Not rushing through this one, so now up to ‘H’. Please add your own favorites in the comments as usual.
British actress Sally Hawkins may be best known to many for her recent role in ‘The Shape of Water’ (2017). (Which I have not seen yet) It gained her an Oscar nomination, and worldwide acclaim. But long before that, she was a stage actress in the UK, also appearing in successful television series and British films, notably working with Mike Leigh on some occasions. In 2002 she appeared in the TV adaptation of ‘Tipping The Velvet’, and later starred in the historical drama series ‘Fingersmith’, also based on a novel. In 2007, she received the Best Actress award for her role as Anne, in Jane Austen’s ‘Persuasion’. Her film work includes ‘Vera Drake’ (2004), ‘All or Nothing’ (2002), and the wonderful ‘Happy Go Lucky’ (2008), all directed by Mike Leigh. She later starred in ‘Made In Dagenham’ (2010), and was nominated for many awards for Woody Allen’s ‘Blue Jasmine’ (2013). Still just 42, she continues to work in film, theatre, radio, and television, and it feels like her career has just got going.
English actor Bob Hoskins looked a little like me, and sounded very much like me too. So I always had a fondness for his style, and sometimes gruff manner. He came from a Romany Gipsy background, and was brought up in North London. Starting on stage in 1968, he was soon noticed, and received an offer to star in the landmark TV series ‘Pennies From Heaven’ in 1978. This superb drama from Dennis Potter made him well-known in Britain, and in 1980, he was cast as the gangster Harold Shand in ‘The Long Good Friday’, alongside Helen Mirren. This low-budget film was not expected to do so well, but became one of the iconic British films of the 1980s, attracting international attention for Hoskins. After supporting roles in another seven films, he once again starred in a British gangster film, playing a small-time crook in the employ of a gang boss portrayed by Michael Caine. ‘Mona Lisa’ (1986) also starred Cathy Tyson, as the cynical prostitute he determines to save from her seedy life. This role gained him no less than eleven best actor award nominations, and he won nine of them, including the BAFTA, and Golden Globe. His later work included ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ (1988), ‘Mermaids’ (1990), ‘Nixon’ (1995), and his last film ‘Snow White And The Huntsman’ (2012). He died in 2014, at the age of 71.
Craggy-faced American Philip Baker Hall is now 86 years old. He has the distinction of starring in one of my all-time favourite modern American films, ‘Hard Eight’ (1996). But of course, he has done much more than that. Beginning his career in Broadway and off-Broadway productions as early as 1960, he later moved to working in television, then appearing in his first film in 1970. His career was mostly playing character parts and cameos, often uncredited, but I never failed to notice how he could lift an otherwise mundane film whenever he was on screen. He continued to appear in film after film, usually in tiny roles, and still frequently receiving no named credit for his part. I could not understand how so distinctive and talented an actor was so constantly overlooked by the film industry. ‘Air Force One’ (1997), ‘Boogie Nights’ (1997), ‘The Truman Show’ (1998), ‘Enemy Of The State’ (1998), ‘Magnolia’ (1998), the list goes on and on. Still making films as recently as 2017, he may well be the best actor to ever be ignored by the system.
Sir Nigel Hawthorne was a British actor and star of stage, screen, and television. He could turn his hand to great comedy, chilling villainy, and historical drama. His long career began on stage, in 1950, and his first film role was in 1958. For many years, he dominated the TV schedules in Britain, appearing in such distinguished series as ‘Edward and Mrs Simpson’, ‘A Tale Of Two Cities’, and ‘The Barchester Chronicles’. From 1980-1988 he appeared in every episode of the award-winning comedy series ‘Yes Minister’, playing the devious and cynical civil servant, Humphrey Appleby. Major film roles included ‘Firefox’ (1982), ‘Gandhi’ (1982), ‘Amistad’ (1997), and ‘The Winslow Boy’ (1999). In 1994, he starred opposite Helen Mirren as King George, in ‘The Madness of King George’, winning the BAFTA for Best Actor, and was nominated for an Oscar too. He died in 2001, aged 72. A sad loss to British acting.
My last choice today is very well known, but I have to feature him because he is just too good to leave out. Londoner Tom Hardy is only forty years old, yet he is already a huge star, and has made a big impact on television, and in numerous film roles. He started out on TV, in the marvellous ‘Band of Brothers’, and later starred in period dramas such as ‘The Virgin Queen’, ‘Oliver Twist’, and ‘Wuthering Heights’. His first feature film part was in Ridley Scott’s ‘Blackhawk Down’ (2001), then in 2008, he delivered an unforgettable performance in the prison drama ‘Bronson’, playing the true-life British criminal of that name. He went on to appear in ‘Inception’ (2010), ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011), and ‘Lawless’ (2012). In 2014, he was in five films, including ‘Child 44’, ‘Mad Max Fury Road’, and playing both of the notorious Kray Twins, in the wonderful ‘Legend’. In 2015 he co-starred in ‘The Revenant’, and played a pilot in ‘Dunkirk’ (2017).
Meanwhile, he was also starring in the superb BBC TV drama ‘Peaky Blinders’, and the sublime ‘Taboo’, a period drama series that he also created. I have no doubt that he will be be regarded as being one of the finest actors of his generation.