Andrew Scott and Ben Whishaw Behind the Scene in Cock

Behind-the-scene is probably not a very accurate way of describing it. It’s a project by photographer Simon Annand called “The Half”, basically taking photographs of the actors in a play thirty minutes before the actors go on stage. I had no idea Jim Moriarty was in a play with Keats, heh.

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Ben Whishaw Behind-the-Scene for Bright Star

The tree-climbing scene. Jane Campion instructing Whishaw to do “dreamy climbing” instead of “speedy climbing”.

I’m guessing this is a crew member who climbed the tree before Whishaw to make sure it’s safe. That tree does not look sturdy enough for someone to lie on top of it, but apparently it is.

The Human Orchestra scene. That boy is cute as a button!

Ben Whishaw and Literary/Real World Characters

Just noticed this, since his role as Keith Richards in Stoned (2005), almost all of the characters Ben Whishaw played in movies are either based on a real person (Keith Richards in Stoned, Bob Dylan in I’m not There, John Keats in Bright Star), or characters from a book or a play (Jean-Baptiste Grenouille in Perfume, Sebastian Flyte in Brideshead Revisited, Ariel in The Tempest, Q in Skyfall,  Robert Frobisher+unknown other characters in Cloud Atlas). The exception is his cameo in Tom Tykwer’s The International. Not sure what this means, if anything.

As Keith Richards in Stoned (2005). The movie is not actually a biopic of the Rolling Stones, as I originally thought, but revolves around the life and death of Rolling Stones’ co-founder Brian Jones.

As Jean-Baptiste Grenouille in Perfume: The Story of a Murdereer (2006), based on the novel Perfume by Patrick Suskind. I heard a radio interview with Jane Campion (the director of Bright Star) a while ago about Whishaw’s audition for Bright Star. Apparently Whishaw’s agent or management had originally sent Campion photos and clips from his role as Grenouille. Campion took one look at the photos and immediately said no, not this guy. (Yeah, no kidding, this does not scream Keats’ material at all. What was his agent thinking?) Fortunately, Campion changed her mind once she saw Whishaw read for the part.

Credited as “Arthur”, but really, he’s playing Bob Dylan, in I’m Not There (2007).  

As Sebastian Flyte in Brideshead Revisited (2008), based on the novel Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. I really wanted to like this movie, but aside from Emma Thompson and Michael Gambon, everyone else is a disappointment. Even Whishaw seemed unsure and a little bit out of his depth as Sebastian.

As the poet John Keats in Bright Star (2009). I love this movie, and his performance in it, without reservation.

As Ariel in The Tempest (2010). I haven’t seen this one.

As Robert Frobisher in Cloud Atlas (2012), based on the novel Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. I’m curious what other characters he will be playing in the movie, but this is the main one. To be honest, I’m not too thrilled with the whole “everyone will play multiple roles, with gender-bending and race-bending” thing. That could so easily turn into an excuse to hire mostly just a bunch of white guys.  

“Poetry soothes and emboldens the soul, to accept mystery”

A poem needs understanding through the senses
The point of diving in the lake, is not immediately to swim to the shore
But to be in the lake, to luxuriate in the sensation of water
You do not work the lake out, it is an experience beyond thought
Poetry soothes and emboldens the soul, to accept mystery

~ John Keats in Bright Star (2009)

In honor of World Poetry Day, Ben Whishaw and Abbie Cornish reciting Keats’ poems in the movie Bright Star.

La Belle Dame San Merci

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
So haggard and so woe-begone,
The squirrel’s granary is full,
And the harvest’s done.

I see a lily on thy brow,
With anguish moist and fever-dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too.

I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful—a faery’s child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.

I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone,
She looked at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan.

I set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long,
For sidelong would she bend, and sing
A faery’s song.

She found me roots of relish sweet,
And honey wild, and manna-dew
And sure in language strange she said—
‘I love thee true’.

She took me to her Elfin grot,
And there she wept and sighed full sore,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes,
With kisses four.

And there she lullèd me asleep,
And there I dreamed—Ah! woe betide!—
The latest dream I ever dreamt
On the cold hill side.

I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried—‘La Belle Dame sans Merci
Hath thee in thrall’

I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
With horrid warning gapèd wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
On the cold hill’s side.

And this is why I sojourn here,
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.

Ode to A Nightingale

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness,—
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees,
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

O, for a draft of vintage! that hath been
Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
Dance, and Provencal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stained mouth;
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim:

Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs,
Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.

Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night,
And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays;
But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
Fast fading violets cover’d up in leaves;
And mid-May’s eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.

Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—
To thy high requiem become a sod.

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
The same that oft-times hath
Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toil me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
As she is fam’d to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep
In the next valley-glades:
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?

Obviously with any work of art, there is a separation between the work, and the author. But this poem made me think of John Keats the man, and the circumstances of his life the most. “Where but to think is to be full of sorrow, and leaden-eyed despairs”. “for many a time, I have been in love with easeful Death.” It’s hard not to feel that those lines especially are personal.

Bright Star

Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like Nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors
No — yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft swell and fall,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever — or else swoon to death.

John Keats and His “Bright Star”

A thing of beauty is a joy forever
Its loveliness increases
It will never pass into nothingness

A poem needs understanding through the senses
The point of diving in the lake, is not immediately to swim to the shore
But to be in the lake, to luxuriate in the sensation of water
You do not work the lake out, it is an experience beyond thought
Poetry soothes and emboldens the soul to accept mystery

There is a holiness to the heart’s affection, you know nothing of that!

I do not know how elastic my spirit might be, what pleasure I might have in living here if the remembrance of you did not weigh so upon me. Ask yourself my love whether you’re not very cruel to have so entrammelled me, so destroyed my freedom.

We’ve woven a web, you and I, attached to this world, but a separate world of our own invention. We must cut the threads.

Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like Nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors
No — yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft swell and fall,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever — or else swoon to death.

Ben Whishaw as Richard II


Really excited about this. I wish I could have seen him as Hamlet. I’m not good with all the Richards and Henrys, so at first I thought this is the mad Richard who locked his nephews in the Tower, but no, this is the Richard who lost his throne to Henry IV (not to be confused with Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V).  Whishaw would have been great as that mad Richard, too, I’m sure. We’ll see him in lots of other things as well next year – Series 2 of The Hour, Cloud Atlas, Skyfall (the James Bond movie).

Keats and kitty, from Bright Star. If you haven’t seen Bright Star, I definitely recommend it. And I say this as someone who thought Jane Campion’s The Piano is probably the most boring movie ever made. Bright Star is slow, but in a tender and contemplative way, not tedious, and never boring. This is not my Whishaw-bias speaking either, even he couldn’t save Brideshead Revisited from being the mess that it is (I want my money back for that DVD!)