After the problems with ‘I’, this letter has more to offer, with all those Jones, Johnson, and Jackson surnames available. I will try to choose some of the less obvious, and leave you to add your own choices in the comments.
Starting today with a talented British actor who has worked on stage, screen and television. He also directs, and is one of the founders of The Royal National Theatre. Still working regularly at the age of 79, the credits of Sir Derek Jacobi are too long to list in full, but he will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the great actors of his generation. He first came to my attention playing Claudius, in the outstanding BBC adaptation of ‘I, Claudius’, in 1976. At the time, he was also a customer in my shop in London, and was a very nice man in every respect. To international readers, he might be best known for his film work, including ‘The Day Of The Jackal’ (1973), ‘The Odessa File’ (1974), ‘Henry V’ (1989), ‘Gladiator’ (2000), and ‘Gosford Park’ (2001). His most recent film roles are in the remake of ‘Murder On The Orient Express’ (2017), and ‘Tomb Raider’ (2018).
Glenda Jackson is a little difficult to warm to as a person. Outspoken and overtly political, she was a member of parliament until 2015, and came across as very self-assured and abrasive, not a bad thing in that job. But her acting skills are undeniable, and she has two Oscars and a crop of other awards to testify to that fact. She started acting in 1957, and received critical acclaim almost immediately, going on to great success on stage and in film, as well as appearing on television. In 1971, her role as Elizabeth the first in ‘Elizabeth R’ saw the series shown all around the world, and became the benchmark performance of that historical character. She played the same role in the drama ‘Mary, Queen of Scots’ (1971), opposite Vanessa Redgrave as Mary. Two films by Ken Russell gave her great roles in ‘The Music Lovers’ (1971), and ‘Women In Love’ (1969). She went on to star in over twenty more films, before entering politics.
Scarlett Johansson is an American actress who as well as being talented is also very good to watch on screen. I confess to a fondness for looking at her that makes it hard to be critical of her performances. But that said, she has been in some excellent films, and shown great talent in many of them. She is also an accomplished stage actress, winning a Tony Award for Best Actress in ‘A View From The Bridge’, in 2010. I spotted her in the excellent Indie film ‘Ghost World’ (2001), though she had been around for a long time before that. She played alongside the wonderful Thora Birch, and held her own in every scene. Then came the simply sublime ‘Girl With A Pearl Earring’ (2003), and her outstanding role in ‘Lost In Translation’ (2003). In 2013, she played an alien in the compelling film ‘Under The Skin’, and I literally could not take my eyes off the screen. At just 33, we can expect a great deal more from her, I’m sure.
Puerto Rican star Raul Julia had such a distinctive face and voice, as well as showing great talent in many roles. As he later became so famous in ‘The Addams Family’ films, it is easy to overlook his career before that. He was in ‘The Panic In Needle Park’ (1971), an underrated film starring Al Pacino, and ‘The Eyes Of Laura Mars’, (1978) with Faye Dunaway. He later starred alongside Terri Garr in one of my favourite films, ‘One From The Heart’ (1982), directed by Francis Ford Coppola, before appearing in the Oscar-winning film ‘Kiss OF The Spider Woman’, in 1985. In ‘Presumed Innocent’ (19900, he played Sandy Stern, opposite Harrison Ford. He died at the young age of 54, in 1994, leaving behind his unforgettable role as Gomez Addams as a great legacy.
Last up is British actress Geraldine James. She is close to my own age, so I feel I have grown up watching her career. Beginning in TV drama, she received the nomination for Best Actress BAFTA for the harrowing ‘Dummy’, in 1977. To this day still one of the best things I have ever seen on TV. More television credits here include ‘The Jewel In The Crown’, and ‘Band Of Gold’. Her film career has been long too, including ‘Gandhi’ (1982), ‘The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase’ (1989), ‘Moll Flanders’ (1996), and ‘Calendar Girls’ (2003). More recent roles have seen her appear in films as diverse as ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ (2011), and ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ (2016).