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28 April 2009

I have just landed a commercial, so I am happy. I had to go to the set today and discuss my hair, as the Producers wanted a few changes. It was good to be back in the filming environment again, I do my part tomorrow. I am also busy learning my lines for my part in ‘Comedy of Errors’, in which I play Emilia. I had forgotten how challenging it is to do Shakespeare and how hard it is to learn the lines. There’s only one way to do it and that’s endless repetition, just saying the lines over and over again, as my old friend Anthony Hopkins says. He is a brilliant preparer for whatever he does.

I met Tony a long time ago when we were doing "The Lion in Winter", it was his first film and he was clearly an outstanding actor, headed for a brilliant career. He adored making films and never really wanted to work in the theatre, which was a great disappointment to Laurence Olivier, who had eyed him up as a likely successor to him. Still we all have to make our choices and Tony never wavered from his.

He is also a brilliant mimic and used to keep us all in stitches with his impressions of Tommy Cooper, whom he loved (didn’t we all?) and we particularly loved him doing a scene from ‘Becket’, doing both parts of Becket and Henry as played by Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole – the anguished tones of Burton and the whiplash voice of O’Toole.

Tony loves the vulgarity of the theatre, just as Olivier, (I think,) did also. Remember Olivier in ‘The Entertainer’. Olivier’s genius was always hitting that fine mark between overacting and greatness and always finding that exact note of not going too far; just when you thought he was going over the edge into ham.

Actors can often take themselves all too seriously and it’s good to remind ourselves of where we came from – the hurley burley of the original travelling players, we were known as rogues and vagabonds! That was one thing I remember David Hemmings saying to me, it all starts to go wrong when actors begin to believe their own publicity.

I saw ‘State of Play’ last weekend with the brilliant Russell Crowe. I think he is probably an actor who doesn’t take himself too seriously, only the work. He gives a stunning performance and I recommend seeing it. Ben Affleck is also proving himself an excellent actor. I loved the film he directed ‘Gone Baby Gone’ and of course ‘Good Will Hunting’ is one of my all time favourite films. It is such an unusual film and the final scene with Matt Damon and Robin Williams never fails to move me to tears. I am a big Matt Damon fan too, I suppose partly because he and my son look rather like each other. But Damon is a thoughtful and incredibly hard working actor, one of those special ones. I liked ‘The Good Shepherd’, in which he was playing one of those parts that is almost impossible for any actor to play, that of a completely buttoned up person, who keeps so much inside, that it drives people away. It is so difficult to be on screen nearly all over the time yet having to give almost nothing away. Of course it doesn’t often garner enough plaudits in this age of audiences, who want actors to gush emotion and tears at every instant. I am one of the few people who did not like the scene in ‘The Queen’, where the Queen sees the stag. Helen Mirren was giving such a beautifully held together performance, which was so moving, I felt it was unnecessary – a sort of signal to the audience to say, ‘you see I really do have feelings’. We knew that and it struck a wrong note with me, but as I say, I am in a minority. Simplicity is also one of the qualities of Susan Boyle, she of the stunning voice who knocked us all for six on ‘Britain’s got Talent’. It was also her ease of deliverance, without embellishment, which was so moving. What a real star.

I went to lovely Wales this last weekend with friends and had a longish walk on one of the stunning beaches there, ate and drank far too much but had a great time. There really is nowhere quite like the UK for the beauty of the countryside. Well, that’s all folks. See you next time, which will probably be from Idaho, US of A. Jane

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