03 November 2020 1678 Views

John Sessions. Star of Whose Line it is Anyway. Dead, aged 67.

by James Murphy
Actor. Comedian. Writer. John Sessions has left the Stage.
Bit of a shock. John Sessions. Farewell to a fascinating Talent. 
I met him once (came to family home for tea). Enjoyed his company. Napoleon : The American Story was a work of genius and the man could have been the British Tom Hanks then. Hanks and he even had dinner as buddies.

Sweet Revenge was a nice little rom-com where Sessions was lucky to share the screen with Carrie Fisher and Rosanna Arquette. There was a germ of a leading man there, maybe, had Sessions played the game a bit better?
Indeed, he got down to the last few candidates to screentest for Lord Attenborough’s great biopic, CHAPLIN. Robert Downey Jr won the part and movie history was made, with one of the greatest performances onscreen, ever. But even so. If Sessions was in THAT calibre of company and consideration? It’s a solid sign of what might have been? 
But alas, vanity. Like his old pal, Ken Branagh, John just got too clever by half. Boswell and Johnson do the washing up etc. He lost that balance of academic and accessible.

Second wind though, mid life was new life! Auditioned for Doctor Who (circa the 1996 American TV Movie) and would have aced it.
Just look at this improv piece where John plays BOTH the titular Timelord AND Napoleon. Genius. Fun. Literate. Warm. Brilliant. All the things the show needs, today, in fact, if it’s ever to regain its old footing.

 Trivia: Sessions signed my petition to bring back Doctor Who to Television when the BBC had put it on ice back in 1989/90. The man had vision! He was very encouraging of my slightly precocious yet well meant 11 year old endeavours. 
Politically? Sessions was a kind chameleon commentator; going from Scots Calvinist socialist to flirting with accepting UKIP having some populist appeal to the masses. The underdog always had him on their side. 
He was having fun again in the last few years of his work. Turned up in many a murder mystery movie on television, relishing the camp, the absurd, the language. 

He came out as Gay, lightened up and forged a successful career as a character actor. Roles followed in small to medium and often big budget movies, helmed by his heroes, including Martin Scorsese.

A contemporary of that Footlight Cambridge/Oxford comedy lot though not one of ‘them’ (Thompson, Fry Laurie, Atkinson, Smith n jones, Curtis), collaborators included Robbie Coltrane.

Sessions will perhaps be remembered best as a founding father of improv comedy show, Whose Line is it Anyway?
An era is indeed leaving us. One of talent, innovation, improv and building on the past whilst offering something original for the future, via versatility. RIP. 


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