Ben Whishaw Profiled in The Telegraph

Ben Whishaw

Another interesting profile of  Ben Whishaw in The Telegraph. The writer seems to come into the interview determined to debunk all the stuff in the other profiles written about Whishaw about his ‘vulnerability’.

Which brings us to something else about Ben Whishaw it’s impossible to ignore. Every review ever written about him talks about his vulnerability. Certainly, it’s true that with his huge brown eyes and his startled air, he can give a convincing impression of a two-legged deer caught in the headlights. But just how vulnerable is Whishaw off-screen, I wonder?

Whishaw’s answer?

“Ah…” he says, and looks away. There’s a long pause, during which his forehead becomes bisected by a deep frown. Some further ah-ing follows. But when he looks back, his gaze is steady and direct. “I don’t think anyone can walk through the world in a state of vulnerability all the time, can they? And as an actor, you do need to be quite… quite strong. I think it does take courage, in a way. After all, it’s a very revealing thing to do. Putting yourself in a position of being looked at. That’s one of the reasons why I find it very hard to watch myself on screen.” So, the vulnerability is all an act? “No,” he says eventually. “I wouldn’t say that… But you do use things about yourself as an actor, don’t you?”

I particularly like the ending of the article:

Our time is up and we shake hands. I’d rather expected Whishaw to have a soft, hesitant sort of handshake. But it’s not like that at all. It’s strong and confident, and when he looks me in the eye, he doesn’t blink.

There are also interviews with directors who’ve worked with Whishaw, and tidbits about Cloud Atlas and Skyfall, and of course, about playing Richard II. Full interview here:

Ben Whishaw and Judi Dench in “Peter and Alice”

So that rumored John Logan’s play starring Whishaw and Dench has been confirmed. The premise is not as bonkers as I initially thought, it’s not Peter Pan meeting with Alice from Alice in Wonderland, but the real people who are the inspiration for the two characters meeting each other. The synopsis:

When Alice Liddell Hargreaves met Peter Llewelyn Davies at the opening of a Lewis Carroll exhibition in 1932, the original Alice in Wonderland came face to face with the original Peter Pan. In John Logan’s remarkable new play, enchantment and reality collide as this brief encounter lays bare the lives of these two extraordinary characters.

Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw


In other Ben Whishaw related news, the release date for Cloud Atlas has been moved forward from December to October 26th, in part because Warner Bros is encouraged by positive audience response during early screenings. December is notorious for a lot of films being released to qualify for the Oscars, so maybe the studio doesn’t want to risk Cloud Atlas getting lost in the crowd.


Ben Whishaw Profiled in Radio Times for BBC’s Richard II

A really interesting profile of Whishaw in Radio Times. The article doesn’t seem to be online, so this is from the print edition.


Ben Whishaw, Jeremy Irons and Tom Hiddleston lead a galaxy of stars breathing new life into four of Shakespeare’s history plays

The Hollow Crown: Richard II
Saturday 9.00 pm BBC2

by Zoe Williams

It’s exceptional for an actor to make his name with a performance of Hamlet at the age of 23. Received wisdom is that by the time you understand even half of what’s going on in the Dane’s head, you’re way to old to play him. So when Ben Whishaw shot to the foreground in 2004, he was clearly something beyond a handsome new face in a world hungry for newness. A reviewer at the time described him as a gnarled tree root, his body language so twisted and convoluted with uncertainty that he seemed in some physically impossible way to be growing back into himself.

The description returned to me watching The Hour, BBC2’s wonderful 1950’s set drama in which he is a young man in a hurry, forthright, zealous in a cynical English sort of way. Whishaw couldn’t have looked more different, couldn’t have conveyed two such different personalities more forcefully. He has something of the Gary Oldman about him, such self-effacement for every role that you wonder if it’s the same guy.

In the flesh, now 31, he leans more towards Hamlet than The Hour’s Freddie Lyons. He’s hunched, but not in an unfriendly way, as though trying to take up as little room as possible. It’s incongruous in the bar of Bafta, where everyone else is a show-off. He’s here to discuss Richard II, first of four Shakespearean history plays airing on BBC2 under the banner The Hollow Crown, which will also star Jeremy Irons as Henry IV and Tom Hiddleston as Henry V, as well as Julie Walters and Simon Russell Beale.

Richard is the mistaken, petulant king to whom all manners of disastrous, unkingly stuff occurs. Whishaw plays him as a callow, immature man who breaks off in the middle of destroying a friend’s life to feed his Capuchin monkey (which itself gives a nice, spoilt performance). At the same time, though, he has this majestic bearing, his performance walks a tightrope between authority and frivolity. It’s a perplexing, magnetic mix.

When I ask him about the play, and whether or not we can take over two hours of really crunchy Shakespeare in one go, on BBC2, he gave a trenchant answer. “It’s only recently that it’s been uncommon to have Shakespeare on the telly, isn’t it? I get irritated when you’re made to feel like it’s something difficult and a bit beyond that. I really hate that. People are so stuffy about it, but it’s really easy. You can make it what you want. I wish people would relax about it.”

Ask him about his role, though, and he squirms magnificently in his chair. I really think talking about himself is anathema to him. He looks like he’s being given tiny electric shocks. He will never miss an opportunity to turn the question back to you, even if you’ve asked him something so specific that he is the only person that could ever know the answer. Anyway, back to Richard II.

“I find him in some ways quite sympathetic, but that is not a view shared by many people. I find that I like his…journey. It’s an interesting one. Someone being forced to confront their vulnerability. Accept their fears. Have their illusions about themselves shattered. That’s what I like about it.” He wriggles some more and starts to rip a napkin into tiny pieces. He really reminds me of a fairy tale about a child genius who can only relax when she’s playing the violin. I wonder if he’s the sort of person who only relaxes when on stage. “I think you feel really alive when you perform. Not necessarily relaxed, but very alive and open. In some ways, it’s easier to relate to another actor than it is to relate to a person in life. Do you know what I mean?” Er…not really.

Although his breakthrough role was an unusual one, his route into acting was quite traditional, via Rada and a steady stream of work in well-thought-off indie films (My Brother Tom in 2001 netted his first awards). He claims never to have felt as though he was destined for greatness while studying. “Absolutely definitely not, really not. Really nothing. I loved being there. I loved the experience. But I was never made to feel like that, maybe no one was. I felt very…because we had lots of real blokes, big guys, in our year, I felt ineffectual and not very interesting. That was my impression at the time, and I just played quite small character parts.”

And even though his entire working life has been as the lead, it is noticeable that he is no obvious shoo-in for a romantic lead. I’m not saying that (as I normally would be) as code for “he’s a bit funny-looking.” There’s nothing schlocky on his CV, no misguided project that was all explosions and women who know Thai kickboxing. (I’m working up a theory that, in terms of career, he is Jason Statham’s anti-matter – that they are such polar opposites that if one disappeared, so would the other.) He insists, though, that he’s never been particularly picky.

“I don’t think I do turn down that much. You have to be selective. You’ve got to do what you feel you can give your best to. But no, I was never trying to be a troubled intellectual. I’m not remotely an intellectual person”.

Oh, there’s one other thing he’d like to clear up, while we’re on the topic of his shortcomings (which, by the way, I didn’t bring up) – he also has terrible judgement. “It’s awful. I’m always wrong. To the point where I try not to bring my judgement to bear on an encounter I have with a person, I just try to take them as they are”.

This must make it hard to make a decision, deliberately holding back from judging anything? “It’s like…” he thinks for a bit…”Death is cold and hard and tight, and life is loose. So when you’re alive, you have to embrace being loose and open and free and engaged with things. To go towards closing things off or making judgements o deciding on certainties is to choose something that’s more like death. I had this bog conversation with a priest who said, ‘It’s all right to be uncertain’. I wasn’t in confession. I’m not religious at all. I don’t even know why I’m telling you. We value certainty so highly in the world. It can lead to appalling things. But without it we’d never do anything. So how do you find your way through that?” There’s a long pause. “Do you think Radio Times‘ readers will be interested in death?” I don’t see why not.

I’m sure this is part of what makes him such a persuasive performer, that he’s a natural introvert, who wants to subsume himself utterly for the role, but then in the service of that role, must – literally of figuratively – take centre stage. “I’m maybe somewhere in the middle, between introversion and extroversion”, he starts. I make a very sceptical face. “With a tendency to introversion. There’s a very strong thing of not wanting to be watched, but also not being able to help yourself.”

For someone with terrible judgement, he has some brilliant films in production (for contractual reasons, he can’t talk a huge amount about any of them). He is set to star in David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, a stunning novel I can’t imagine being made into a film, but then if you’d asked me how to make that idea into a novel, I wouldn’t have been able to imagine that either. And he’s Q in Skyfall, the next Bond movie starring Daniel Craig (released in October).

Interestingly, while Ben Whishaw is intensely socially sensitive, would hate to sound strident, dislikes talking about himself, looks really uncomfortable (and not just with me – when other people come over as well, I swear), he is quite sanguine about criticism. He never reads reviews and claims not to worry about what they say. I wonder whether his mum ever sends him something if it’s particularly nice, and he says, “She knows that’s not allowed”.

He’s been to LA to do a pilot that didn’t get made into a full series, but he only went because he was interested in the project; not because he has an actorly long game, where you get taken seriously here by going over to America. “People think what they want to think about you. They’ll take you seriously or they won’t. You can’t control it”.

Perhaps he’s just a really good actor. This sounds totally credible in the moment; a person who’d hate to offend anyone, but couldn’t give a rat’s arse if someone offended him. “To be absolutely honest,” he says, “I’m just thrilled to be working”.


The photos from the article are online.

So jealous of the hair!

I think Michelle Dockery should always have her hair up, hehe. She has one of those features that seems to come from a different age, it feels so jarring watching her in modern clothes or with her hair down.

Photos from Henry IV, part of the BBC Shakespeare’s series The Hollow Crown (Richard II, Henry IV Part 1, Henry IV Part 2, Henry V). Dockery is playing Lady Percy, wife of Hotspur. Ben Whishaw is Richard II, Jeremy Irons is Henry IV, and Tom Hiddleston aka Loki is Prince Hal and Henry V.

Trailer for the series:

Kdrama Watching

Queen In Hyun’s Man

Finally saw Episode 3, and …  yeah, critical faculty out the window for this one. The knit-cap, Boong Do’s good cheer, aghhhhhh, just kill me now with all the cuteness!!! I guess logically-speaking it’s weird that he’s so calm about the whole thing, but frankly, I don’t really care. I’m just loving the fact that he’s not all angsty and mopey and tortured. Stay cool, Boong Do!

My Husband Got a Family

I’ve been watching this weekend drama on KBS World on and off for a while. It’s not really the type of drama I’d bother streaming or downloading, (one of those 50+ episodes famiy drama with TONS AND TONS of characters and storylines, and we’re lucky if we get 20 minutes per episode with the main couple), but as a TV fare it’s pretty decent. The set-up is pretty snark-worthy  – a woman (Yoon Hee) marries a man (Gwi Nam) whose adopted parents live in America because she doesn’t want to deal with in-laws, but then he found his birth parents, who, guess what, live across the hall from them! Hey, she has to deal with in-laws after all, lots and lots of them as it turns out – parents, sisters, uncles, aunts, grandmother, great aunts. Cue wacky hijinks!

I … actually like it, hehe, despite rolling my eyes initially at the premise. Well, I like the part related to Yoon Hee and Gwi Nam, and their interactions with both sets of family. Having not been raised in Korea, Gwi Nam seems a tad clueless when it comes to the appropriate way of dealing with his family. The results are sometimes hilarious, like when Yoon Hee tried to explain to him that the elders in the family don’t always say what they really mean:

If they say “why go eat expensive food like steak when we can just have kimchi like usual”, then that means you should go buy the most expensive steak RIGHT NOW. Or if they say “we don’t have to go visit your great-aunts tomorrow if you have something else to do”, that means we DEFINITELY have to go.

And then they both wished that it will rain the next day so they won’t be able to make the long drive. Cut to – beautiful, clear, sunny day. Hah!

There’s also sadder stuff – Gwin Nam’s sister telling him she had never celebrated her birthday in 30 years because the day she was born was also the day he went missing, his grandmother saying that Gwi Nam’s mother spent her entire married life watching her husband take his mother’s side in every argument, only to now watch her son takes wife’s side in every argument.

The show spends too much time of Gwi Nam’s three sisters love life for my taste, though. The three potential love interests are sooooo typical Kdrama hero-type – the arrogant has-been, the poor sap who doesn’t realize he’s in love with this woman even though EVERYONE AND THEIR COUSINS can see it clearly, and the improbable “how could they not know they’re related??” coupling (Gwi Nam’s youngest sister + Yoon Hee’s youngest brother) – the love stories are so much less interesting than watching the sisters interact with Yoon Hee, and with the rest of the family.

Interview with Liam Cunnigham about Game of Thrones S02E09 (Blackwater)

Liam Cunnngham is like – well, Davos didn’t even make to the battle really, because of Peter Dinklage and his wildfire trick. Heh. He wouldn’t let his sons (14 and 11) watch the show, too young for it. Probably a wise decision.

Cunningham seems to be the one doing most of the interviews for Team Dragonstone. I’ve yet to see or read any interview with Stephen Dillane or Carice van Houten, except in the HBO featurette.

Video embed is not working, link here:

Interview with Game of Thrones Story Editor, Bryan Cogman about Season 2

Probably the most interesting interview from the people involved with the show I’ve read in a long while. Lots of stuff about the choices made by the producers.

On Ros’ prominence on the show, and how her character started out in the original script of Season 1:

Ros was originally Red Headed Whore Number 1 in the pilot. In the very original [draft], Tyrion was in a brothel in King’s Landing as a way to introduce him and get a little download of information about John Arryn. […] With season 2, there’s a character in the book named Alyaya, who we didn’t end up keeping. We knew that Ros would serve that function in the latter part of the season where Cersei thinks she’s caught Tyrion’s girlfriend but actually has caught Ros and doesn’t know who she is. […] And then, the other thing that we sort of built into the show was the rivalry between Littlefinger and Varys…Ros seemed to be the perfect person for Varys to have an insider in Littlefinger’s company…she came to Littlefinger’s, trusted him, thought she had a rapport, and sort of had a rude awakening about who she is, and who she is in Littlefinger’s eyes.

On Tyrion and the complexity of his character:

The thing that’s interesting to me about Tyrion, is Tyrion of all the Lannisters, has the most compassion, the most empathetic worldview. But he’s still a Lannister. He’s still going to keep the class below him at arm’s length…Being a Lannister, he still uses his position when he needs to, and can behave selfishly. He’s not necessarily a white knight kind of hero. I certainly think that yes, there is that kind of empathy and compassion for prostitutes, but there’s also a real distrust. He had his first wife, Tysha, who he found out was actually a whore, but he got emotionally invested in her, and had his heart ripped out.

On Brienne’s brutality on the show, compared to the books:

I agree it does differ from the book. That’s a decision David and Dan made when writing the scripts…I think she still operates under a code, but it’s important to remember that a) these guys were going to botch the plan and the mission and probably kill them both, and b) they have admitted to torturing innocent women. I think in the books, Brienne’s first kill doesn’t happen until much later.

On the changes to Robb’s storyline (involving who he marries, and why):

We always new we wanted to keep Robb more front and center. In the book, he’s absent except for the first chapter. He shows up in the third book married. We knew we wanted to keep Robb and Catelyn’s tenuous relationship at the forefront.We knew the portrayal of Walder Frey and the marriage to a new woman would be part of the story. Originally, it was Jeyne Westerling. In the books, Jeyne is tending his wounds, Robb gets a terrible piece of news, and they spend the night together dealing with his grief, and he marries her after that. [In the show], it isn’t just about making an honest woman out of this girl, it’s that he falls in love and chooses love over duty, which is an ongoing choice which is brought up again and again throughout the series. Maester Aemon tells Jon Snow that love is the death of duty. And I think that was something that they really wanted to explore, that it was a relationship that developed, and that we would see develop, and Robb would make the choice.

On introducing new characters, and dealing with the characters backstory:

We try different things with different characters. A character like Stannis, and his relationships with Davos and Melisandre, this season we trusted that the audience would go with it, and we didn’t load those early scenes up with a lot of backstory. If anything there was a bit of mystery this season. We didn’t really get the full story of how Davos met Stannis and why he’s serving him until the eighth episode…That was very much on purpose to feed the backstory over the season and trust that the audience would understand their dynamic enough to be invested in them. And of course a lot of it is Stephen [Dillane] and Liam [Cunningham], too. They don’t get a lot of screen time, but they both have this incredible presence and a deep understanding of what makes these guys tick, so that even though they were on the scene for comparatively few minutes compared to other characters, they made an impression.

On how his relationship with the books has changed since he started working on the show:

In a way, it makes me a little sad. I couldn’t enjoy A Dance With Dragons, unfortunately. Of course, I enjoyed it, but it was the first of the books I read as a writer on Game of Thrones, so all I could do is think “we’re going to have to shift that, we won’t be able to afford that, or that’s a great scene.” I couldn’t just escape and enjoy. I’m fine, I’m doing fine, I’ll be okay. But it’s definitely a different reading experience.

Full interview here:

You know, I think when Maester Aemon was telling Jon Snow about love being the death of duty, he’s talking about love for your family, not for someone you’ve only just met. Robb was adamant about choosing his duty to his men over the fate of his own siblings, (“nope, definitely can’t trade Jaime Lannister for my sisters, I have duty to my bannermen, you know!”) but it’s okay to forget his duty for a woman he just met? Well, I guess love for a smoking hot woman is harder to resist than love for his siblings.

The Davos-Stannis backstory not fully explained until the eighth episode doesn’t really bother me, you kinda get the bond from the beginning. It was already hinted at in the second episode anyway, with Sallador Saan talking about how could Davos be loyal to a guy who chopped his fingers, Davos saying Stannis is his god, the one who gave him and his family everything, etc etc. The Melisandre-Stannis relationship is where it really falls short, the show didn’t really explore it at all, except a little bit in the last episode.

Game of Thrones S02E01 (The North Remembers) – The Burning of the Seven Gods (Anatomy of a Scene)

Remember this scene from the first episode of Game of Thrones this season? Our introductory scene to Stannis-Davos-Melisandre at Dragonstone. It’s interesting, in the show, we’re led to believe that Davos is pretty much an atheist (or maybe agnostic), he doesn’t believe in any god, old or new. But we don’t really know how devoted Stannis was to the Seven Gods before Melisandre convinced him to convert to the religion of the Lord of Light. Not that he seems all that convinced about the Lord of Light in this episode, he sounds entirely NOT convinced when he was saying the words “for the night is dark and full of terrors”.

Apparently they used THIRTY swords to shoot that scene where Stannis pulled out the flaming sword!

Bronn was in a hit pop duo!

Apparently Jerome Flynn was in a hit pop duo in the 90’s called “Robson and Jerome”. They hit Number 1 on the UK chart and everything. I’m extra-entertained by the fact that the other guy in the duo looks a bit like young Stannis. Bronn and Stannis, hitting the road together. Pfttttt, who needs Davos or Tyrion?

No wonder they let Bronn sing the Lannister song …