Memories of ‘Gosford Park’ from the Ivor Novello Consultant David Slattery-Christy

20 Jan

When people who are unfamiliar with Jeremy’s work ask me ‘What will have I seen him in?’, it’s always Gosford Park, and Jeremy’s wonderful and much admired performance as Ivor Novello, that I suggest first.

Robert Altman's 2001 masterpiece, 'Gosford Park'.

Robert Altman’s sublime murder mystery set above- and below-stairs in a country house gave Jeremy one of his very best roles to date, and despite being amongst one of the most talented casts ever assembled, Jeremy gave what Robert Altman himself described as ‘one of the, really, best performances I’ve ever seen in a film‘.

Ivor Novello is the only non-fictional character in Gosford Park. To give Jeremy’s portrayal authenticity, David Slattery-Christy, author and playwright, and expert in the life and works of Novello, was engaged as the film’s official consultant. I was delighted when David agreed to tell me about his memories of working on the film.

David Slattery-Christy

I am fortunate enough to have some great memories of my time working on ‘Gosford Park’. The first ever meeting I was invited to, at an apartment in Kensington, London, I shall never forget. At the time I was directing a tribute show, to mark the 50th anniversary of Ivor Novello’s death, at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, when I was called and invited to attend the meeting. At that point I had no idea what the film involved. Imagine my surprise, on arriving at the said apartment, to find the likes of Robert Altman, Dame Maggie Smith, Charles Dance, Dame Helen Mirren, Eileen Atkins, Kristin Scott Thomas and Jeremy Northam, to name but a few. At this moment I realised this would be like no ordinary film.

During the location filming at Wrougtham Park near London I was fortunate to meet and see Jeremy Northam shoot his scenes and witness the resulting rushes. The one memory I was left with concerning Jeremy was his modesty. He quietly went about his scenes and left everyone so impressed with his skill and the depth he brought to the Novello role. Watching the rushes of his scenes was the only time I remember there was total silence in the tiny screening van. He did all this with no fuss or fanfares. He was a very warm and polite man and always had a ready smile for everybody.

Jeremy as Ivor Novello, with Claudie Blakely

Prior to shooting I had compiled a list of all the things that Novello did or didn’t like along with a few insights into his character. Jeremy’s portrayal and performance captured Novello brilliantly, even to the playing of the piano and singing of the various songs whilst shooting the scenes. The only thing that changed was the piano playing – Jeremy’s brother played the piano track we hear in the film.

David Slattery-Christy
Ivor Novello Consultant – Gosford Park

David has written at greater length about his work on Gosford Park in his excellent book on the life and work of Ivor Novello, In Search of Ruritania.

An absorbing and thoroughly engaging read, and a must-own for fans of Altman’s film looking to learn more about Novello and his work … straight from the film’s Ivor Novello consultant.’ Tara O’Shea, Chicago.

You can find out more about David’s book and where to purchase it (I have a copy myself and I highly recommend it) by visiting his website: David Slattery-Christy.

I’d like to thank David very much indeed for taking the time to make this wonderful contribution to the blog.

by Gill

9 Responses to “Memories of ‘Gosford Park’ from the Ivor Novello Consultant David Slattery-Christy”

  1. Mary January 20, 2011 at 10:30 pm #

    All that David Slattery-Christy about Jeremy Northam said and writes is a confirmation of why we him admire and love, thanks for the contribution.

  2. LauraP January 20, 2011 at 11:28 pm #

    This is wonderful! How generous of Mr. Slattery-Christy to share with us his memories of working on Gosford Park.

    It’s good to know the recognized foremost expert on Ivor Novello was as impressed with Jeremy’s performance as we are!

  3. joan aka HazelP January 21, 2011 at 2:20 am #

    Mr. Slattery-Christy’s comments on Jeremy N seem to echo those of quite a few people who have worked with him. Read the pages in Mr. Slatter-Christy’s book which are available in a Google Book Search. Thank you Mr. Slattery-Christy for sharing your memories of both Jeremy Northam and Ivor Novello.

  4. Gayle Cooley January 21, 2011 at 2:20 pm #

    This was fabulous!

  5. Martina January 22, 2011 at 10:13 am #

    It´s always a great joy to hear/read the pointing-out of Jeremy Northam`s lovely character and skillfully talents as an actor! Yes, I dare to say that modesty, politness and kindness are, amongst other, more external attributes, what wins his admirers over. I´m a bit ashamed to admit that it was not until “Gosford Park” that I apperceive Ivor Novello and his fantastic music
    Thanks to Mr. Slattery-Christy (who seems to be pretty modest and kind himself imho) for his wonderful article and thank you Gill, for inquiring Mr. S.-C.

  6. Jenny Ketcham January 25, 2011 at 2:39 am #

    Watched Gosford Park again today (due to a recent airing of Julian Fellowes’ Downton Abbey…not as good as GP, but interesting) and was impressed as always at Jeremy’s work.

    Seen about sixteen of his films and I quite agree with his best being Dean Martin…not that the others weren’t great, but I had gone in saying, “yeah, right, he doesn’t even look like Dean” and was floored by how quickly he made me forget that. Amazing. And I do think that his comedy chops have been underestimated with proof like Happy Texas sitting around. We definitely need more solid romantic comedy heroes…Ashton Kutcher just isn’t going to cut it, and Gerard Butler keeps taking the charmless boor roles, when we all can see he’s Scottish charm personified…go figure…

    Sorry, I got off the track. I enjoy your blog and will be back to visit. I have been off on the Indian film adventure for a bit now, and have just been coming back (not that you’d know it from my blog 🙂 Best of luck!

    • jules January 26, 2011 at 11:01 pm #

      I agree with your comments on the latest rom-com actors, Jenny…they don’t cut it for me either!!

      I think every episode of Downton Abbey should go out with a ‘if you liked this you would love Gosford Park’ voice over at the end!

      Re the lovely ‘making of’ blog above, I can’t imagine what it must have been like for the author to push back the door of the apartment and find the room full of acting royalty….panic maybe?

  7. Karen Wasylowski June 9, 2011 at 11:37 pm #

    He is one of my favorite actors of all time. When I think of him I think of “The Winslow Boy”. He was wonderful in that.


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    […] young flier with the gentlemanly Mr. Knightley. I also admired his work in An Ideal Husband and Gosford Park before I added it all up and got the right answer to the question “Is that the same guy who […]

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