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