There's a wide gulf between the social sentiments of Our Friends In The North and the intrigues of the Elizabethan court, but CHRISTOPHER ECCLESTON can stride from one to the other.
Words: Anwar Brett
Christopher Eccleston is an actor for whom the work is about more than simply turning up and remembering the lines. He casts an uneasy shadow across his roles and seems at his best playing awkward characters. exuding passionate confusion in circumstances beyond his control. With chilling conviction. he evolved from the uptight accountant to psychopath in Shallow Grave and was a mournful figure as Jude. the downtrodden hero of Michael Winterbottom’s acclaimed film.
But. as impassioned and political as the man is. so the actor has had to come to terms with certain harsh truths. Actors need to work and. if the right role is not there waiting. other roles must be sought. Not that his neatly Machiavellian turn as the Duke of Norfolk in Elizabeth means he is selling out. but this most earnest but charming of actors recognises that it marks a watershed in his career.
‘I’d be lying if I told you this kind of ﬁlm is my first love.’ he states frankly. ‘Usually I’m more interested in things like Our Friends In The North and Hillsbomugh. contemporary issue-based dramas. But the bald fact is that I was out of work and needed a job. Actors have to go where the work is. and try and do something of quality that people respect. I thought it would be good for me to do something that
26 THE LIST 8—22 Oct 1998
'l’d be lying if I told you this kind of film is my first love. But the bald fact is that I was out of work and needed a job.’
\‘~ . . .
Not shallow, but grave: Christopher Eccleston in Elizabeth
was be a stretch. I had to do yet another accent for the role. and I’ve never really played people in power before. By contrast Jude was someone with no power. so I thought it was something that might improve me as an actor.‘
As Norfolk. Eccleston exudes charismatic menace. The film is based on the early life of Queen Elizabeth I, with Eccleston playing the prime mover behind the nobility’s discontent with the naive young queen. It is a role that might. more obviously. have been played by another actor. but the mere fact that he was considered for it by Indian director Shekhar Kapur appealed to him.
‘I thought he’d exercised a bit of imagination in asking me rather than the usual suspects. whoever they may be. There was also a certain freedom in the role. I felt it was important that if we’re to be impressed by what Elizabeth achieves throughout the film. the people she defeats should be formidable. So I set about making Norfolk a formidable. three- dimensional human being.’
Another formidable character on set was one Eric Cantona. playing the role of the French ambassador. In spite of being a devoted Manchester United fan. the usually confident actor found himself shy in the presence of ‘Le Roi’.
‘I didn’t actually have any scenes with him. but it was difficult for me to be in the same film as him.’ Eccleston smiles. 'I was there at Selhurst Park when he jumped into the crowd. and I was there when he clinched the Double for us at Old Trafford. I introduced myself to him on the set. and I found he was very shy. and very serious about what he was trying to do. I longed to talk to him about football. but I didn’t. and I regret it now. I hope he didn‘t think I was rude. I wasjust a little overawed by meeting him.’
Elizabeth opens in Scotland on Fri 23 Oct and will be reviewed next issue.
Lights, camera, action. . .
DANIELA NARDINI AND tantric sex. An intriguing combination that's just gone before the camera as shooting begins on Elephant Juice in London. The film, written by This Life's Amy Jenkins focuses on problems of commitment and cappuccinos amongst three thirtysomething couples living life in the global village. The cast includes Emmanuelle Béart, Mark Strong and Kimberly Williams.
EVERY ISSUE, IT seems, there's tales to tell of Scottish short films winning awards abroad, and today is no exception. In addition to the champs announced last issue at the Chicago International Film Festival, it should be noted that Graham Drysdale’s Lovely ran off with the Gold Hugo for the 'short narrative fifteen minutes and over’ category. Lovely has screened at five American festivals this year, winning awards at three (in addition to Chicago, it took the Best Student Drama at Aspen and a Jury Award at New York Expo). This means it is now eligible for an Oscar nomination.
ALSO AT CHICAGO, David Mackenzie’s California Sunshine was awarded the Golden Plaque in the same division as Lovely. Again this isn’t a one-off celebration: California Sunshine received First Prize at Cortinomettragio in Italy, Second Prize at Palm Springs and an Honorable Mention at Toronto. Mackenzie and producer Gillian Berrie's next collaboration, Somersault, recently secured National Lottery funding. Described as 'Nil By Mouth meets Absolutely Fabulous’, it shoots in December.
THE BAFTA SCOTLAND New Talent Awards return in December, showcasing the country's up-and- coming names in film and television. Producers, writers, directors, performers, technicians and composers proud of their new short films and programmes should note that the deadline for entries is Friday 23 October. Contact Matt Delargy on 0141 357 4317 for details.
Trunk call: Daniela Nardini will star in