Saturday, June 1, 2013

Happy Birthday Brian Cox!

Picture Legend
1. Mr. Cox
2. Youngster
3. As Dr. Hannibal Leckter in “Manhunter”
4. With David Bradley in “King Lear”
5. In “Braveheart”
6. In “Rob Roy”
7. In “Chain Reaction”
8. In “Rushmore”
9. “Super Troopers”
10. In “X2“
11. In “Troy”
12. “The 25th Hour”
13. With Nicole
14. Brian Cox

   Today it is my great pleasure and honor to give a great big happy birthday shout out to one of my favorite actors... the original Hannibal Leckter himself, Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, Brian Cox.
   Brian Denis Cox was born at a very early age as a small infant in Dundee, Angus, Scotland, the city of "jute, jam and journalism."  A descendant of Irish immigrants to Scotland (“I'm 100% Celt. In fact, I'm directly related to the progenitor of the high kings of Ireland, Niall of the Nine Hostages”), Brian is the youngest of 5 children to  Charles McArdle Campbell Cox,  a butcher and shopkeeper, who died when  he was eight years old, and Mary Ann Guillerline (née McCann),  a spinner of  jute, which is a shiny vegetable fiber that can be spun into coarse, strong threads.
   Brian’s mother suffered from frequent bouts of emotional trauma, so after his dad died he was effectively raised by his four elder sisters and aunt, which is why he’s such a sissy today. If you need some knitting done, take it to Brian.
   Anyway, Brian was a poor student barely achieving passing grades. Fortunately he became interested in acting and joined the Dundee Repertory Theatre when he was 14, and "knew I belonged there from day one." He made his acting debut in Winnie-the-Pooh’s creator, A. A. Milne’s comedy “The Dover Road.”
   Brian continued his studies after being accepted into the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. In 1965 he made his first television appearance in the anthology series, “The Wednesday Play.” He made his London stage debut in a Birmingham Repertory Theatre’s production of "As You Like It,"  which is one of those Shakespeare things, in June of 1967 at the Vaudeville Theatre.
   In 1968 he appeared in the television play “The Year of the Sex Olympics,” written by Nigel Kneale, best known as the creator of the character Professor Bernard Quatermass, who would appear in several science fiction entities. “The Year of the Sex Olympics,” depicts a world of the future where a small elite control the media, keeping the lower classes docile by serving them an endless diet of lowest common denominator programs... and pornography.
   How farfetched.
   Brian’s first feature film performance was in 1971‘s "Nicholas and Alexandra," as the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky. He concentrated on his London stage career over the next decade and a half while continuing work in television and films, working on many productions a year, including "Peer Gynt" and "Danton's Death" and earning a reputation for his starring roles in "Julius Caesar" and "Macbeth," which are more Shakespeare things.
   “I was living in London and I thought, "There's nothing here for me anymore". I don't want to become this actor who's going to be doing this occasional good work in the theater and then ever diminishing bad television. I thought I'd rather do bad movies than bad television because you get more money for it.”
   In 1975 he appeared with Alan Bates in “In Celebration.” In 1978 he won acclaim for his performance as King Henry II of England in the television serial “The Devil’s Crown.” In 1985 he took a trip over here to the U.S. and made his Broadway debut in Eugene O’Neill’s “Strange Interlude.”
   Eugene O’Neill did not know how to write a short play. “Strange Interlude,” is over 4 hours long. Can you imagine memorizing 4 hours worth of lines? I can’t. But Brian Cox did. His success in that role brought him to the attention of American producers, and in 1986 he appeared in his first American feature film, in Michael Mann’s 3rd movie, “Manhunter,” a rendition of Thomas Harris’s book “Red Dragon,” in which the character of Dr. Hannibal Leckter first appeared. Brian played Hannibal (The film also stars future CSI lead William Petersen, and the lovely Joan Allen, who would appear with Brian 18 years later in “The Bourne Identity,” and “The Bourne Supremacy”).
   As in the book, Hannibal only makes an abbreviated appearance in “Manhunter,” as Anthony Hopkins would 16 years later in Brett Ratner’s rendition of “Red Dragon,” cleverly titled “Red Dragon.” The character of Hannibal Leckter would not gain worldwide prominence until Anthony Hopkins took over the role (Gene Hackman was first considered for the role. Michelle Pfeiffer was first considered for the role of Clarice Starling, but both withdrew as they became uncomfortable with the screenplay’s evolving content, and because their both little sissies who like to knit) in 1991's “Silence of the Lambs,” in which Hannibal Leckter’s role was greatly expanded, and for which Sir Anthony won an Academy Award for Best Actor, and who would go on to make “Hannibal,” in 2001, and “Red Dragon,” the following year.
   Many prefer Brian’s interpretation of Leckter than that of Anthony Hopkins, but the film flopped at the box office making only $8,620,929 in 1986, although it has achieved somewhat of a cult status since. Discouraged Brian returned to London, where he joined the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company and earned some of the best reviews of his career (as well as an Olivier Award) for playing Shakespeare's "Titus Andronicus," in 1988. Two years later, he received more rave reviews with his portrayal of ''King Lear."
   He won a Best Actor nomination from the BAFTA Awards for his portrayal of a closeted homosexual struggling with the discovery that his son is also gay in the British TV movie "The Lost Language of Cranes," in 1991.
   Near 50 years old Brian decided to try his luck in films again in the U.S., and established himself in a role playing Mel Gibson’s brother in “Braveheart,” after which his film career took off as a character actor. These are some of my favorites: “Rob Roy,” with Liam Neeson and Jessica Lange, “Chain Reaction,” with Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, and the lovely Morgan Freeman, “The Long Kiss Goodnight,” with Geena Davis and Samuel L. Jackson, “Kiss the Girls,” with our friend Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman again, “Rushmore,” with Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, and Olivia Williams, “Super Troopers,” (and hopefully in it’s sequel the upcoming “Super Troopers 2”) with the Broken Lizard guys, here’s a short clip, the Bourne films, “The Ring,” with Naomi Watts, as King Agamemnon in “Troy,” with Brad Pitt, Diane Kruger, and Peter O'Toole, David Fincher‘s “Zodiac,” with Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr., starring roles in “Red,” and “The Escapist,” Woody Allen’s “Match Point,” with the lovely Scarlett Johansson, “The 25th Hour,” with Edward Norton, Anna Paquin and Rosario Dawson, and of course “Scooby-Doo! And the Samurai Sword.”
   “I'm an actor who does really interesting work in independent movies. I want to keep doing that because I don't want the burden of an opening weekend sitting on my shoulders.”
   He won an Emmy Award in 2001 and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for his portrayal of Hermann Göring in the television mini-series “Nuremberg.”
   In 2002, he appeared in Spike Jonze's Charlie Kaufman-scripted “Adaptation” as the real-life screenwriting teacher, Robert McKee, giving advice to Nicolas Cage in both his roles, as Charlie Kaufman and Charlie's fictional twin brother Donald.
   Brian has also been involved in the video game industry. Among his most prominent roles were Killzone (2004), Killzone 2 (2009), and Killzone 3 (2011), in which he played the ruthless emperor Scolar Visari.
   His radio work includes the BBC series McLevy (1999–2012), based on the real life detective James McLevy.
   In December 2009, he appeared in the BBC adaptation of “The Day of the Triffids,” the tale of walking carnivorous plants, based on a true story.
   In February 2010, Brian was elected as Rector of the University of Dundee, polling almost two-thirds of the vote, and on 31 December 2002, he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, one degree lower that what is required to have a “Sir” placed in front of his name.
   Brian is a diabetic and has worked to promote a diabetes research facility in his home town of Dundee.      
   He has two children from his first marriage to Caroline Burt, Alan (also an actor, “Young Sherlock Holmes”) and Margaret. Brian and Caroline divorced. He remarried in 2002 to actress Nicole Ansari. The couple have two boys, Orson and Torin Kamran Charles Cox. They live in New York and maintain a home in Edinburgh, witch is in Scotland, and all of us here at Joyce’s Take wish Brain and his family continued good health and fortune, and a very happy birthday!
   Happy Birthday Brian!

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