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June 2006

Well it’s been a slightly hectic couple of years.

First I’d like to warmly thank everyone for their continued support and good wishes. I’ve enjoyed reading birthday cards and Christmas cards and simple card cards. I thoroughly enjoy reading my monthly edition of the club magazine too. It’s always fun finding out what everyone else is up to and your opinions are a damn sight more interesting than some of the reviews in the nationals. I love the fact that there’s an expert to cover just about every subject under the sun lurking under our hood (near the fan belt?).

I haven’t written for a very long time and the reason for this is two-fold: firstly, so many people were complimenting me on the ‘wonderful’ web site I was running that I thought it was wise to take a couple of steps back so that credit goes where credit’s due – to Mel and a terrific handful of helpers and regular contributors from all over the world. Certainly not to me. As most of you know I have nothing to do with the content on the site; and secondly, I haven’t really known what to write – I’ve been shocked by the sudden flurry of work and amazed by the quality of some of the productions that I dared not ‘speak out loud’ for fear of distracting the driver and causing a train wreck. But I realise that’s superstitious nonsense so I think it’s ‘bout time I filled you all in.

Kingdom of Heaven was an amazing experience. Apart from working with a stellar cast, I got to work with a childhood hero (only just childhood!) – Sir Ridley Scott. It seems as though your only allowed to call someone a genius once they’re dead, well I’m not gonna hang around a few more decades. Ridley is one. I’m not sure exactly what happened at Fox that resulted in the bizarre theatrical release of that film, I’m not even sure we’ll ever find out, but they ended up with a movie that had a great body but no head. I haven’t had a chance to see the Director’s Cut yet but if it’s anything at all like the film I know Sir Ridley shot, it’ll be pretty good to say the least. It’ll make sense of Orlando’s character and Eva’s and Liam’s – the list goes on …

Then I flew to Washington to start filming Syriana. I’ve told you all a bit about this experience already – what a cool cast etc. But looking back now after all the hoo-ha has died down, the awards dispensed, the red carpets rolled up and countless pages of reviews and articles written read and now recycled, there is one particular hero in that movie who barely received a mention and that’s Matt Damon. I spent nearly all my time on that film working along side him and not only was he a pleasure to work with, a gentleman in every sense of the word, but the movie would have been hollow without him. He was the median from which every character deviated. He played the role with subtlety and integrity. It was a thankless role and he received little thanks.

I think that film made a difference to my career – I probably won‘t have a chance to gush in person so if you guys don‘t mind, I‘ve done it here.

I was pretty shattered after shooting Syriana. I’d had a fairly hard time on the shoot – not just learning Arabic (for what it was) but also dealing with countless re-writes at a moment’s notice and a complex relationship with the director who in turn had a complex relationship with his own material (not
surprisingly). So when I returned to the UK I was happy to start work on a totally different project, an episode of Poirot.

I’m not exactly sure what the term metro-sexual means but I think it has something to do with having an indiscriminate sexual appetite and if I’m right then that pretty much sums up the character I played in “Cards on the Table”. It was fun. I don’t think it worked very well and I don’t think I was very good in it but it was cathartic and came at just the right time. Thank god David Suchet is always so reliable that the show always makes for good television.

(I’m beginning to regret not having written for so long – this is turning into a pseudo-autobiography!)

I think it is a good moment to mention what incredible work everyone’s doing with regard to charity on the site. I occasionally get updates from Mel and I’m amazed the amounts you’ve all worked (or spent) so hard to raise. Please, please keep up this enormously good work – it helps on so many levels beyond that of the immediate crises or calamity. The world may seem as though it’s going to hell in a handbasket at the moment, but the work you all do is like sunlight into the gloom. I am busy trying to get my hands on some great stuff to give you. I have a few already stored up and will figure a way to get them over there.

So what happened next …
The Last Legion in Tunisia. Weird country, Tunisia. Nice enough people inhabit the place but a flaccid identity. Hard to imagine it was once the heart of the great Carthaginian Empire. There are a few ruins and a statue of a camp looking guy astride an elephant outside one of the hotels in a resort called ‘Carthageland’.

As for the movie itself, I can’t really say because my part was so small that I’m not even sure I’ll make it to the screen when it’s released. I hope it’s as fun as it seemed to be because I’d love to be in a movie my children can actually watch before they’re 18 and I’m 100! (Don’t try doing the math on that – it won’t work.)
So ironically I went to Bulgaria two days after finishing in Tunisia to shoot a documentary for the BBC and some German channel and the History Channel. I played Hannibal, the great Carthaginian hero – maybe the camp guy on the elephant was an inspired premonition of my portrayal?

Why Bulgaria? Because there’s always some place in the world that still looks like some other place used to look. And it’s cheap. Very cheap. It was brave of the producer and director to cast me, I’m not exactly built like a super-hero, but I think most people liked it. The BBC are trying very hard to present historical stuff in an entertaining way. The endless rostrum shots and artifacts and people wearing cardigans chatting about what ‘may’ have happened to ‘whom’ and ‘when’ is all very well for the campus lecture circuit, but it isn’t exactly sparkling television. I hope they do a lot more high production value shows like this one – as long as they make a serious attempt to get the history right – which I believe the BBC did. The BBC are good at doing stuff like getting the history right.


Took a break – woohoo. Saw the kids in New Mexico – finally! They are extraordinarily well and happy and beautifully behaved – a credit to their mother who manages to shoot a hit t.v. show and keep a normal household alive and interesting for the boys.

And that, folks, brings us just about up to date…

I’ve just wrapped on a movie about the nativity which I hope will be in theatres for Advent this year. I can’t say a lot about it because (once again) it isn’t out and they need to keep control over what’s said about a film before it’s released. But I can say that it’s an orthodox telling of the story on a big budget, so if you’re into things Biblical, it promises to be a good one. It has a glittery cast and I really enjoyed playing Gabriel – last time I played in this show – when I was all of six years old – I played the innkeeper. A definite promotion. Who says that if you don’t stick at it that you won’t get ahead?

Keep up the good work guys!
And thanks,