Lauren Laverne talks to the actor Brian Cox in a programme first broadcast in 2020.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Bbc sounds music radio, podcasts Lauren Laverne. Here we take an our easter break so until we're back on air, we're showcasing a few programs from our archive. As usual, the music's been shortened for rights reasons. This week's guest is the actor Brian Cox. I cast him away in twenty twenty. The. My castaway this week is Brian Cox, he's one of the uk most successful and experienced actus? He recently celebrated his sixtieth here in the business by collecting a golden glow for his tour de force performance as billionaire patriarch Logan roy in hbo. It
You see we succession loaded equally for him performance on stage and screen. He won in olivier for his Titus Andronicus played king lear. National and has over a hundred film rules too including the born identity, brave heart and man hunter in which he played the first onscreen incarnation of Hannibal Lecter, perhaps fittingly his appetite for both film in started at home in Dundee where he grew up going to his local picture house four times a week and where in the local rap. When you still a teenager, though, in those days he had to clean the stage rather than perform on it. He says I have done it my own way. You can't sit back and say I have arrived. The only way you arrive is when you're dead.
in cox. Welcome to desert island discs reason to welcome the zulu brian. As I say, you're very, very flexible actor. You ve played villains and heroes aplenty, including churchill and somewhat busby. Do you have a favorite type of character of villains more fun to play in general, the overture the devil is the best. Itunes and so yeah I mean at one point in my life. This was about twenty five years ago. I suddenly why my playing all these nasty people and cunning wanted for a bit more than that for more than ten minutes he raised they ve been playing the villainous medium ogle logan roy than in hbo hit succession and so well. But as I say, you were awarded a golden globe in january this year. Is he based on any one in particular, not really room in everybody's issues about criminal law go rupert murdoch com, they they'll they'll, have serious matter. It is, I think, Logan and I both have one thing in common,
find the human experiment rather disappointing. There's a misanthropy that each oh yeah, I've flatlands museum to be all the time, but the I am an optimist. Soil was come down on them, the good side. I did read that when you and public a little people, including at fellow act as now. I want you to repeat some of logan's more choice I miss absolutely once been the most peculiar request that you ve had well, it was to meeting with ruin and follow, and it was very serious. I was invited by the actress resent cat. She was actually having this launch, but so I went along then, is ended. I suddenly found myself surrounded by a lot of ladys normal. I mean I do want to exaggerate, but one maybe two did ask me the inevitable. Could the video me telling them to efforts
What did you say I said, is really appropriate at me to meeting the, but I think that's also did with the kind of confusion that we live in a moment. The yellow and is also what the series is about. It is about people, the kind of love this solemn naked ambition of somebody like logan, but at the same time the go earlier? We will we love to hate him, but actually love to love them as well as a kind of complex it's time to go to the music, what you're fast disk going to be and why this is johnny cash, Simon and gulf uncles bridge over troubled war he's the greatest really- and this comes from these america for album, which is his last album and as a way of getting the best of both worlds. simon garfunkel and it was a song meant a lot to me in the sixty. Nine, I think, is when it came out. I'm not sure bananas right date, but I love that.
So and then, when you hear johnny sing it, this is an old man, who's talking about her a bridge over trouble water and it's his life and its its credibly moving. That's an incredibly moving rendition of the song alone friends I do the I will leave me I go, bru the Well, let me read you the troubles. Sung by johnny cash, Brien cooks. I will. about research, especially when it comes to playing real life people. You very memorably played churchill in twenty seventeen how'd. You prepare for rule like that.
What would churchill you know? You have to use your investigating skills. You have to find out what the man was. A man church was interesting character because he was a construct. You know the hat the cigar levy sign, just his home meal was created and it was created for an effect and had an tremendous effect because he was You know he had been a troubled character and he had made a lot of mistakes in his career, but this was his moment. This was his hour of glory and it was the second world war. And what about the idea of playing someone who has been portrayed on screen and is, as you say, in one icon in their own right. The idea of finding a real person will, beneath that carapaces sworn to someone who wrote the script. It was a great privilege. The promise was on. It There is evidence that he really didn't want the to happen, and the reason was that gallipoli
which he was responsible for having such a mess. So these beach invasions were something he was highly nervous of and the loss of life he was very nervous about it and also he'd been ill just in the previous, it's winter, so he was in a very fragile state. He wasn't the winston churchill we all know. I mean he stood at the front and everything and he was bold as brass and and and his dealing with everybody, but he was in a minority because everybody wanted it to go and he was really on the shelf about it. So that's wonderful material to work on a man and doubt especially a great man, a dove and that's, I really admire about. Churchill who can be be, could be right, pain sometimes, but he any moment of glory. He was he everything came together. It's time to go to the music Brian. This number to tell us. Why have chosen this one, Well, this is my childhood. I spent my
in signing the movies? It's a drifter Saturday night, the movies, but I spent all my time in the movies. So I knew what that was. I know what the movies is not just saturday night but every night at the movies, and if the song was called every night, the movies it would be more accurate, but it's because It's saturday night. The movies in its a great song and the drift is our great group. I guess this damn thing The police will sound of the drift his brain cooks. Taking you back to every night. Do so
what are you earliest memories of acting? You grow up going to the pictures, a lot but remember, acting yourself on my dad died, Was it and my mom a series of vague, severe nervous breakdown, so she electric shock treatment, so she was institutionalized for quite a long. My childhood, but until a happen, until I was eight life, was blissful, really well happy, but the thing that my dad used to do was on new year we had a window recess, was a bunker where we kept the coal and it was curtains, and my sister may, who is a very flamboyant singer, a wonderful singer, my sister and she used to say presenting Brian Cox should swing open the curtains and I would do johnson impersonations and I would do Joseph with the actions and everything and, of course the thing was one o clock in the morning news day. There would be no
can people in the room, but they were so giving an. I just thought wow. This is good, even remember the applause I remembered from, and I was, but three you born in Dundee and you with a much younger brother of five siblings and your parents worked low. Lee and then in the local mills, my dad. What can the moon initially, but he was the youngest of thirteen sister was twenty five years older than him sushi she had a pension. And she put them in a shop, so grossly shop in the fiscal charles street. He then started to run the shop, but he was very good figures. He was very good it stuff, but the problem of my dad and it was what came to rooster. the war was she was and my mother always used to say just remember. Brian charity begins at home and he was very generous and that's all there is the problem. had about being a dad, because my dad was mythic
when you come to the reality of having four kids of your own. You cannot be a mythic father, so you go. What do I do and how do you remember what what was he like? He was just sweet. He was kind he was. Warm. He had a lovely chuckle This was the center of the community, but unfortunately, at the same time he did give people were poor and he People are a credit and who died within weeks of his diagnosis, pancreatic cancer guide within three weeks. We were left debts we will, after my mom, had a break down, it was just all went belly up was heard. You were just state when that happened. I mean it must have been. An x the ordinarily difficult time you so young? I just went to survival mood. You know- and that's what's sustained me through my life them with. This in the crisis, I'm currently in survival mode. What's that like? Really you keep in touch with yourself, you keep in touch with your inner person and you keep in touch with that wee boy. When I teach cause
It drama stuff and I was like students always carry a pitcher of yourself as a child, because that's who you are and never fully, that we personally sue. You are that person of wonder that person of amazement that person of joy is who you are, and the rest is just propaganda that you ve had to deal with a material. you have yourself if you were gonna hold up to or have a picture of me just sitting there on a little high stool holding this ball, and I have this just gorgeous smile I'm gonna look at it and I go wow and it's it's a fantastic reminder and it keeps you straight ten phoenix piece of music, prime, what's it going to be and why it's the hollies, the air that I breathe, but it is for me the difference the version which is katy. Lange and gaiety learning is a most extraordinary voice. I
Im a crosser in the I was doing the thing from the edinburgh festival and I was introducing series of shows in the early nineties and she was in concert- and I didn't notice, canadian classic. And I heard- and I thought well and then I got dry, in a couple of the other albums and, and this song is just sensation, and is the At the the other, the briefcase de Lange, so by income
as you say, in your mum molly. She was left a young widow of five children, money, obviously very tight. How did the family keep going through the period that follow all my sisters were married? They had their husbands and farmers under european law. some in my sister betty. She lived in two rooms on landing with five families and toilets on the staff that they share, the toilets and I would stay with them. On occasion. I was out of those that your rooms there that indeed my brother in law, they slept in the front room in my nephew David and kevin. They slept in orbit occasion, sleep now and then I knew I was yellow is aware, was, and people had to be. Don't go, and then people looked quite realized about freezes. My sister betty was a lot going on for people with tough. It was really tough,
and you had to have a certain stoicism to deal with it all having moved on in your life and stepping outside too that culture sometimes gives you a different perspective on it, though I wonder what you make of that of looking back those hard times and your attitude to money and, for example, must have been influenced by my own experience. I have always said issues about my money because we didn't have a when my mum came out of the hospital. Finally, she got a small job, but she men lived off the widows, pensions or a pension come on friday and sometimes on a thursday night. Not always, but sometimes we wouldn't have any food I go across to the local fish and chip shop and we would get better bets from the back of the pan and that would be a t for a for a thursday night and that kind of sounds cliche. But it's true
but it s in you a sense of value of stuff. You know I'm a bit cautious and can be a bit term parsimonious. At times the ended the bill maher raw last estates. In there, Especially when you socialists, why associate as you americans, you don't know the first thing about socialism? You have no idea, you conflate it with reds under the beds and I'll. Tell you why my socialist poverty poverty as well sure socialist, when you know poverty than you know about how we have to take care of our people, I mean what about in your own personal experiences aside from politics, I know that you can be a bit of a halter apparent. I am. I have three. What clothes I have a bigger watered, the my wife. I would shaped issue
but I love, I don't wear them all the time, but I just do you. I think it's one of those things that your left, what unites a kind of insecurity that makes you do that can visit, has to come out somewhere and comes out in the most extraordinary ways. There's lots of help around days bereaved? Children was anyone able to help you really family? I just do it. But my father sooner, which a kind of sort of regret- and they put me in front of the television I remember when my dad died. I remember coming home and then I realize what's going wrong and then I walked in the door was open and I could see it's very funny when we have kind of great things like tragedies or even births. We there's always lots of food.
So the table was covered in food and I could just see my mum over the top of the table inches in abject misery because of what had happened. It's time for the fourth desk. By what do we, here and why well my generation. I came to london in the sixties and of course it was a time of incredible social mobility And it was the time of the beatles. I want one, well party in Dundee and they had been playing. So he came to this party, which was in backs of putnam's all these journalists from DC thomson's, and they were all very excited. I said: who are these have two guys lying fast, asleep and one was george house in yellow- is ring a star and another because what they were clearly exhausted, the poor guys met, but that was it's all. I saw them and they said that or sleep next to her off like that, and that was the great thing about the
Sixties with social mobility I could get a grant this is what really annoys me now. I was working class kid I could get a grunt, I could go to london. Could study mine craft, my desire, I know my expenses paid as well, but at the same time whose this amazing music these guys from liverpool no rocking rose and what I ve chosen. Because it was hard to do go ahead. You do go for all the usual stuff and I don't know I want rock and roll shine. So that's why I chose get back.
John John, did indeed that the beetle and get back so Brian cook's, your first encounter with the theater. Then I think that was at Dundee rep. How did you end up working there? I had these two great teachers, your guy called george Hackett and a guy called bill Jr, and when my education was a complete disaster, I mean really was you know I was design for to be a technical ketamine I couldn't make any those wooden boats mean they looked like nothing on earth. So I was just completely open
So wasn't a school, I really had much hope form, but I had these two guys Who could clearly saw something in me and we're very supportive of me. and one was an art teacher and the other one was an english teacher, but build your introduce me to the rap club and it was on one four o'clock on a wednesday. They used a bunch of kids would go to the rap and it was my first experience of live theatre and I was while I was fourteen and I'd just seen albert funny at the same time. So I knew what I wanted to do and was very excited, and what happened was that tom bill said look. I've got this ex student of mine he's going to go to drama school as it was shining through his school for acting and he's going to glasgow
Job is coming up that the red he said. Maybe you should apply for it. So I got into view and I went to the office and when they were asking me about classical music ass, I knew nothing of him, but we had a wonderful music teacher of brad cattle and he'd been playing the trumpet march from Aida, so I kind of does it well, you know I really do like vanity, I think ada as well, my favorites, particularly the trumpet march, the deepest him can't even you that I was lagging it. So I got a job and I started used to the money to the bank in the morning. I would run errands as a sort of, we will fight to run run ends for the secretary and in the evening I had the task of mopping the stage. So that was- had to do. I wasn't alone backstage unless. there was some sing,
lifting and I would go back and do some shifting. But then, when I got back stage eventually graduated to become probably the world stage, in which there have been the worst. There was a lie. Why, sir, when I was constantly doing things like come, I would be you're not be what I beyond the book been the prompt corner and be new duplicate? It was rollo and the actors are doing doing stuff and sunday there's a pause, and I don't know- and I can't see them and I'm on page twenty- they probably on page fourteen. Going when I'm looking at the tap on my shoulder, then I turn the actresses to be telephone. For me, she said no onstage. He was supposed to. The first was the rink. Before I was hopeless. I'm surprised it didn't fire me, but they didn't. let's take a break for some music. What are we gonna here and why? This is a song which actually relatively new to me? I didn't know that song until quite recently,
I have always completely blown I've always liked jacques rail, but apparently he did man from romancer. He actually did in the fit in paris, and this is the impossible dream on what see did you see a thing? I saw my cats by jack brown. Brian coaxial early career was spent in rapidly thea seven. I read that by the age of twenty two you'd played bolingbroke, orlando pagans, mchugh, shoe and ergo,
That seems a staggering achievement enough for one at such a young age. It was the time. Do we have these repertory theaters, which were phenomenal, and I was at birmingham rep. I started it. I see a martyr left homeless go in edinburgh and then after a year I went to Birmingham. Do it with this extraordinary actual, peter dues lobby, what do you want to play? We asked me why rwanda plan I told him and I ended up playing virtually aid to pieces. What what is it? That was a term of when we did fortnightly rebs three weekly we were in repertoire, so we were the first repertoire system we did to shakespeare to go. Then we would do separate things at pagan in the winter an amazing time and I went to the west western. That was my first journey to the western. When I was twenty one are minimised. terrible and all of the rose there has to be said. But it was a wonderful wonderful experience. Young. Please don't get. I experience. No, it's a shame says a lot of exports,
available in an opportunity, but it's also, you must have had a tremendous appetite for the work it is. As you know, it was a surfeit of stuff I just went for, and I was ambitious, quite ambitious. One is young, but I was ambitious for the work that was about the work I just wanted to get better and improve and pavle added some of those performances gone down in the article history. I mean Titus Andronicus with the rsc, especially how did it feel to to get that particular triumph under your belt? It was odd because I started life when I was kid was movies. I really want to be a movie actor. The generation of Alvin Peter him tom, they did movies, but it became kind of the different class people doing movies in the seventies and eighties. It wasn't happening from these, but I did television and television. Of course, in this country was fantastic
and I had a great time, but I did to play. Is that brought me to america and that there were very successful? and out of that I got this film manhunter, and so that was the beginning of I mean I'd done a couple of films early on right. At the start, I played trotsky and the concern I was younger, but this the start of something. So I was focusing on that. But then my marriage fell apart Sure I realized I have to go home to go back to london and be present for my kid so I joined the rsc and that was the best move. I ever made it's time for some music. What are we going to hear? Next? I just love the female voice, joni mitchell she's just astonishing, but the thing that is undeniable as her version, the the late version of both sides. Now, when you hear a woman whose lived when you hear those two versions in here this,
Most of you know, that's gonna the hive voice. You realize it its speculative, whereas this version is about someone who's slightly more cynical and she sings it wonderfully from a bender, still cloud, joni mitchell on both sides know you move to america in the nineties. A new described once breaking into hollywood is being like wrestling with a blood by
because it is, I mean you realize your though, was very sweet, very nice and and fickle as anything. You know you can't really take any of it seriously. I knew shouldn't I murmured. I went to hollywood in the seventies. The life then the fastest of the life, the glibness the light issue. I really couldn't take a really couldn't handlin and none I didn't succumb. I just came back. Did my work as my old friend in the fort mckay, associate. Follow your mercenary, calling and draw your wages. Is out in new york, but I know that you've said about your home country, scotland, that it draws you back as you get older. Do you miss it yeah? I do I'm there like shit. My sister is now gone into a care home in the another full day, so hopefully
He's gonna, be fine if you'd gotten. Ninety, as is coming up any day. Unfortunately, I won't be able to get back for it because of the restrictions but tat its gods, countries beautiful, if no one like it. No, I like in isis, incur Well, it's time for some more brain. What are we gonna hear thinks this is a surprise. Song from me, because its dynamism, romantic song and it really is about my wife, Nicole, and we met. We met in hamburg when I was playing kingly, looking like the old This movement briefly. I see just met colonel one night. Nothing happened, we just talked and then we parted and then when we were touring. I was in milan and she was having a relationship with a guy in the company and she came to milan and I remember embarrassingly, she walked into the restaurant and I stood up and I thought oh giving away. Then I quickly sat down again
and eight years later, I was doing art on broadway and I came into the theater just arrived late at the theater, and this was before mobile phones and I, the guys over at him bryant should deserve some broad left, a note than your cubbyhole last night, and I went oh and I looked at this note and I swear to god. I thought of I opened a snow changed my life, but I had this flash sod picked up. The note in it said I'm in town- currently watching central bernhard next door, but I see, here they will be nice of you. me I'm only here from couple days, so I ran up I rang the number and at that point somebody came in a company magic absentia no show tonight, so you got a ticket for somebody. If you want to use it so and you know I dunno what you're doing I don't know where you are, but I have a ticket for tonight. If you want to come or I should win, you she said. Well, I'm on fifty nineth and seventh avenue. I said well my theory on forty fifty seven hammond avenue unless it of you,
get here in the next ten minutes, which I thought was gonna be impossible and she did she came, and that was that And I took a tangle dancing that night, and that was it. This is for oh god only knows, the beach boys and god only knows soap in cooks. You recently directed your wife Serene sin is in london. What's it like working together, fantastic she's, a wonderful actress
and I know advice, but she really is a grand actress unfortunate and I do have to cast you away, like I told you all day boat, but you ve got go to your island. How will you manage to have any practical skills that might come and useful? I can be quite practical if I am forced to be I'm not by nature, but if I'd forced to be, I can be a useful, the eye can be rejoiceful, you know, so I'm I'm not too backing, especially now with the present crisis is probably the safest place bidding and how are you with solitude, how you're on your own on being a mile obsolete? I mean I love my wife. I love my family, but I have. A little man cave here in london which, with my wife, has been allowed to live in for the last two do the play, but it is my and cave, and I I do value my solitude while one more track and before we send you off to the desert island, what's it going to be and why she's a friend- and she is the original rock chick she has one
the truly great voices and she's witty and she's around woman. I love to tibet. is chrissie Hynde and the pretenders and don't get me wrong. The
the pretenders and don't get me wrong, so Brian Cox, it's time to cast your way to your desert island. I will of course give you the books to keep you company day. You will have the bible and the complete works of shakespeare. I protect me what the bible, while I'll give you both. You can also take another book of your choice. What would you like? I would like a book. It spread. Pewter dispense. Courage, cold in search of the miraculous it's about man's crushed for consciousness, being conscious. It's yours, you can also have a luxury item. What would you like them? I think pending on the state of my clothes, I would like a very, very good sewing kit. Ah, ok waking the full box in the one, with the little layers that pull out and then I wouldn't mind telescoping, because I like silly yeah fantastic where you go, you good at it. I'm not bored
I had to learn to do and I was very young. So it's something I do. I mean I'm just imagine that I might have some clothes I need to repair, namely it's all yours and finally, if you had to say just one disk of the eight that we ve heard today from the waves which would it be so hard it's a toss up. I say, and I can't decide and is either god only knows by the beach boys or is both sides now by joni mitchell. So I can't decide, but I think, because of my wife, I think it has to be. God only knows I think
choice, praying cooks. Thank you very much for letting his he does. Ireland. Thank you. So much has been so enjoyable. I can't tell you.
Transcript generated on 2023-05-22.