Monday, November 08, 2021

My brush with stardom

I've long been a fan of actor Brian Cox, now even more recognisable than before thanks to playing Logan Roy on the TV show 'Succession'. Whenever he has appeared in a film, in the past more often than not as a villain, he has brought something to some underwritten roles that only a good actor can bring.

The fact that he happens to be Scottish is immaterial. This is not some flag-waving exercise.

My appreciation began before Hollywood beckoned, however, before he was that indefinable thing - a star. It began when I spent the night with him.

Perhaps I should explain...

Back in the mists of time, when you and I were young, Maggie, I wanted to be an actor. I was a gangling youth living in East Kilbride, just outside Glasgow, with visions of glitz, glamour and glorious technicolour. I took acting classes and elocution lessons that were intended to berate the Glasgow out of my voice (they didn't take). I attended youth courses at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and with the Citizen's Theatre company. I was in school shows and amateur dramas.

And then I got my big break - a part with my friend Stan Leech in a BBC TV series called Sutherland's Law.

We were to play drunken thieves who may - or may not - have killed a young woman while driving a stolen car.

This was it. The big time beckoned.

Sure, it was only a small part with a couple of scenes, but everyone starts somewhere, right?

The filming took Stan and I to Oban on the west coast of Scotland. The star was Ian Cuthbertson, a big deal on British TV back then, but we never met him, although I did hand him his jacket in the hotel foyer. 

One of our scenes was in broad daylight as we studied damage to the front of the car. It was a sheep we hit, said Stan (or rather his character). I'm not so cure, I said. You were too drunk to remember, said Stan.

We pulled it off in a few takes. Cut, move on, said the director. You were wonderful, said the assistant director, are you sure you have never been on camera before? 

We preened, even though deep down we knew he was only doing his job and giving us some positive reinforcement.

Our other scene was a night shoot, when we steal the car and drive off at speed. I had to be in the passenger seat for that bit, with a member of the crew being a stunt driver, swerving onto a country road at speed and weaving off into the night. That was an experience. But before we reached that we had to wait around while other things were shot.

And that's  how I met Brian Cox.

He was that week's guest star, if memory serves playing a police officer who was having an affair with the young woman. He, too, had some night scenes so he was with the rest of us in the minibus and seemed to take on the mantle of unofficial morale officer. It can get cold in the highlands at night and there is a lot of sitting around on a set unless you are one of the crew. Even the constant hot food and beverages failed to keep up the spirits so Mr Cox kept us all entertained with a constant flow of jokes and stories. 

Frankly, he was brilliant. Approachable, likeable and affable. 

He even signed my application to join Equity, the acting union. I think he may well have proposed me for membership, although it didn't do me much good as I didn't get in.

That was one of the things that finally ended any hopes of becoming the next James Bond.

I see Brian Cox has an autobiography out. I've not yet read it but I wonder if there's a passage where he met an aspiring actor in the wilds above Oban and signed his union application.

And does he wonder, whatever happened to whatsisname?

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