Happy Birthday to Jeremy Northam!

1 Dec

Big, big, BIG Happy Birthday to Jeremy!

This time last year, a few of us pondered how to mark Jeremy’s birthday, and whether or not a gift should be sent. After putting ourselves in his position and suspecting that a gift from some possibly slightly unhinged complete strangers would probably not be deeply appreciated, instead we composed a silly birthday poem, posted it online and sent the link to someone who was working with Jeremy. It’s highly likely that he never got to see it (we never heard), but working on the premise that it’s the thought that counts and remembering that it was fun to do, it’s all fine.

This year, needless to say and rather wisely, the slightly unhinged strangers have not been invited to Jeremy’s birthday party, so we’re having our own celebration right here!

To kick us off in style, here is PrincessAmerigo’s latest video, made especially for Jeremy’s birthday, on behalf of all of us who frequent Jeremy Northam Chat. Thank you Agi!

As it’s close to Christmas, I’m thinking of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ (it should be illegal not to watch that movie at this time every year). Can you imagine what might have been had the wonderful happenstance of Jeremy’s birth not taken place? ‘Emma’, without Jeremy as Knightley? They might have cast Hugh Grant instead, the actor that David Thomson describes as ‘an incipient sneeze looking for a vacant nose’*. Or ‘The Winslow Boy’ without Jeremy’s Sir Robert Morton? The whole subtext of sexual attraction between Sir Robert and Catherine would not have been there (that was Jeremy’s suggestion). I can’t even bring myself to imagine ‘Miami Medical’ without Jeremy as Proctor, that would break my heart … Actually, this whole exercise breaks my heart, so I’m going to stop before I become the party’s maudlin weeping drunk! I only want happy tears at this party!

So, let’s get tipsy on reasons to celebrate that this wonderful actor was born 49 years ago today!

Robert Altman, Director ‘Gosford Park’, of Jeremy as Ivor Novello:
I think this performance by Jeremy Northam is one of the, really, best performances I’ve ever seen in a film.

As Ivor Novello in 'Gosford Park'

Norman Jewison, Director of ‘The Statement’:
I just wanted him so bad. I went to him and told him, I didn’t know why, but I desperately wanted him to play this role. He was one of the first people I cast.

Vincenzo Natali, Director of ‘Cypher’:
I cast Jeremy not particularly because he’s British but because he’s one of the few leading men who is also a character actor. We needed those two things in the person who played Morgan Sullivan because he does transform so dramatically through the course of the film. I think if people who haven’t seen the movie were shown a scene from the beginning and then a scene from the end I don’t know that they would recognise Jeremy because he really did disappear into the role. I was very lucky to get him, he did an amazing job.

With William H Macy in 'Happy, Texas'

William H. Macy, co-star, ‘Happy, Texas’:
He’s completely charming, so good looking. He’s got this great mellifluous voice. There’s something compelling about Jeremy, it’s quite easy to watch him … I just loved dancing with him. He’s a tall drink of water. It was a little rough on the do-si-do’s ’cause he’s about 3 feet taller than I am.

Francesca Hunt, Literary Editor at Silksoundbooks, of working with Jeremy on audiobooks of ‘The Aspern Papers’ and ‘The Real Thing and Other Stories’:
We had a superb time working with Jeremy, as I imagine most do … Jeremy was a classic case of a very clever man suggesting some superb choices … He read the Henry James beautifully, he would read a railway timetable pretty well, obviously, but the fact that he knew and loved (the work of Henry) James quite as well as he did added immeasurably to the recording and to the pleasure of preparing the piece. It was such a good experience that we went on to record a second series of short stories with him all suggested by Jeremy himself … He is a lovely and an intelligent man and it was a great pleasure working with him.

Jeffrey Lieber, creator of ‘Miami Medical’:
He’s an incredibly talented man who brought a lot to the show. I, like you, look forward to what he chooses to do next.

And most recently, here is what legendary film writer David Thomson has to say about Jeremy in the 2010 edition of  ‘The New Biographical Dictionary of Film’:
… In the late 1980s, he had a great stage success in ‘The Voysey Inheritance’ and he played Stanhope in a TV revival of ‘Journey’s End’ (88, Michael Simpson). He is tall, dark and handsome in an old-fashioned way that has brought him a good many period roles. But he has a quietness and an ease that are not just unusual – they are intelligence itself. He is a star in waiting, increasingly versatile and inclined to take big gambles in his material. He runs the risk of making nearly everything seem easy, but proper recognition will come.

He was in the TV series Wish Me Luck (88-9) and then he played Hindley Earnshaw in ‘Wuthering Heights’ (92, Peter Kosminsky); Beacus Penrose in ‘Carrington’ (95, Christopher Hampton); went to America for ‘The Net’ (95, Irwin Winkler), with Sandra Bullock; ‘Voices’ (95, Malcolm Clarke), outstanding as Mr. Knightley in ‘Emma’ (96, Douglas McGrath); ‘ Mimic’ (97, Guillermo Del Toro); ‘Amistad’ (97, Steven Spielberg).

With Sean Hayes in 'Martin and Lewis'

He was funny with Parker Posey in ‘The Misadventures of Margaret’ (98, Brian Skeet) and with Steve Zahn in ‘Happy, Texas’ (99, Mark Illsley), but no one has really explored that potential. So he did ‘Gloria’ (99, Sidney Lumet); Chiltern in ‘An Ideal Husband’ (99, Oliver Parker); the barrister in ‘The Winslow Boy’ (99, David Mamet) – nearly comically cool; the Prince in ‘The Golden Bowl’ (00, James Ivory) – icily hot. He did ‘Enigma’ (01, Michael Apted); Ivor Novello – singing very well—in ‘Gosford Park’ (01, Robert Altman); ‘Possession’ (02, Neil LaBute); ‘Cypher’ (01, Vincenzo Natali).

Then for TV, he did his best work – suave but shy, as Dean Martin in ‘Martin and Lewis’ (02, John Gray) …

And finally, from me … you all know by now (oh please don’t yawn!) that I think Jeremy is an extremely talented actor, one of the very best, and one whose ‘great role’ is still to come (and it will come, I’m sure of that). I hardly need mention his great beauty and presence on screen. But what makes him so special for me? Why is it more than a fangirl crush? I could try to put it into some coherent form, but for me to be too analytical about it might destroy the magic; I’m not sure I really want to know! Whatever it is that Jeremy does and however it is that he does it, all I can say is that I know of no-one else whose performances affect me in the same way. Maybe this quote from my favourite writer, Robert Louis Stevenson, is worth adding: ‘Fiction is to the grown man what play is to the child; it is there that he changes the atmosphere and tenor of his life.’

So, time to top up those glasses and toast Mr Northam:

Jeremy, we wish you the Happiest of Birthdays, and many, many more, and we thank you for all your wonderful work and all that it gives us.

Please add your own birthday wishes and appreciation for Jeremy by leaving a comment. I can’t promise that he’ll see it, but it’s the thought that counts!

*2010 edition of  ‘The New Biographical Dictionary of Film’

by Gill

Thanks to Joan aka Hazel P, to Debra, to Martina, and to Linnie, all of whom have provided material used in this post



28 Responses to “Happy Birthday to Jeremy Northam!”

  1. Linnigee December 1, 2010 at 10:25 am #

    As usual, a wonderful piece. Thanks, Gill, for kicking off our day-long celebration of the wonderful Mr. N.

  2. Gayle Cooley December 1, 2010 at 12:32 pm #

    Well done Gill!

    This is a perfect Birthday tribute and greeting. I echo your sentiments exactly.

  3. Martina December 1, 2010 at 2:13 pm #

    Dear Gill, I think this is a wonderful statement in behalf of us fans, thanks a lot. Nothing much to add besides, as desired, personal birthday wishes:

    “Jeremy, viel Kraft, Freude und Zuversicht für das neue Lebensjahr! Stay fit as a fiddle and hopefully find fulfillment in private and professional life!
    We, your fans, are so looking forward to your next work.”

    • Gill Fraser Lee December 1, 2010 at 2:17 pm #

      Thanks Martina, and that’s a lovely birthday wish for Jeremy!

  4. Rosamond Tifft December 1, 2010 at 2:24 pm #

    I’m touched by these birthday greetings to Jeremy and so would he be. I wish he could see them now. Of course, I am the in your face type, I’d be sending him gifts all over the place, but that’s not always how to achieve the best ends for everyone. I believe he deserves to be honored for his class in character and his huge gifts as an artist. Your humanity is incredibly in your art so if his art is cherished and loved, so is he and we do send him our love beyond even ourselves and for what it’s worth…endless devotion and affection and respect. I’m proud of what Robert Altman said of him and his work, to be that well thought of by such a brilliant director is an accolade I admire and love. His gifts are recognizable, his talent undiminished, and untapped even now, so more titanic than known. He’s like a quiet volcano and I, while not new to him, am slow with him, taking him for granted, because he was always so good, therefore I could, continue to hope others will shine a light on his burning gifts and give them more opportunity to shine. I’m not surprised he liked Henry James, he was the greatest writer of our times. Like Jeremy, the consummate and brilliant of diamonds.

    • Gill Fraser Lee December 1, 2010 at 2:28 pm #

      Thank you so much, Rosie. I’m sure Jeremy would be touched by what you have written. xxx

  5. Jennythenipper December 1, 2010 at 3:53 pm #

    From one unhinged stranger to another, “he’s a jolly good fellow!” I love how many of the quotes, sound like gushing fangirling.

    • Gill Fraser Lee December 1, 2010 at 4:01 pm #

      I guess they do! I like that, Robert Altman a gushing fangirl!

  6. joan aka HazelP December 1, 2010 at 6:02 pm #

    May Mr. Northam have a wonderful birthday (regardless of the weather wherever he may be) and may the upcoming year bring him roles in film, television, and stage that reward him with awards and applause in full measure.

    Mr. Northam – Sto Lat (May you live a thousand years)!

  7. Skippy December 1, 2010 at 7:52 pm #

    Gill,
    Yet another fantastic post! I have never been a big reader, but I have been enjoying your posts and never tire of reading them.

    I hope that not only does Mr N have a glorious day, but all his fans have a wonderful day celebrating and watching his films.
    No surprise to Gill, that I’ll be watching Dean Spanley, as it is my favorite of his films/performances. After that, it will be difficult to choose, so perhaps I’ll just close my eyes and reach up to the Jeremy shelf of my DVD case and pick a wild card.
    Happy day to all!

    • Gill Fraser Lee December 1, 2010 at 8:17 pm #

      Thanks Skippy, have fun with Young Fisk and your Northam Lucky Dip!

  8. LauraP December 1, 2010 at 9:07 pm #

    Very well said, Gill!

    I can’t imagine any of the roles he’s taken on being played by anyone other than Jeremy Northam. (Fifty lashes with a wet noodle to you, Gill, for suggesting HG as my adored Mr. Knightley! 😉 )

    I heartily agree with David Thomson that he makes “nearly everything seem easy.” Who else could portray such polar-opposites as Dean Martin and Sir Thomas More and receive accolades for both performances?

    Happy Birthday, Jeremy! Many happy and healthy returns of the day to you.

    • Gill Fraser Lee December 1, 2010 at 9:15 pm #

      Perhaps suggesting HG was a step too horrid … lashes taken on the chin, Laura! x There’s a blog post in that Dino/Sir Tom comparison, you know … 😉

      • LauraP December 1, 2010 at 10:17 pm #

        Hmmm. Thanks for the suggestion… *puts thinking cap on*

  9. Robyn Wildman December 1, 2010 at 9:36 pm #

    Outstanding post, Gill! A wonderful tribute to Jeremy on his birthday. Let me add my best birthday wishes to Jeremy. I wish him happiness in his personal life and success in his professional life. I hope he gets a fabulous new role soon!

    • Gill Fraser Lee December 1, 2010 at 9:42 pm #

      Thanks Robyn, and I echo your lovely wishes for Jeremy. x

  10. jules December 1, 2010 at 9:49 pm #

    Wonderful – striking just the right note, as usual Gill, between stalking and rational fandom!

    Great comments and great quotes – lets hope JN’s half-century year brings some new projects…

    • Gill Fraser Lee December 1, 2010 at 10:05 pm #

      Phew! Thanks Jules! Yes, let’s hope Mr N has some interesting projects up his sleeve!

  11. Emily Sonders December 2, 2010 at 2:49 am #

    Gill and all,
    Firstly, Happy Birthday Jeremy!
    Thank you Gill for posting the wonderful comments about Jeremy and
    his performances. I agree with film writer David Thomson that Jeremy is
    “tall dark and handsome in an old fashioned way”. I have often thought
    that Jeremy looked too “old fashioned” to be the first choice for current films
    and have tried to understand exactly what that meant;i.e.-to look old
    fashioned. I had a professor once (he has been deceased for some time now- died one year younger than Jeremy is now) who was one of the most beautiful creatures to grace the world but who like Jeremy was
    “old fashioned looking” (like John Gilbert- but better looking imho-sorry
    John) and that if he were in films, he would be cast in period films.
    Well anyway, if you folks find an article that reads that Jeremy Northam
    is one of the most underrated actors in the history of film please send
    it along to us. I really love to agree with intelligence.
    All the best,
    Emily

  12. Dharma Gahan-Northam December 2, 2010 at 1:54 pm #

    Well, I had a lovely red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting all prepared along with white chocolate covered strawberries………..and then the alarm clock woke me up!!!

    Thanks for a great post, Gill……and wherever you are, Mr. Northam, happy belated birthday!!!!

    • Gill Fraser Lee December 2, 2010 at 2:12 pm #

      The cake sounds lovely!! Good to see you, Dharma. xx

  13. Anne O' Sullivan December 4, 2010 at 11:34 pm #

    I’ve come to this rather belatedly!!!! But that was an excellent composition Gill, and sums up everything I feel about this wonderful guy!!

    I sincerely hope he had a lovely day and spent it with loved ones!!

    Happy Belated Birthday, Jer

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Tweets that mention Happy Birthday to Jeremy Northam! « The Jer Blog, all about Jeremy Northam -- Topsy.com - December 1, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Milo D'Maestro, Gill Fraser Lee. Gill Fraser Lee said: Happy Birthday Jeremy Northam! My new blog post … http://wp.me/pNnl7-iW http://fb.me/LFpb5dil […]

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