Broadbent on Fathers, Sons, ‘Potter,’ and ‘Indy’
by Paul Fischer
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Jim Broadbent is in Toronto to talk about his latest film, And When Did You Last See Your Father, but he had much to say about the new Harry Potter and Indiana Jones, as Paul Fischer discovered.
Paul Fischer: This kind of character in And When Did You Last See Your Father must have been a very difficult one to find. How do you find this character?
Jim Broadbent: Well, I don’t have to find it because Blake Morrison found it. He found his father and described his father and he described the relationship. So it’s there in the script and in his very fine book and the adaptation by David Nicholls which was very faithfully to the book and it’s all there. So I followed the script really.
PF: Do you empathise with a character like this father?
JB: Well I do find it easy to empathise, I mean there’s an awful lot of Colin in my father, which is a good starting point. They were exactly the same age and they came from the same county in Yorkshire and had a lot of the same interests and character traits to some extent. A lot of differences obviously. So I could empathise with that certainly. A good understand I suppose, of where he was coming from and I sort of had a feeling for certain aspects—I mean he’s a complicated real man and well described in the writing, which is, you know, he is flawed and he’s impatient and he’s egocentric and selfish and thoughtless but he’s loving and fun and generous and inspiration and he’s a good man. He’s a doctor and a pillar of the community and he’s adored by his patients. So there are all those things which make for an interesting and complicated character—and somebody who is a challenge and a delight to play. There’s an element of risk to take on somebody who ages from forties to seventies, you know. At times that’s the challenge really.
PF: Did you have a complicated relationship with your own father?
JB: He died in the same way as Arthur, from cancer at home with the family around him and so, you know, I was heartbroken, as a twenty-two year old—it was a long time ago, and utterly distraught by the experience. At the same time the actor in me was sort of watching the experience as well, rather like BlakeMorrison’s. It’s sort of a strange, interested writer’s eye I think. I don’t know if everyone’s like that or whether it’s just writers and actors who observe people in that degree or whether we’re all like that, I don’t know.
PF: You must have a comfortable life which is hard to give up unless something comes up you want to do.
JB: Yeah I had basically three months in Lincolnshire in the summer and suddenly now I’m back on the rollercoaster again and I’ve got to finish off Indiana Jones next month and I’ve got a bit on Young Victoria and it’s all been sort of stacking up and then I’m doing Harry Potter.
PF: Who are you?
JB: Who am I? He’s called Horace Slughorn. He’s a retired teacher of magic who’s drawn back out of retirement because he’s got some secrets they need in the battle against the Deatheaters, and he’s quite star struck as a teacher, and he’s drawn back into the fold because he likes to notch up celebrity students, and he’s drawn back by Harry.
PF: Is he a comic character?
JB: He is quite a comic character, yes. I haven’t started yet. I’ve had endless costume fittings and makeup and…
PF: What kind of costumes?
JB: Tweedy sort of things with a bit of padding. He’s an older man, I’m aging up again.
PF: Have you read the book?
JB: Yep, yep, yep. I haven’t read them all but I’ve read mine.
PF: If you had young children, you could be the coolest dad in the world.
JB: Yeah, well, any youngsters I have around, I’ll be able to take them to the set.
PF: Take them to the premiere.
JB: To the premiere and notch up some brownie points as we call them in England.
PF: And who are you in Indiana Jones?
JB: I’m Indiana’s academic colleague at Yale. I’m his friend and colleague—there’s a couple of my scenes to go.
PF: I mean these are two huge movies—huge movies. How daunting is it to be a part of those kinds of franchises?
JB: They’re very different. Harry Potter is the big movie. They’ve taken over these studios which have been there for I don’t know how many years now. Ten years? Eight years or whatever. Ten years.
PF: It’s been a while.
JB: It’s been a while. And they’ve established the way they do it and I think Warner Bros. let them get on with it to a degree. And the director, David Yates, I’d worked with before and I know a lot of the actors so I think it’s going to be, it feels like sort of an only British movie, albeit with a massive budget.
PF: And working with Spielberg?
JB: That is on a slightly different level from anything I’ve done. He’s so special and working with Harrison Ford, you know, there’s a movie star for you. Absolutely delightful.
PF: When you do these big sort of big movies and then you do these little intense character pieces, does this kind of remind you of why you became an actor?
JB: Yeah, all of that, yeah. And I suppose it’s maybe what I do, is try to take jobs that remind me of why I wanted to become an actor. Maybe that’s sort of defined…
PF: That might have been the defining reason.
JB: Yeah. Have fun and play games that I’m not bored with. Dosomething different, try on another hat, you know.
PF: What will you do next?
JB: After that? Harry Potter goes ‘til May. And that’s enough to begin with. I’ve got something of my own I’m hoping to get going and I’m not talking about…
PF: As a writer, director, producer?
JB: All that, yep.
PF: You want to direct?
JB: No, not quite. Anyway I’m keeping mum.
PF: Would you like to direct?
JB: Um, might do one day, yeah. If I write something that I don’t want anyone else to touch I might want to direct.
PF: And would you like to go back to theatre?
JB: Yeah I’m sure I’ll go back to the theatre. Two years ago was my last play.
Paul Fischer is originally from Australia. Now he is an interviewer and film critic living in Hollywood.
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