This is a MUST read/listen! A definitive acting manual and magnificent memoir.
It is also a guide to life, survival and reflection.
Brian Cox (the actor, not the physics dude) is a consummate professional. You will have seen him in something at some point. Yet he is such a chameleon that one need not identify ‘him’ per se. That was both a curse and a blessing. Because it meant he took a while to carve a niche in Hollywood as a supporting, character actor.
At the same time? That sense of journeying, jobbing actor’s craft meant that Cox accrued a life of stories, expertise and insight which, but for his career path(s), might not have been possible.
PUTTING THE RABBIT IN THE HAT is the proof of that fusion: a life of toil and frequent sacrifice, punctuated by pain but rewarded by much deserved success and an ultimate happiness, today.
I first saw Cox in an episode of INSPECTOR MORSE. He played it beautifully, opposite the late, great John Thaw (to whom I often compare Daniel Craig, but that is another story).
Morse was very much a part of my early cultural contours. I even pitched a prequel back in ’08 (ITV did make it; they just did not make ‘my’ version: that’s showbiz, folks..no hard feelings!).
Brian stands out in the ‘Morse’ episode from 1993: DEADLY SLUMBER. Understated, sympathetic, textured, real. It’s worth watching to anyone with even a casual interest in acting craft.
X2 was also something of a triumph. Cox is the baddie, of course. And though he is not a fan of the darker, grittier superhero reboot that now dominates media, he is not an arse about the trade: accepting that he took the superhero buck.
Indeed, Brian is candid about his regret in turning down the villain role from UNDER SIEGE (which went to Tommy Lee Jones: by that rationale, could Cox have then done THE FUGITIVE?). Cox’s Turns in the BOURNE movies and TROY maybe made up for that? But he was robbed of an Oscar for his take on CHURCHILL, given the ghastly politics of award season release date clashes and campaigns.
The man is circumspect, matter of fact, even, about showbiz and the element of luck and timing. Case in point: being a great Hannibal Lecktor in MANHUNTER yet watching Tony Hopkins take over for SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.
No ‘woe that is me’ apologia. Cox is hilariously honest about those for whom he has a high regard. And equally, brutally, revelatory about any merchant of mediocrity who pissed him off. But there is nothing bitchy, mean spirited, spiteful or nasty.
Indeed: a genuine, (ie: non faux social media style) ‘kindness’ pervades the work. Brian conveys a sense of vocation, a belief in social justice and a pastoral concern for the generations of the future.
This is a great teacher and mentor as much as an actor. I recommend the book therefore to those in the education profession as a kind of ‘how to’ engage and protect your charge via bespoke method.
Quibbles? There are occasional moments of self indulgence in his depiction of what reads a lot like serial philandering /adultery (albeit now nicely reformed and settled/happy).
And there seems a near fixation with the details of bowel movements, relative to a visceral view of a uniquely Scottish dour chip on the shoulder.
But those are blink and miss it /skip the page moments. They in no way undermine the brilliance of the whole.
Brian’s views on method acting are especially fascinating. He does not entertain the notion of finding character or taking work home as such, yet nonetheless believes in copious preparation and pitch perfect delivery of language and emotional authenticity.
PUTTING THE RABBIT IN THE HAT has something for everyone. If you are a fan of SUCCESSION, then you get the behind the scenes story of its passage to the screen.
And to those who love anecdotes about actors from Olivier to Gambon via Mel Gibson: just WAIT til you read Brian’s accounts of their exploits.
So yes. a MUST read/listen. Insightful. Egalitarian. Accessible. Erudite. Hilarious. Moving. Inspirational!
Recommended, without hesitation! THANK YOU, BRIAN! 🙂