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25th June 2012

For some reason I have been getting quite a bit of fan mail lately. Maybe it’s all the social networking I have been doing for been doing the site much good, but for me it’s been a treat! Thank you everyone.

The film most people talk about of course is THE LION IN WINTER and needless to say it’s still very much alive in my mind, almost as if it were yesterday. The dynamic personalities of Katharine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole in combination was more than anyone could wish for. In fact I first heard of the film through the Director Val Guest, with whom I was working on ASSIGNMENT K with Stephen Boyd and Leo McKern. Val said that Hepburn and O’Toole were to do a period film together and there was bound to be a part for me...” a maid or lady in waiting”, said Val. Hah, well, little did he know, nor I, I hasten to add, that the part that I actually landed was a corker. I thought he must have made a mistake and that it would be Audrey Hepburn, not Katharine. How wrong was I. I did two film tests for the part, both with Peter O’Toole, who encouraged me greatly at the first one by saying “ I dont believe a word you are saying”, as I spouted words from the successful play I was in with Edward Fox. I blushed, I burbled and started again. This time he was more satisfied, but as my long hair completely obliterated my face in the howling wind, we did another test, this time in the studio. After it was over Peter virtually told me I had the part.

Was I thrilled...was I? In the face of the fierce competition from many of the best young actresses in the business at the time, this was an achievement indeed. I was taken to dinner by friend John Daly late of Hemdale (PLATOON, THE LAST EMPEROR), drank champagne and all that. That is often the best moment, when you learn that you have won the part, before all the hard work and nerves.

Of course the rest of the cast was terrific. Before we started, Peter told me that they had found a wonderful young actor to play Richard the Lionheart, “His name is Anthony Hopkins and he’s working at the National.” Of course I had never heard of him, nor the other actors who played “the boys” as they were called by Kate and Peter. Well we’ve heard of Tony now, what a great career he has had, but I always thought that “Richard” was one of his best performances and the lovely others: Tim Dalton, John Castle and Nigel Terry all went on to become major names in the industry.

It’s interesting... I went to a writing class here in Boise given by Lance Thompson, who has had a good career as a writer, script editor among other things and we were talking about character and he proposed that all characters have some essence of good in them and cited “Hannibal Lecter” as having a possibly good purpose in his mayhem. Needless to say I thoroughly disagreed and after a lively debate, we all agreed that it all comes down to what the motivation was for his murderous spree.

I am reading “The Dream of the Celt” at the moment, the semi biography of Roger Casement, Irish radical. It chronicles much of his life in the Belgian Congo and in Peru, where he was investigating the torture and cruelty to the natives as a result of colonisation and the world need for rubber. Well if we ever doubted that Satan stalks the world and that men can be completely evil, read this book. Hannibal Lecter does not need a motive for his madness, he is just plain wicked.

Exploring different people and their characters is one of the great pleasures of acting and now writing. Of course there is not much scope with so many of the action adventure films being made. However I do think that much of the success of the film THE AVENGERS, is that the Avengers were played by very good actors who found and defined their characters. They were not just plastic people, boring and insipid. If you’re making any film, good actors and good writing will get you there. I saw MOONRISE KINGDOM last week and was a bit bored and not engaged in the story. It should have been marketed as a children’s film, which it really is. The excellent actors : Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand and Harvey Keitel did their best with rather thin material, but I dont feel the film works and after all the hype, you come away from the theatre rather disappointed. And they are talking Oscars, all round!!!

That’s all for now dear friends.

All content copyright Jane Merrow