The Best Actor and Actress: My Thoughts
Dateline: 12th November, 2000
Whilst the poll has been going on, I've kept quiet, even though a number of people have tried to draw me on who are my choices for best living actor and actress. Now all can be revealed!
Or, at least, I can reveal my indecision.
For my personal shortlist, I'll definitely go along with Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, and probably with Helen Mirren. But I'm sorry, fans: for me neither Emma Thompson or Kate Winslett make the cut. I would, however, definitely add Francesca Annis and, probably (or possibly?), Vanessa Redgrave. I couldn't miss out Paola Dionisotti and I rather think I'd want to include Juliet Stephenson.
All of my choices are extremely versatile - which is why I have some reservations about Redgrave: for me she tends to be Vanessa Redgrave most of the time - and they have superb technique (including Redgrave). They also all have a solid body of work behind them, which is one of the reasons I tend to reject Thompson and Winslett (particularly the latter), as not being experienced enough.
There are others whose work I admire greatly, but who are more limited in the parts they can play. Patricia Routledge is one such, and so is Julie Walters. Both are superb at what they do, but both only do what they do. Geraldine McEwan and Glenda Jackson more or less fit into this category, albeit in different fields, whilst actresses like Jennifer Ehle and Eve Best are like Thompson and Winslett: too young at the moment.
I think I would probably want to sneak in Zoe Wanamaker, but then I've also seen wonderful things done by Barbara Jefford and Janet Suzman.
But who is, for me, the best? Can I save that for later, please?
Of the men, the only one in the final poll list whom I may just have in my shortlist is Ralph Fiennes, and, to be honest, he is just a perhaps. Rickman is not, for me, a stage actor - he lacks the technique - and so he goes out on that count. Branagh is good, but not that good. He is, in many respects, a very conservative actor and has never given me that frisson that comes from inspired acting. As for Bean, he is, I think, limited, and Crawford (sorry fans!), although in many ways a better actor than many music theatre people, does not have that stamp of greatness on him.
I would have to add Ian McKellen. I wasn't keen on him in his younger days: I felt he was a bit flashy, to be honest. I saw him with Prospect doing Hamlet, Edward II and Richard II, and, although there were some brilliant touches, I found these performances a little bit... well, flashy is, yet again, the word that occurs. I saw him play Romeo to Francesca Annis' Juliet - both were far too old for the parts - but, whilst Annis convinced me she was a young teenager, I'm afraid McKellen only convinced me he was McKellen.
However I was bowled over by him in Jude Kelly's production of The Seagull: it was a performance of great subtlety, intelligence and maturity. So he makes my shortlist.
What about Derek Jacobi? I confess I have never seen him on stage, but his TV performances do impress, so he goes on the list.
Who else? Ian Holm, Michael Pennington, Albert Finney, Alan Bates... I've had discussions with one correspondent about Paul Scofield, but she didn't convince me. Alan Howard? On stage, yes, but he doesn't, for me, come over nearly as well in film. As for Hopkins, he is a film actor, and I find it very difficult to get Hannibal Lecter out of my mind. Possibly that's unfair: I don't know.
I might go for Robert Lindsay, but he wouldn't make the top six; nor would Peter O'Toole, for that matter. And if I had to include a character actor, I'd probably go for Alun Armstrong rather than, for example, Robbie Coltrane.
As for the younger generation, for me, they're still too young. I am sure Robert Carlyle will develop into a fine actor - he has all the makings - and I think, eventually, people will recognise that Joseph Fiennes is better than Ralph. As for the others, the Ewan McGregors and Jude Laws, still a little too limited to qualify for greatness.
NEXT >>My choice for the best