modern movies, she’d seen most of Bale’s work and now recommended him, strongly recommended him for a part in her upcoming project, a new adaptation of Little Women. Such was her clout within the industry that her demands were met and Christian now became Laurie, young neighbour of the March family as they chat, weep and muddle their way through the American Civil War. Laurie’s an honorary brother to the girls (including Samantha Mathis, Kirsten Dunst and Claire Danes, with Susan Sarandon playing their mum), joining in with the plays penned by wannabe writer Jo (Ryder). Eventually, though, he falls heavily for Ryder and is disturbed when his tutor, Eric Stoltz, does too. When Ryder rejects him he finds solace in the arms of Mathis.

With such a strong young cast, and well directed by Gillian Armstrong, the movie was a hit, and saw Christian become a heart-throb for the more erudite young ladies of the world. In fact, he was becoming a very, very popular young actor, far more famous than he had any real right to be. Having been contacted by a Canadian fan with techie leanings, he’d OK’ed the lad’s request to set up a new fan-site at His main reason was that by placing information on the site he’d be able to avoid interviews, which he’d hated since the Empire Of The Sun publicity debacle. The real result was far more far-reaching. As so few were making proper use of the still fledgling Internet, Bale’s hot new site stood out like a shining cyber-beacon, attracting thousands of new fans who, soon calling themselves Baleheads, got together in chat-rooms and shrines, spread information and made plans. They began to bombard Hollywood studios and magazines with letters lobbying for their hero, they turned Newsies into a thoroughly unexpected video hit, they even organised Bale conventions (often these would be Rocky Horror-style Newsies conventions, with participants in full costume). Soon Christian would be one of the Internet’s biggest stars, bigger than Tom Cruise, bigger than Christian Slater – even though he’d never carried a hit movie. Incredible.

Bale’s new position would be confirmed the following year, 1995, when he returned to Disney to lend his voice to Pocahontas, with Mel Gibson as the heroic adventurer John Smith. Christian would play Thomas, Smith’s keen young friend, bewildered by the greed of the settlers and the nature-loving ways of the Algonquins, who shoots Gibson’s love rival, inadvertently endangering his buddy. Next he’d audition for Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo And Juliet, so successfully he almost caused Luhrmann to cast him in the role of Mercutio, a part intended for a black actor.

As it was, Bale would stick with the classics, taking a more testing role in Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent. Set in 1890s London, this would see Bob Hoskins as the agent of the title, a part-time pornographer paid by Tsarist Russians to infiltrate anarchist cells and reluctantly getting involved in a terrorist bombing. Hoskins’ wife would be played by Patricia Arquette, a young girl who’s attached herself to Hoskins purely to gain protection for Christian, playing her younger brother, a 19-year-old with a mental age of 8. Following Prince Of Jutland, this was more proof that Bale intended to push himself to the limit as an actor, gladly playing retarded or severely disturbed individuals. Also featured in the movie were Jim Broadbent, Robin Williams and Gerard Depardieu – surely Bale was now the best-connected 21-year-old in Hollywood.

Christian’s status as the thinking girl’s crumpet would not be harmed by his next outing, Portrait Of A Lady, written by Henry James and directed by Jane Campion. Here Nicole Kidman would star as a rich American travelling in Europe in the 1800s, who’s tricked by one former Bale co-star – Barbara Hershey – into marrying another – John Malkovich – who only wants her for her money. Malkovich’s daughter, meanwhile, has fallen for Bale’s Edward Rosier, a fashionable fop and drama queen who daddy immediately rejects as a suitable suitor. Christian flies into an almighty strop and cannot hide behind his usual pretentious detachment as he’s genuinely fallen in love. Once a twit, now he’s desperate, passionate, and losing.

Interestingly, Bale’s role in Portrait Of A Lady was fairly short, only four or five scenes, but his character’s talked about so much by the leads that he seems more prominent. He would, though, be the main protagonist in his next film, an adaptation of Julian Barnes’ Metroland. Here he played Chris, a former photographer who enjoyed affairs, drugs and revolution in Sixties Paris but is now settled in the London suburbs of the late Seventies with straight-laced Emily Watson. When an old friend shows up, asking him him to give up his cosy life and join him on the road, and undermining his marriage, he’s forced to examine the choices he’s made and still might make, and question his own notions of freedom and happiness. It was slow stuff, but thought-provoking, and well-played by Bale and the ever-excellent Watson.

Far faster, and much looser would be Velvet Goldmine, Todd Haynes’ imaginative dive into the world of Seventies glam rock. Set up much like Citizen Kane, this saw Bale as an Eighties journalist conducting a series of interviews with friends, acquaintances and family to discover the truth about disappeared Bowie-style glam star Brian Slade, played by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers. At the same time the film would flash back to Bale’s grim northern upbringing, and a sexual and social awakening brought about by Slade’s taboo-busting antics. With Toni Collette as Slade’s American catwoman of a wife and Ewan McGregor as an Iggy Pop-like rock wildman, Bale would dig beneath the mystique and make sense of his own past, a past including rampant rooftop buggery with McGregor. Clearly, Bale was still prepared to take risks – sadly, very, very few actors hoping for continued Hollywood success would take part in such a scene.

Christian’s other release of 1998 would be yet another deliberately chosen test as he again took on the role of a mentally challenged youngster in All The Little Animals. Directed by Jeremy Thomas, a first-time helmsman though he’d produced projects by the likes of Roeg, Bertolucci and Cronenberg, this saw Bale as the slightly slow inheritor of a department store, a boy this time with a mental age of 12, fleeing from a cruel stepfather who’s trying to have the boy committed, thus taking control of the business. Out in the countryside, Christian is taken in by oddball hermit John Hurt who spends his days burying roadkill and sabotaging those who would catch or kill wildlife (echoes of Bale’s own environmentalist childhood here). As their relationship deepens, Hurt decides to adopt Bale, happiness beckons for both of them, but the step-father, a brilliantly brutal Daniel Benzali, has other ideas, cruelly decking the frail Hurt and threatening once more to have Bale incarcerated. It was a small film, but complex, fascinating and moving, dark but life-affirming. Interestingly, it was only the third time in 17 appearances to date that Christian was not in period costume.

But the costumes were out in full force for his next effort, Michael Hoffman’s all-star adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This saw Michelle Pfeiffer’s fairy queen Titania bewitched by Rupert Everett’s Oberon into falling for Kevin Kline’s Bottom, the mischief overseen by Stanley Tucci’s naughty Puck. As Demetrius, Bale would take part in the parallel human confusion, where he’s loved by Calista Flockhart but betrothed to Anna Friel, relationships that get ever more complicated as Oberon and Puck try to help out by squirting their love potion on all and sundry. Classic stuff, and Bale’s first genuine comedy, very different from his next part when he braved the role of the Messiah in the TV film Mary, Mother Of Jesus. This would be a mum’s eye view of the life of Jesus, with a modern take that saw Mary as an unwed mother in unforgiving times, witnessing her son’s miracles, crucifixion and return from the dead. The risk here (with Bale, as already seen, there is usually a risk element) was that the film was originally set to star Madonna, a casting sure to provoke intense controversy. Madonna, however, would pull out late in proceedings, being replaced by Pernilla August, the Swedish art-house star who’d recently featured in the Star Wars prequel The Phantom Menace. Bale, too, might have appeared in that monster smash, but had been considered too old for the part of Anakin Skywalker.

For years now Bale had been delivering fine perfomances but, content to disappear into his characters and serve his films rather than promote himself, he was still not recognised as a major talent. What he needed was a showy starring role, and he certainly got that in his next movie – American Psycho. Based on Bret Easton Ellis’s controversial best-seller, this concerned one Patrick Bateman, a New York yuppie obsessed with his body, clothes, gadgets, porn, top restaurants and the production quality of his business card. He also has a unusual hobby – murder – and he commits his crimes with no conscience at all, as if the selfishness of his lifestyle has pervaded every aspect of his being. It was an amazing role, and consequently of interest to most top-line stars. Though director Mary Harron had chosen Bale from the start and Christian was months into training, they were both bumped off the project when Oliver Stone and Leonardo DiCaprio (then, post-Titanic, the hottest property in the world) came calling. When their interest fizzled out (insanely, DiCaprio took The Beach instead) there was talk of David Cronenberg directing Brad Pitt, a delicious thought but one that came to nothing. So Harron was brought back and demanded her original Bateman be reinstated. When she was refused, Bale not being a big enough name, she threatened to walk and, finally, Christian got his job back. He would thus have been preparing for the role on and off for 18 months. And it showed.

What Harron wanted was a rare commodity, a young, good-looking actor who could disappear inside a character, however loathsome, and wouldn’t mind being hated by the audience. After his risk-taking elsewhere, Bale was clearly her man, and he proved it with a performance of breathtaking brilliance, revealing Bateman to be a monster, a preening poseur and painfully vulnerable to boot. He was hilarious when in bed with two prostitutes and striking Tarzan poses in the bed-side mirrors. Even some of the killing was funny. And there was real menace as he circled the delicate likes of Cloe Sevigny, Reese Witherspoon and his former Little Women belle Samantha Mathis.

American Psycho was a hit, taking $34 million worldwide on a budget on $8 million. Bale’s part in this was impossible to ignore and he zoomed up the Hollywood power-ladder. Things were changing. This was, after all, an actor who had never employed a publicist or indeed any other staff, other than his Canadian internet guy. And he got married, too, to Sandra Blazic, known as Sibi, a Chicago-born independent film producer of Yugoslav origins and a former model and make-up artist who’d worked as assistant to his close friend Winona Ryder (this is how they’d met, at one of Ryder’s barbecues). Interestingly, Bale’s father David also got married that year, 2000. And, considering the loud accusations of misogyny fired at Bret Easton Ellis on the release of American Psycho, it was incredible to think David’s new wife was none other than arch-feminist Gloria Steinem.

Personally, speaking it was looking good for Bale. Sibi would travel with him on location from now on, and the couple would be blessed with a baby girl in 2005. But there would be one major note of sadness when David, just three years into his new marriage, would die of a brain lymphoma. He was only 62.

Career-wise, American Psycho would be the making of Christian Bale, in terms of finance and recognition, at least. Early footage from the movie had been seen by the producers of a new update of blaxploitation classic Shaft, and Bale was hired to play Walter Wade Jr, a smarmy rich man’s son involved in drugs and vice, who murders a black kid and skips the country after gaining a dodgy bail, incensing Samuel L Jackson’s titular tough cop. When Bale returns to America, Jackson comes after him and the action heats up. With Bale’s Velvet Goldmine co-star Toni Collette as the waitress witness to his crime, and Jeffrey Wright as a drugs kingpin with whom Bale shared some memorable scenes, the movie was a sizeable hit. It would lead Christian into another major production, an adaptation of Louis De Bernieres bestseller Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. Here he’d play Greek fisherman Mandras, engaged to local doctor’s daughter Penelope Cruz (daddy being played by his former co-star John Hurt). As WW2 rages, Christian decides to join the Greek army and battle the invading Nazis, leaving Cruz to gradually fall for Nicolas Cage, the leader of an Italian holding force on their little island. Again he did a good job, as an ill-educated but passionate workman, but the movie lacked heart – many arguing that this was because much of the book’s interest lay in the parallel tale of Mandras’s war-time struggles and revelations, a tale the movie ignored completely.

2002 would be a busy year in terms of Bale releases. First would come Laurel Canyon, where Bale he’d play an uptight Harvard psychiatry student who takes his biologist girlfriend (Kate Beckinsale, his princess bride in Prince Of Jutland) to Hollywood, to stay at the home of his mother, Frances McDormand, a free and easy record producer. They arrive, however, to find McDormand still ensconced and enjoying top-notch nookie with a much younger British rock star, Alessandro Nivola. Naturally, they’re horrified by the prevailing laissez-faire attitudes to pretty much everything, but Beckinsale is gradually seduced into joining McDormand and Nivola while Bale gets it on with a sensual Natascha McElhone, a colleague at the psychiatric hospital. It was interesting stuff, if a little over-written, and dominated by another exceptional performance by McDormand.

For the rest of the year it would be futuristic action all the way. Reign Of Fire, set in 2020, would see the Earth dominated by giant fire-breathing dragons, with Mankind driven underground. Christian would play Quinn Abercromby, reluctant leader of the resistance, who’s tortured by the fact that it was he, years before, who inadvertently released the dragons from their subterranean cavern, causing the death of his mother (the wonderful Alice Krige) and the subjugation of Humanity. Desperate to preserve the lives of his people, he exercises caution in all things, thus coming into direct conflict with heroic dragon-slayer Matthew McConnaughey who just wants to get out there and kick scaly ass.

Where Reign Of Fire was an expensive B-movie, Equilibrium was like Brave New World choreographed by Jet Li. Set after WW3, this saw a society where, in order to end all wars, every citizen is taking the emotion-dampening drug Prozium. To ensure that no one gets excited, the people are watched over by a police group called the Clerics, empowered with the right to kill any Sense Offenders. Bale would play top Cleric John Preston, wholly dispassionate even when his own wife is incinerated. But he has a secret failing, he loves poetry, and his hidden feelings gush illegally forth when he meets and falls for Emily Watson (earlier his wife in Metroland). It was a fascinating premise, but the strong anti-totalitarian message got a tad buried under the weight of all the gunfights and martial arts extravaganzas. The bodycount was high at 236, with Christian singlehandedly accounting for 118 of them.

As Equilibrium, Reign Of Fire and Shaft all failed to reach massive audiences, Bale remained well-thought-of but was still not a household name. He also claimed to be depressed, feeling that in taking Reign Of Fire and Equilibrium he had somehow betrayed his thespian vocation. That would all change come 2004 when he stunned art-house crowds in The Machinist and was announced as the next Batman. The Machinist was a tough project, for which Bale rather dangerously dropped down to 120 pounds. Here he played an insomniac factory worker, disliked by his fellow workers for his rigid rule-following, horribly lonely and troubled by his own imaginings. He’s drawn to two women, one a waitress at an all-night diner, the other a hooker (Jennifer Jason Leigh, a good match for the intense Bale), both of whom show him kindness. But can they save him before his sense of reality totally deserts him?

The Machinist saw Bale, by now well-practised in the art of playing the oddball, victim or outsider, at his very best. Somehow he drew us into the dark and claustrophobic world of Trevor Reznik (named after Trent Reznor, of the supreme goth band Nine Inch Nails) and made us care. The press went crazy but Christian, still very, very keen to protect his anonymity, kept his interviews to a minimum.

After lending his voice to a sorceror in the animated fantasy Howl’s Moving Castle, he at last hit the big time with Batman Begins, with which director Christopher Nolan hoped to breathe new life into the franchise. This would concentrate on the early years of Bruce Wayne, from the traumatic murder of his parents, though his far-Eastern schooling in the ways of war to his transformation into the Caped Crusader and return to a crime-plagued Gotham City. Liam Neeson would play his teacher, Katie Holmes his love interest and his old hero Gary Oldman would appear as his friend in justice, the young Commissioner Gordon.

2005 would bring more accolades for his efforts in Terrence Malick’s The New World, where Bale visited the Pocahontas story for the second time. Here he’d play John Rolfe, the first man to successfully export tobacco from America, as he helped build up the Jamestown settlement and tried to come to acceptable terms with the native tribes of overlord Powhatan. The movie would deal primarily with the love story of Powhatan’s daughter Pocahontas and John Smith, an adventurer played by Colin Farrell, but it would be Bale who’d marry her, a marriage that would sadly crumble. Very different would be Bale’s next effort, Harsh Times, written and directed by David Ayer, who’d hit big with Training Day. Here he’d play a shaved-head army rangers veteran back from Afghanistan, riding around LA and raising hell with his screw-up buddy Freddy Rodriguez. Their friendship would be tested, though, when Christian is given a job by the DEA.

As for the future, Bale has been working with legendary director Werner Herzog on a dramatized version of Herzog’s documentary Little Dieter Needs To Fly, the true tale of a German so obsessed with flying (shades of Bale in Empire Of The Sun) that he joined the US Airforce, fought in Vietnam and was held in a Laos POW camp (more shades of Empire). Two things are sure, though. One is that he will continue his tough and risk-laden struggle to be accepted as one of Britain’s finest screen actors. The other is that he’ll keep getting the roles to do it. The Baleheads just won’t have it any other way.

Sourced from IMDB.

Finest Moment of the Butcher getting the BBC to retract that Christian was english and not welsh


Sean Bean- One Of Yorkshires Finest

March 11, 2008


He was born Shawn Mark Bean on the 17th of April, 1959, in Sheffield. His dad, Brian, was a steel plater with his own business. His mother, Rita, was a secretary, so the family was not particularly poor. There would be a younger sister, Lorraine. Young Sean was a headstrong type, set on getting his own way and sometimes letting his anger and disappointment get the better of him. One story sees him as a youngster, making paper shapes with his cousin. When his playmate wouldn’t give him the scissors, an enraged young Sean smashed a glass door, a long shard of glass embedding itself in his leg. There was blood everywhere, he was raced to hospital. They saved the leg, but he still carries a savage scar, which he jokingly claims was caused by a shark.

For a while after the accident, Sean couldn’t walk properly – a very bad thing as all he wanted was to play football for his local heroes Sheffield United (not that having one leg necessarily disqualifies you from their First Team, you understand). Throughout his years at Brook Comprehensive, and growing up in Handsworth, football was his obsession, his life. He played inside right for the school team. But, as he came to realise how hard the training would become if he really took the sport seriously, he gradually became more a supporter than a player. So keen he was that in 1990, on the day Sheffield United won promotion, he had 100% Blade tattooed on his left shoulder (United’s nickname being The Blades – the town being a stainless steel provider.

Sometimes there would be trouble. Sean had led a local gang called The Union who were in a perpetual war with neighbours The Firm. There was the occasional scrap, but no weapons. At the football too there were confrontations, a bit of argy-bargy, and Sean was not one for backing down. Sometimes the police would keep him and his friends away from rival factions, but there were never any charges. Indeed, Sean was only ever charged once, with ABH (plus a £50 fine), and that was later when he punched out a fellow who tried to stop him gatecrashing a party.

At 15, Sean made a decision to channel his aggression more positively. His dad had won a couple of awards for boxing while in the Army, and now Sean took up the noble art of fisticuffs, at the Croft House club. For two years he worked out here, cleaning up considerably. From a young age, he’d been a smoker and a drinker. Now he (temporarily) quit the weed and drank only milkshakes.

Meanwhile, in 1975 and aged 16, he left school, armed with only two O-Levels (in Art and English – subjects in which, for some reason, he naturally excelled, and which would both serve him well). His footballing future now a no-no, he had no idea what to do, his indecision and continual mind-changing getting him a family rep for flightiness. He sold cheese in a supermarket, shovelled snow in the winter, eventually all he could do was go weld for his dad. It was a safe option. No chance of hearing the crowds baying his name, but he’d be OK.

But something in Sean rebelled against this easy progress. While on a day release welding course at Rotherham College of Arts and Technology, he came across an arts class in progress and felt his earlier creative fires immediately rekindled. He enrolled at Granville College but left at lunchtime on Day One, horrified by the place, or maybe just not sure of what it was he really wanted.

Sean was sure his future lay somewhere in the arts and, in September 1979, began a Fine Arts foundation course back at Rotherham College. And, near-instantly, he stumbled upon his vocation by coming across a drama class. THIS was it. His family believed it to be another fad, his friends began to question his sexuality, but Sean was undeterred. For the first time outside of football, he had found something to which he could truly devote himself.

Sean’s acting tutor at Rotherham recalls being “astounded at the quality and pace of his development” and, with his stubborn determination here matched by a natural aptitude, his progress WAS incredible. At college he played in Arsenic And Old Lace and The Owl And The Pussycat, also facing the public by performing in Cabaret and A Murder Has Been Arranged at Rotherham’s Civic Theatre. Within six short months, he had auditioned for and won a scholarship to RADA, where he began his formal training in the spring of 1981. On April 11th, he also finally married his childhood sweetheart, hairdresser, Debra James (the girl to whom he’d lost his virginity). Things were looking good.

At RADA, Sean enjoyed an all-round stage education. He debuted in Fear And Miseries Of The Third Reich, then moved through King Lear, Twelfth Night, Julius Caesar and The Merry Wives Of Windsor to The Pajama Game and Three Sisters. He was Agamemnon on The House Of Atreus and McMurphy (Jack Nicholson‘s character) in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. An outstanding student, he won a silver medal for his performance as Pozzo in his graduation play, Waiting For Godot.

1983 saw Sean on his way. He performed at RADA and Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre, and in May made his professional debut, as Tybalt in a production of Romeo And Juliet at Newbury’s Watermill Theatre (as Shaun Behan). There was also a TV debut, in an advert for Barbican no-alcohol lager (ugh!). The next year brought sporadic work. He had a small part in the TV drama Punters, about Seventies Yorkshire, and a short movie, Samson And Delilah. Then he appeared in The Bill and in his first TV movie proper, the airforce drama Winter Flight.

1985 saw a real change in fortune. Performing in Deathwatch at the Young Vic, then various roles at the Young Writers’ Festival at the Theatre Upstairs, Sean’s abilities were noted by The Theatrical Powers That Be, and he was invited to join the Royal Shakespeare Company for their 1986-87 season. He remained with the company till early 1988, playing at Stratford, London and Newcastle in productions of Romeo And Juliet, Fair Maid Of The West, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Weirdly, for an ex-semi-hooligan, he also found himself in Derek Jarman’s Caravaggio, as Ranuccio, a streetwise gambler the artist Caravaggio obsesses over, hires as a model then murders. He’d also turn up in Jarman’s War Requiem.

Great things were afoot. His marriage with Debra had not worked out (though Debra still visits Sean’s mum), but he was now in a relationship with Melanie Hill, also an alumnus of RADA. Hill, having appeared in Auf Wiedersehen Pet, would find fame as Aveline Boswell in the Liverpool-set sitcom Bread, then move on to Shopping and When Saturday Comes (both with Sean), Cardiac Arrest and, later, Hot Money with Caroline Quentin, and Johnny Depp‘s From Hell. She would bear Sean two daughters, Lorna and Molly. Sean also secured his first big screen role, in the Newcastle-set thriller Stormy Monday. Here he played a janitor at a nightclub owned by Sting. Sting being pressured into selling up, Sean took on the role of protector, then fell for Melanie Griffith, an escort working for US boss-man Tommy Lee Jones. Sean certainly held his own against these Hollywood heavyweights, and did so again up against Richard E. Grant in the madcap satire How To Get Ahead In Advertising.

Now he was busy, very busy. And his work seemed strangely double-headed. There was a strong connection with Ireland, with Sean either playing an Irishman or an Englishman in Ireland, in Troubles, In The Border Country and the follow-up to Gone With The Wind, Scarlett. And he proved a favourite in period dramas like Catherine Cookson’s The Fifteen Streets, Black Beauty, Lorna Doone and Clarissa. Both “genres” served him exceptionally well. The “Irish” thing led to him playing Richard Harris’s bull-headed son in The Field, and Harrison Ford’s terrorist enemy in Patriot Games (he actually carries a scar from where Ford hit him above the left eye with a boat-hook in the final fight sequence – he required eight stitches). And the “period” thing saw him hit the headlines as the sexy groundsman Mellors, servicing Joely Richardson in Ken Russell’s remake of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Bean tells the story of how the couple were asked to frolic naked across a field. Fear not, said Russell, there’s a ten-foot wall around us – no one will see. So they frolicked naked, only to be mortified as a packed double-decker bus sailed past.

Sean’s past serves him well in period pieces. His home life and RADA training taught him gentility, while his rough edges make him seem barely constrained by the civilities and conventions of the time, adding to his appeal. Also, he can tap easily into that old anger of his, making him genuinely convincing as a warrior or firebrand. No surprise then that he should break through as a soldier rising through the ranks in the Peninsular War.

It could have been so different. The part of Richard Sharpe, star of Bernard Cornwell’s hit series of novels, was intended for Paul McGann, a success in The Monocled Mutineer. But McGann suffered a timely accident and in stepped Bean to take the role of the Napoleonic hero. First came Sharpe’s Rifles and Sharpe’s Eagle, in 1993. There would be a further three productions each year till 1997, each of them massively popular, making Sean one of the UK’s most beloved TV personalities. The occasional injury was easy to bear – like the time Sean and Alice Krige (as the Marquesa Dorada) galloped down a hill and both fell off their horses into a shallow stream. The director thought it looked great, so he ignored their pain and embarrassment and left it in.

In the meantime, he raised his cinematic profile too. He cemented his rep as a particularly dastardly villain by shining as Alec Trevalyan, Agent 006, in Goldeneye. Could James Bond stop him from destroying London with a big nuclear pulsing thing? Then came a perhaps more unlikely scenario in When Saturday Comes, where Sean played a hard-drinking brewery worker who dreams of scoring the winner for Sheffield United in the Cup Final and – no WAY! – does. Next he was excellent as Count Vronsky, Sophie Marceau’s dashing lover in a remake of the tragic tale of Anna Karenina, and stood out as Spence, a freelance weapons expert and agent-type hired alongside Robert De Niro in Ronin.

Though all was going swimmingly in his working life, Sean’s private life was once again in uproar. His well-known love of football and “bit of rough” image had made him a favourite of the New Lad magazines, and he reportedly partied fairly hard. His marriage with Melanie Hill did not survive this period, and in 1997, at Hendon Registry Office, he wed Abigail Cruttenden, the actress who’d played Sharpe’s lover, then wife over the latter few episodes (and had appeared in Anna Karenina). Together they had a daughter, Evie Natasha, but by 2000 their relationship was already over.

Release-wise, it appeared as if the 2000s began badly for Sean. He turned up in Essex Boys, but that was it for the opening year of the millennium. However, he’d actually been extremely busy, and 2001 took him to new peaks of fame. First, he played yet another vile villain, this time kidnapping psychiatrist Michael Douglas’s daughter and demanding he wring some secrets from a catatonic woman in Don’t Say A Word. Then would come Boromir and Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings, a trilogy that would keep Bean at the pinnacle of fame for the next three years.

Naturally, this would allow him to deal in more interesting roles, rounding out his CV. After filming LOTR, next would come Tom And Thomas, where he played the supportive and encouraging foster father of a young boy who has an imaginary friend. Sean thinks the friend is just the boy’s way of dealing with the death of Sean’s wife, but in fact he’s the boy’s very real twin brother, on the run from a children’s home and some unscrupulous traders in flesh.

[Next would come another tough guy role in Equilibrium, a sci-fi oddity recalling Fahrenheit 451 and concerning a post-WW3 world where everyone is given compulsory doses of happy drugs to prevent further violence. Bean played a top Cleric, a policeman charged with rooting out and terminating Sense Offenders, his partner, Christian Bale, causing complications by falling for Emily Watson. Now with a firm foot-hold in America, Sean would move on to The Big Empty, a desert-set curio where debt-ridden actor Jon Favreau agrees to deliver a sealed suitcase to an outback town for $25,000 where Sean’s mysterious Cowboy is waiting. Favreau, though, misses his appointment, revealing Cowboy to be an increasingly crazy and wholly murderous son of a bitch.

Bean would now return to Blighty for a brief part alongside Ray Winstone and Helena Bonham Carter in the major historical drama Henry VIII. Here he would play Robert Aske, the popular Yorkshireman who led a rebellion against the King in opposition to his treatment of the Catholics. He’d then stick with period drama for a critically acclaimed run as Macbeth in London’s West End. But the big time was beckoning again, and they come little bigger than Wolfgang Petersen’s Troy, a $220 million epic that saw Sean line up beside Brad Pitt’s Achilles, Brian Cox’s Agamemnon and Peter O’Toole’s Priam. Here he was Odysseus, the cunning Greek who comes up with the notion of the Trojan Horse and brings about the downfall of Troy. After The Lord Of The Rings and Tom & Thomas, this was part of a purposeful Bean plan to avoid being typecast as a villain.

This couldn’t last, though, and soon he was back as a rotter in National Treasure. This saw Nicolas Cage as an archaeologist whose family has for generations been seeking loot hidden by George Washington and his buddies, clues to which are hidden in the US Constitution. Sean played a British adventurer who offers to help Cage but then reveals sinsiter intentions by breaking into the National Archives. Now Cage and museum curator Diane Kruger (Helen in Troy) must race to prevent this wicked limey from getting his evil way.

Bean would now provide the voice of the bad lion, Dark, in the major TV animation Pride. Then he’d move on to Barry, a classy British production that saw Rachel Weisz as James Miranda Barry, the first woman doctor who, being a woman, has to masquerade as a man.

Sean Bean now has yet another tattoo – the figure nine, written in Elvish on his right shoulder, marking him as an official member of the Fellowship Of The Ring. Where before he’d been a reliable and impressive villain, that movie made him a star. His efforts since has shown him to be a fascinating and ambitious actor. Somehow, the boy from Sheffield’s dreams have come true. He’s made it in the big world, on TV, onstage and the Silver Screen – he’s even played for the Blades. Does it GET any better than that?


Ray Winstone- The Man ( I had to say that or he’d have me)

March 11, 2008


Aside from its usual period dramas and flash, empty gangster films, the UK film industry has also managed to continue a longstanding tradition of cinema verite. This began with John Osborne and his emotionally charged kitchen-sink drama, and continued on through the tough and often controversial works of Mike Leigh and Alan Clarke. Today, the genre has been very much resuscitated by two movies in particular – Gary Oldmans Nil By Mouth and Tim Roth’s The War Zone. And the star of both, the man chosen to portray the strong, loyal, kind and utterly psychotic Late Nineties British Male? Ray Winstone – seemingly a lucky Cockney journeyman plucked from obscurity for no reason other than the fact that his face fitted. But this is far from true. Winstone has reached this peak by overcoming quite fearsome hurdles in a career stretching back 23 years. The guy is, quite literally, a fighter.

Raymond Andrew Winstone was born on February 19th, 1957, in Hackney, East London. The Winstones were originally from Cirencester – half of the family shifting to London, the other half to Wales. Moving via Plaistow to Enfield when young Ray was 7, his father (also Raymond) ran a fruit and veg business (he’s now a cabbie) while his mother, Margaret, had a job emptying fruit machines. Winstone recalls playing with his friends on bomb sites – until the nation heard the confessions of the Moors Murderers, and all that changed. Raymond was schooled at Edmonton County, which had changed from a Grammar School to a Comprehensive upon his arrival. He didn’t take to academic education, eventually leaving school with a single CSE (Grade 2) in Drama

Drama, he liked. His father would take him to the cinema every Wednesday afternoon (often falling asleep, having been up so early at the markets), and Winstone remembers his first cinematic experience, seeing 101 Dalmations and rushing towards the screen to berate Cruella de Vil. Later, he would witness Albert Finney in Saturday Night, Sunday Morning and the bug would bite – “I thought ‘I could be that geezer'”, he said later. Other major influences would be John Wayne and the menacing, unhinged characters of James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson. So, receiving extra tuition from the drama-teaching mother of a female schoolmate, he took to the stage, appearing as a Cockney newspaper-seller (what else?) in a production of Emile And The Detectives.

Another thing he took to was boxing. Known to his friends as Winnie, at home he was called Little Sugs (his dad already being known as Sugar – after Sugar Ray Robinson). At age 12, Winstone joined the famous Repton Amateur Boxing Club and, over the next 10 years, won 80 out of 88 bouts. At welterweight, he was London Schoolboy Champion of three occasions, fighting twice for England. The experience gave him a valuable perspective on his later career. “If you can get in a ring with 2000 people watching and be smacked around by another guy,” he said “then walking onstage isn’t hard”.

Deciding to pursue Drama, Winstone enrolled at the Corona School in Hammersmith. At £900 a term, it was expensive, considering the average wage was some £36 a week. And Ray was way too much of a rebel to make the most of it. Back then he was a skinhead, into ska and natty tonic suits. Once he turned up to ballet class in a leotard and bovver boots, another time he received an exam mark of zero for reciting passages from Julius Caesar in ripe Cockney. He did make his stage debut proper, in What A Crazy World at Stratford East, but he danced badly and sang terribly, leading his usually-supportive father to say “Give it up, while you’re ahead”.

Then came the crunch. Winstone was not popular with the school establishment, who considered him a bad influence. After some 12 months, he found that he was the only pupil not invited to the Christmas party and decided to take revenge for this slight. Hammering some tacks through a piece of wood, he placed it under the wheel of his headmistress’s car and blew out the tyre. For this, he was expelled. No problem, he wasn’t into it anyway. For a laugh and a farewell drink, he went up to the BBC, where his schoolmates were involved in an audition. Hanging around reception, he flirted with the receptionist and, for an even bigger laugh, wangled his way into an audition of his own. The audition was for one of the most notorious plays in history – Alan Clarke’s Scum – and, because Clarke liked his cocky, aggressive boxer’s walk, he got the part. Amazingly (also considering the part had been written for a Glaswegian), it seemed he was on his way to the top.

He wasn’t – yet, anyway. Due to its sickening violence and outraged condemnation of the borstal service (the government, of course, running that service AND the BBC), Scum was shelved indefinitely. Giving acting up as a bad lot, Winstone retired, working on fruit stalls and as a sales rep. Then, suddenly, Scum was un-shelved. Or rather Clarke managed to get it re-shot as a movie. Winstone was called in again, this time by producer Davina Belling, to re-play the bully Carlin. This led to a part in The Who’s Quadrophenia, and the Belling-produced That Summer – a kind of punky coming-of-age flick set by the seaside. On location in Torquay (in 1979), Winstone met Elaine. They married, had two kids – Lois, born in 1982, and Jaime, born three years later – and, unusually in showbiz, are still married to this day.Still, times were hard. Winstone was bankrupted by the Inland Revenue before his marriage, and again soon afterwards. His near-religious refusal to worry saw him through, as it would his occasional run-ins with the police. Winstone’s face and carriage might win him regular roles as a villainous hard man, but they also attract the attention of the law. As a kid, he was arrested on sus on several occasions. Later, returning from filming an episode of Bergerac on Jersey, he was stopped on suspicion of gun-running. And, a couple of years after that, he spent 72 hours in a Leeds jail, having been “identified” by a member of the public who’d seen an identikit picture of a criminal on Crimewatch UK.After a short run in the TV series Fox, and a role in All Washed Up (alongside Diane Lane, Laura Dern and a hosts of real-life punks like Fee Waybill, Steve Jones, Paul Cook and Paul Simonon), Winstone got another big break, being cast as Will Scarlet in the Jason Connery-starring series Robin Hood. He proved immensely popular and enjoyed the role, considering Scarlet to be “the first football hooligan” – though he was not so keen on the dubbed German version, which had him sounding like a “psychotic mincer”. But once the show was over, the parts dried up. He got involved in co-producing Tank Malling, starring Connery, Amanda Donohoe and ex-Page 3 girl Maria Whittaker, and scored a few TV parts – over the years he’s appeared in all manner of shows, including The Sweeney, The Bill, Boon, Fairly Secret Army (as Stubby Collins), Ever Decreasing Circles, Murder Most Horrid, Birds Of A Feather, Minder, Kavanagh QC, Auf Wiedershein Pet and Get Back (with the fledgling Kate Winslet) – but nothing to secure his future. He was increasingly drawn to the theatre, playing in Hinkemann in 1988, then Some Voices in 1994 and Dealer’s Choice and Pale Horse the next year.

And it was in the theatre that it all came good. Winstone was asked to appear in Mr Thomas, a play written by his friend and fellow-Londoner Kathy Burke. The reviews were good, and led to Winstone being cast, alongside Burke, in Gary Oldman’s crushing, claustrophobic drama Nil By Mouth. As a cocaine-fuelled wife-batterer, he was lauded across the board, receiving a BAFTA nomination (he’d actually got one 17 years earlier, as Best Newcomer for That Summer). The psycho tough guy roles would come rolling in – in the likes of Face – but Winstone’s talent for portraying conflicted characters was also recognised, most notably by Tim Roth who cast him in The War Zone as a man who betrays wife Tilda Swinton with his own daughter and simply cannot see anything wrong in his actions. It’s worth noting that both Oldman and Tim Roth were fellow alumni of Alan Clarke. There was one distasteful episode, when Ray did a series of Pils ads where he played upon the phrase Who’s the Daddy, thus undermining the seriousness of both Nil By Mouth and The War Zone. Not good.

Winstone’s obvious toughness would also allow him to play decent men softened by love in romantic comedies like Fanny And Elvis and There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble. In Last Christmas, he even managed to convince as a dead father, now a trainee angel, who returns from heaven to help his young son cope with his bereavement. And he could play second fiddle to other tough guys, in Sexy Beast facing the comically overblown wrath of Ben Kingsley when he refuses to return from the Costa del Crime for one last job.

His career was still on the up. After a brief role alongside Kathy Burke again in the tragi-comic and almost universally slated The Martins, came Last Orders, directed by Fred Schepisi (of Roxanne fame), where he starred alongside the weighty likes of Michael Caine, Helen Mirren, David Hemmings and Tom Courtney. This saw three friends meeting up for the funeral of a fourth (Caine), with Ray playing Caine’s son, Vince. In flashback, the tale of their lives would be told, including that of Vince’s severely handicapped sister, a girl never accepted by her father. Before shooting began, Ray was fearful that meeting these actor-heroes (he loved the likes of Zulu and The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner) might turn out to be disappointing. Thankfully, his co-stars were as impressive as he’d hoped.

Next Ray would nab a prime part in Ripley’s Game, the follow-on piece to The Talented Mr Ripley. Here John Malkovich takes over from Matt Damon as the sinister Ripley, playing him as a cold-blooded terror. Ray’s an old friend who asks Ripley to murder some Russian enemies of his – Ripley agrees, as long as Ray persuades poor, innocent Dougray Scott to attempt the murders too (Scott being an enemy of Ripley’s). Ray is superb as the cajoling thug, showing no mercy in bending Scott to his will. Then would come Lenny Blue, the sequel to Tough Love, and the short The Bouncer, finding real feelings in a tough job.

Also on TV, Ray would appear as Henry VIII in a six-part TV series, desperate to beget a son and battling to hold on to an unruly court and kingdom, his situation made all the worse by his inability to control either his wives or his own emotions. Alongside such heavyweights as Charles Dance, Joss Ackland, Sean Bean and Helena Bonham Carter, he put in an excellent performance, showing Henry as exuberant but also paranoid, suspicious and haunted by his own treacheries.

And, having been told by his dad all those years ago to give it up, his stage-work has improved immeasurably too, having in 2000 starred in To The Green Fields Beyond at the Donmar Warehouse – being directed by Sam Mendes, the man behind American Beauty. 2002 would see him at the Royal Court, as Griffin in The Night Heron, then two years later he’d join Kevin Spacey for 24 Hour Plays at the Old Vic, a series of productions that were written, rehearsed and performed in a single day.

Now internationally known, Ray was next chosen by Anthony Minghella to play Teague, the rough Home Guard boss in his civil war drama Cold Mountain. Empowered to execute Confederate deserters, he runs his outfit with relish, killing a mother’s sons before her eyes and also slaughtering a backwards boy. Not believing that Nicole Kidman’s lover Jude Law will return from the war, he sets his sights on winning both Kidman and her land, and proves a thoroughly unpleasant villain.

Perhaps inspired by Kathy Burke and Gary Oldman, Ray now decided to create his own features, setting up Size 9 and Flicks production companies with his long-time agent Michael Wiggs. The first effort would be She’s Gone, where businessman Ray’s young daughter disappears in Istanbul (though filming would be held up by unrest in the Middle East).

In the meantime, there would be more action in King Arthur, where Clive Owen’s Arthur was a Roman general leading Samartian horsemen during the occupation of Britain. Rome is falling, his henchmen are reaching the end of their terms of service and the Saxons are invading. Will he remain behind and lead the Brits in a battle for freedom? Ray would play Bors, one of Arthur’s key knights, in this frantic, romantic drama, produced by the ever-overheated Jerry Bruckheimer. More craziness would follow when Ray provided the voice of Soldier Sam in the long-awaited screen version of The Magic Roundabout.

2005 would provide a neat summation of Winstone’s status in the industry. First he’d skip off to Australia for The Proposition, a seriously gritty Outback tale where he’d play Captain Stanley, obsessed with civilising his new nation, who leaves the comfort of life with wife Emily Watson to hunt down three murderous outlaw brothers – Guy Pearce, Richard Wilson and Danny Huston. Capturing the first two, he strikes a deal with Pearce; hunt down and kill Huston or both he and Wilson will be executed. It was as twisted and violent as you’d expect from the pen of ex-rocker Nick Cave and Winstone was suitably merciless in his law-bringing.

Next would come a part in The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, intended to match the success of The Lord Of The Rings franchise. A massive worldwide hit, this would see his War Zone co-star Tilda Swinton bubble with frosty malice as Jadis, the White Witch, with Winstone lending his voice to Mr Beaver, brave enough to shelter the Pevensey kids but also smart enough to scurry away from danger. On TV – for Winstone would still devote time to TV, despite his burgeoning Hollywood reputation – there’d be Vincent, where he play a rough ex-cop-turned-private-dick leading a squad of maverick investigators. It wasn’t a particularly good series, its weak scripts hidden behind a torrent of swearing, but it was popular. The British public, it seemed, now took Winstone’s presence, like that of Helen Mirren, as a sign of high quality.

2006 would see Winstone stick to the same fecund course. Through his own Size 9 Productions he’d deliver the bloody Sweeney Todd, playing the butchering barber as a man destroyed by a traumatic childhood, suffering inner turmoil but killing without conscience. Also on TV would be All In The Game, where he’d play the presurised manager of a failing Premiership football team. Untypically, he’d go way overboard with his performance (and, again, his foul language). In fact, it was a fairly pointless role for Winstone at this stage of his career, and he surely only took it because, as a major fan of West Ham United, he wanted to experience life as a true insider.

On the Silver Screen, he’d still happily slip between the micro and the mega. For his Cold Mountain director Anthony Minghella, he’d pop up in Breaking And Entering, playing a curious cop investigating a burglery at architect Jude Law’s office (Law then doing some investigating of his own and winding up in a relationship with Bosnian refugee Juliette Binoche). Then would come another prestigious part, this time in Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, where cop Leonardo DiCaprio would infiltrate Jack Nicholson’s criminal gang and crook Matt Damon would sneak into the police. Nicholson would win huge plaudits for his psychotic and depraved display, and he’d be well backed by Winstone as his suspicious, vicious henchman Mr French.

Somehow – probably because Americans had been so impressed by Sexy Beast – Winstone had risen to unlikely Hollywood heights. And he’d maintain this position in 2007 when taking the title role, alongside Angelina Jolie and Anthony Hopkins, in Beowulf, where director Robert Zemeckis would recount the ancient saga using the same motion capture techniques he’d used to such success with The Polar Express. But Winstone, being Winstone, would remain resolutely indie, too, rejoining Nick Cave for the saucy British comedy Death Of A Ladies’ Man, where he’d be a travelling beauty products salesman preying on lonely women.

Having struggled so hard for so long, Ray Winstone’s feet are firmly on the ground. He lives with Elaine in Roydon, Essex, and keeps up the physical training, being a regular at Ricky English’s gym in Watford (English is the guy who trained Brad Pitt for his part in Guy Ritchie’s Snatch). He supports his children (in 2006 Jaime would star in the tough East End drama Kidulthood). And he loves music, sharing his dad’s love of crooners, but also enjoying the soul of Motown, Al Green, Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye, as well as punky London poets like Paul Weller, Madness and the late lamented Ian Dury.

Having taken a fearful battering in the middle rounds of his life, Little Sugs has come off the ropes swinging. Here’s one guy who WON’T be shouting “No mas”.

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