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Happy 50th Birthday to Jeremy Northam!

1 Dec

The first of December, 1961 was not a Big Day in History. No great battles were fought, no peace treaties were signed, no world-changing discoveries were made. Among the events that Wikipedia does list as taking place that day are these: Syria held its first parliamentary elections since separating from the United Arab Republic, Britannia Airways was set up in the UK under the name Euravia, Algeria’s News Agency was founded, and a coat of arms was officially granted to somewhere called Hordaland.

But Wikipedia lists one further entry for the date, and it’s the one that makes 1st December 1961 a Very Big Day in History indeed—around here at least: Born: Jeremy Northam, English actor, in Cambridge.

That’s right. Jeremy Northam, “English actor,” celebrates his 50th birthday today! For close to 25 of those 50 years he has been one of the best actors, of any nationality, in the business.

To mark this milestone in Jeremy’s life, I thought a list of reasons why we admire the man would be in order. Fifty of them, one for every year he’s been in the world. I asked for assistance in compiling my list from the group of ardent admirers who frequent Jeremy Northam Chat and Jeremy Northam Info as well as this blog. The response was wonderful! My sincere thanks to everyone who was able to contribute ideas. I have tried to edit and arrange everyone’s thoughts to their best advantage; I hope the end result pleases. (Several contributors wanted to remain anonymous, so not every item is credited to someone.)

Special thanks are due to Joan, who provided many of the photos that accompany this post; to SkippyQSB, whose beautiful screencaps also provided photos (via JNI); and to Gill, who supplied the audio clips and always makes my JN Blog posts look so spiffy.



And now, without further ado, I give you…

50 Reasons to be a Jeremy Northam Fan:

1. Jeremy’s need for variety in his roles and dislike of typecasting. It makes for a “magical mystery tour” for fans of his work; we never know what is coming next, but we can be certain we’ll enjoy it because our man never lets us down. No matter what he tackles, be it a serious drama, a frothy comedy or an audiobook, he approaches it with utter professionalism, fierce intelligence and a goodly measure of perfectionism. I have completely failed to ever predict his next career move, and that, as well as the quality of his performances, keep me on my toes as a blogger, and excited as a fan. After seeing him as Mr. Knightley, who would ever have guessed he’d play a bug scientist fighting mutated giant cockroaches in the New York subway system? Who could have predicted that he’d play a Victorian poet, a futuristic spy who’s had his memory blanked, and Dean Martin in succession? Not me! (Contributed by Gill)

As RH Ash in 'Possession'

As Peter Mann in 'Mimic'

As Dean Martin in 'Martin and Lewis'


2. His versatility as an actor; he always surprises and amazes me by how good he is at everything he attempts. From doing comedy in Happy, Texas, to his astonishing transformation during Cypher, to his subtle and restrained brilliance as Sir Robert Morton, Jeremy has incredible range as an actor. (From Ansie)

As Harry Sawyer in 'Happy Texas'


3. How he could have become a “celebrity” actor, but instead chooses to actually explore a variety of roles, some that (try) to hide his handsomeness—like the character of Col. Lane Woolwrap in Guy X. (Contributed by Gammie)

As Col. Lane Woolwrap, 'Guy X'


4. His ability to immerse himself in a role. You see the character on the screen, not the man. Jeremy’s performance as Morgan Sullivan/Sebastian Rooks in Cypher is a great example of this; with subtle changes throughout the movie, he completely transforms from meek, put-upon Morgan to sexy, Bond-like Sebastian.

As Morgan Sullivan, 'Cypher'

As Sebastian Rooks, 'Cypher'

The equivalent in his audio work is his incredible ability to create diverse characters with just his voice. Puddleglum from The Silver Chair and Miss Bates in Emma stand out. It’s amazing to me that he was able to express so perfectly the voices of both a 19th-century English spinster and a fantastical creature called a “marshwiggle.” (Contributed by Robyn)


5. How he’s so good at disappearing into a character that it can take a while to think of him as “Jeremy Northam.” Many of us who are now his biggest fans have had to confess that in the beginning we failed to recognize him when he appeared in a new project. Sometimes it even took two viewings of something before he really caught our attention and we were able to make the connection between a splendid performance and the actor who delivered it. I adored the character of Fitz in Piece of Cake, but the next time I saw Jeremy, in Emma, I didn’t connect the inexperienced 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 played ___?” But I’ve always been really bad at math! (From Laura) Another example: The first thing I saw him in was Emma, and then I forgot about him—the shame!—until The Tudors. That reminded me what a great actor Jeremy is, and I sought out some of his intervening work. (From Marie)

As Mr. Knightley, 'Emma'


6. How Jeremy’s talent comes first, then his looks “sneak up” on you. For example, after seeing Emma and admiring his acting, I then found myself thinking, “Hey, he’s very handsome!” (Chosen by Gammie)


7. His intelligence and insight. Not only is this evident in Jeremy’s acting, it shines through in his audiobook performances. His ability to interpret the written word is apparent in the perceptive way he describes the literary characters he has played, such as Prince Amerigo or Mr. Knightley. But even more impressive to me is how his insight is transmitted via his skills, whether he’s acting or reading. I just finished listening to the Our Man in Havana audiobook again and was in awe of how his intelligence and wit come through those words written on the page. It’s in how he interprets a sentence: the phrasing, the pauses, the inflections of his voice, the accents he takes on… it’s so subtle but also powerful. He’s a master at interpreting literature. (Submitted by Ansie)


8. The sense of humor and humility he displays in interviews, like this one from the Guardian in 2002, called “Northam passes on the singing.” (Contributed by Gammie) Click on the link to read this short interview in its entirety.


9. How modest he seems in interviews. I love the Leicester Square TV clip from the red carpet at the Dean Spanley premiere. When he’s asked what he’d like to be reincarnated as, Jeremy says “I think a Parson’s Jack Russell would do me.” Cute! (Picked by Marie) He’s interviewed from 0:53 to 1:56 in this “Leicester Square Premieres” clip:


10. This interview about An Ideal Husband, especially the bit at the end (at 1:10) where he says, “She [Gertrude]—this sounds a terrible generalization and maybe it’s a terribly sexist thing to say—but like so many women, [she] seems to have that extra capacity for feeling and intellect which so many men seem to lack.” Jeremy Northam on Sir Robert Chiltern: (Note that the volume on this clip is very low and Jeremy is very soft-spoken.)


11. The interview from the Glorious 39 region 1 DVD extras.

A rare recent interview, in which Jeremy looks and sounds at his best. (Chosen by Joan)

Jeremy being interviewed about his role as Balcombe in 'Glorious 39'


12. This quote, from a 2002 interview with Emily Blunt for her Blunt Review:

Surely the job of fiction is to actually tell the truth. It’s a paradox that’s at the heart of any kind of storytelling. All the great novels, all the great films, all the great dramas are fictions that actually tell us the truth about us or about human nature or about human situations without being tied into the minutia of documentary events. Otherwise we might as well just make documentaries.

I’ve thought this for years, but I have never been able to adequately explain myself to people who think reading or watching works of fiction is a waste of time. Leave it to the articulate, intelligent Jeremy to put my thoughts into a succinct, perfectly worded statement! (Contributed by Laura)


13. His taste in music, and how he introduced me to a new favorite. Jeremy mentioned that a copy of The Koln Concert by Keith Jarrett is something he has taken with him when he travels. I like it very much, too. (From Mary)


14. The first time I saw Jeremy and heard Mr. Knightley say “As an old friend of the family, I had to ask as soon as I got back: Who cried the most at the wedding?” (Submitted by Joan)

Mr. Knightley's entrance, 'Emma'

Ah, yes. Mr. Knightley! Many of us first encountered Jeremy at that moment when he appeared in the doorway in Emma. The role of Jane Austen’s ideal Regency gentleman fit him like a glove; he was the perfect Mr. Knightley: courteous, sweet, funny, and oh, so very handsome. He left quite an impression on us! And this is still one of Jeremy’s best known and most loved roles. More favorite Knightley moments: the archery scene, with his frustrated exclamation “Men of sense, whatever you may say, do not want silly wives!”; the way he squirms when he’s teased by Emma and Mrs. Weston (Gwyneth Paltrow and Greta Scacchi) about his feelings for Jane Fairfax; the “Brother and sister? No, no… indeed, we are not!” line and how he reveals so much by the tone of his voice (Chosen by Marie);

'Indeed we are not ...'

the passion and disappointment in the “Badly done, Emma!” scene; and of course, that wonderful, swoon-worthy proposal where he tells Emma that he rode through the rain to reach her and that “I’d ride through worse than that if I could just hear your voice telling me that I might, at least, have some chance to win you.” “Marry Me”:

What woman could refuse Jeremy’s Mr. Knightley saying, “Marry me, my wonderful, darling friend”? Certainly not me! (The parts not contributed by Joan or Marie are from Laura)


15. Jeremy’s role as Sir Robert Morton in The Winslow Boy. Seeing him as Sir Robert in David Mamet’s film adaptation of Terence Rattigan’s play was my Eureka! moment as far as Jeremy is concerned. I was aware of his work before seeing him in this film, but up until that point he was another handsome actor who I would enjoy watching. He hadn’t really engaged with me in any special way. Although the performance as a whole is excellent, there is a specific moment where Sir Robert visits the Winslow house and speaks to Catherine after the successful conclusion of the trial. He asks for a whiskey and sits down, temporarily drained and overwhelmed. In that instant, Sir Robert’s humanity is revealed and in that instant, Jeremy as Sir Robert connected with me. As I recall, I felt it physically, almost as a shock. And of course, being so fond of Jeremy’s role in The Winslow Boy was what introduced me to my other favorite actor, Robert Donat. (Submitted by Gill)

As Sir Robert Morton, 'The Winslow Boy'


16. His first appearance in The Winslow Boy, that’s a great moment, too! (Suggested by Robyn)

Sir Robert Morton is another of Jeremy’s most treasured characters. It is one of his best performances in a film as well. From the moment he appears, taken by surprise by Catherine Winslow (Rebecca Pidgeon) in his office, Jeremy’s Sir Robert is mesmerizing. The interrogation scene that ends with the classic line “The boy is plainly innocent. I accept the brief”; the exchange of lingering looks in Parliament between Catherine, up behind the grille of the Ladies’ Gallery, and Sir Robert down on the floor; the scene where Sir Robert speaks in the House of Commons, with Jeremy’s commanding voice ringing out through the room; and that delicious ending where he gets the last word, “Do you really think so, Miss Winslow? How little you know about men,” delivered with a grin; are all played with understated mastery.

'How little you know about men'


17. Jeremy’s intense and wonderful performance in Dean Spanley; it touches the innermost part of me!

As Henslowe Fisk, 'Dean Spanley'

The movie is a masterpiece by all involved, but especially Jeremy’s acting enables me a little retreat to an oasis of calm, so to say. I cannot put my finger on it exactly. Is it the emotional facial expression Jeremy lends all the time to Henslowe, or is it his elaboration of a lovely character? I suppose both together. All that worrying about his father’s welfare, the musing about the whys and wherefores, his tenderness for the old housekeeper. And then his modesty, intelligence and humor, all the gentle nuances in his behavior. As an example, I want to describe the scene between Henslowe and his father Horatio when they’re on their way home after the lecture on the transmigration of souls. Fisk Sr. (the wonderful Peter O’Toole) is endlessly going on with his usual nagging and Fisk pushing the “chair” and is feeling on edge—you can see it in his beautiful impressive face! And then there is this witty verbal exchange:

Henslowe: Canine flattery is a survival mechanism, according to Darwin.

Horatio: The chap never had a dog is all I can say!

Henslowe: I thought he had a beagle. (Referring to Darwin’s sea journey with the HMS Beagle)

Henslowe’s face at the moment he makes this little joke, utterly unnoticed by his father, is priceless! He’s a man of great humanity and benevolence, that Fisk Jr., isn’t he? A fictional man to fall in love with… And to be quite true, it strikes me that Mr. Jeremy Northam himself possesses quite a bit of good character attributes, too! (Contributed by Martina)

With Peter O'Toole in 'Dean Spanley'


18. More wonderful moments from Henslowe Fisk, or Fisk Jr., or Young Fisk, as this adored character is variously known in Dean Spanley: the bit when Fisk Jr. tells his Dad to “shush” in the scene at the lecture; it’s just so funny, his expression and tone of desperation! This is my favorite of Jeremy’s films. (Contributed by Marie)


Then there’s the funny little moment right after the scene in which Henslowe invites the Dean to dinner, offering him a fictional bottle of Tokay as enticement; he tells the cat stuck up in a nearby tree “I wouldn’t call it a lie, Puss. More like a truth deferred, nothing worse.” And don’t forget the sweet scene where Henslowe seeks motherly comfort from Mrs. Brimley; or his frustrated attempt to describe to Wrather the effect the Tokay had on Dean Spanley, “It was if his mind had slipped a cog”—Fisk Jr. is a bit “tiddly” himself during this scene; how moved he is by the end of the Dean’s story and by his father’s emotional response to it; and, finally, the poignant expression we can see in Fisk Jr.’s eyes over his father’s shoulder as the two men embrace.


19. The enigmatic, quirky Dr. Matt Proctor in Miami Medical. Jeremy’s most recent character is also one of his best loved. Handsome, sexy, funny, compassionate, and great at his job—what’s not to love about Proctor? It was great seeing Jeremy in a contemporary setting and getting a chance to do some comedy as well. Because of the way the series ended—cancelled before it even had time to gain momentum—we were left with a lot of unanswered questions about the good doctor. But, then again, maybe that’s just the way MT-1’s resident Mystery Man would want it to be!

As Dr Matt Proctor, 'Miami Medical'

Some of our favorite DocProc moments: The duck-feather medicine hat scene with Tuck, riding his bike in a circle to help him solve a medical problem, and sitting on the roof wearing his scrubs and sunglasses. (Submitted by Gammie) I love the scene in Calle Cubana where he’s eating Pollo Versailles for breakfast and the one where he is introduced to Dr. Zambrano’s father—the original Dr. Zambrano—in Like a Hurricane. “So you’re the Englishman who took my little girl’s job?” “Well, that’s one way of describing my rather awkward ascent.” (Chosen by Joan) In the Golden Hour episode, a young mother dies and Dr. Proctor sees the father with his small child in his arms; Jeremy plays this scene with infinite sadness because Proctor’s medical skill was all in vain. That was great acting! (From Mary)

Need more DocProc? Here he is, in a fabulous video by SkippyQSB, “Give Me the News, Doc”:


20. His ability to embody the quality of stealthiness, which he displays in several of his characters. This dictionary entry for the term perfectly describes Wigram in Enigma: Marked by or acting with quiet, caution, and secrecy intended to avoid notice. Jeremy also conveys this characteristic of quiet, deliberate secretiveness in his portrayal of Balcombe in Glorious 39. (Suggested by Joan) “Suspicions” from Enigma:


21. All those dark scenes in The Net where Jack Devlin is stalking Angela—in the car, around the amusement pier, and at the street parade outside the convention center. Another stealthy character from Jeremy!

As Jack Devlin, 'The Net' (with Sandra Bullock)


22. The library scene from Piece of Cake.

Poor Fitz has an embarrassing problem and he decides to ask Intelligence Officer “Skull” Skelton (the excellent Richard Hope) for advice. This quiet moment from the 1988 miniseries shows Jeremy at the beginning of his career, when his acting experience was mostly in stage work. You can see he’s still learning how to act in front of a camera; the subtle changes of expression we now expect from him aren’t quite there yet. But watch the slight shake of his head and the confused expression that flashes over Fitz’s face at 1:50 of this clip. Jeremy shows us in the space of a millisecond that Fitz has never heard of Foyle’s, the book shop Skull is recommending. There’s a hint of the brilliance to come. And he’s thoroughly adorable to boot! (Chosen by Laura)


23. Jeremy’s last scene in Enigma. I’ve always been a film buff and I’ve watched a good many movies. In times past I used even to visit the Berlin Film Festival. But very rarely was I touched by a movie in such a way as I was by Enigma. The second to last scene, at the pond, with Jeremy as Wigram and Dougray Scott as Tom Jericho, when Wigram says, “Oh I will, …I will” and then he disappears very slowly from view…that was when I got goose bumps! It was so well played, very great art! (Contributed by Mary)

As Wigram, 'Enigma'


24. Jeremy, as Peter Warlock, playing the piano with Lily Buxton in Voices from a Locked Room. Until that point in the story, Lily (Tushka Bergen) is pretty freaked-out by Peter, but hearing the piece of music he’s written for her, and playing it with him, changes things. It’s a very intimate moment, with their hands together on the keyboard as they sit side by side. And when the music ends he looks adoringly at her from underneath his unruly mop of hair and says, “You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever known.” Jeremy is great in this movie as both Peter and Philip, but this scene is amazing!

As Peter Warlock, 'Voices' (with Tushka Bergen)


25. His reading of The Silver Chair. Can you imagine my great delight when I discovered that my favorite actor is also a fantastic performer of audiobooks? That was a most welcome opportunity to do what my poor English teacher (I’m a German) was always recommending: “Learning by Listening”. So I started with The Silver Chair, by C. S. Lewis. Although since then Charles Ryder, Joe McGrath, George Orwell, James Wormold, Jack Miller, etc. have been my alternating tutors, it was Puddleglum in that first book who immediately won my heart! Jeremy did a marvelous job, lending his voice to a multitude of characters. He put life into every single creature and gave each one a fully realized range of emotions. Listening to Jeremy always means great fun and joy, means to dream and witness the story; he’s truly performing. This is a real talent Mr. Northam is sharing with us listeners! (Contributed by Martina) An excerpt from Chapter 7: Puddleglum gets drunk at the castle of the Giants of Harthang:


26. The way he became Dean Martin in Martin and Lewis. This feat is especially impressive to me because of how extremely recognizable Dean Martin’s face and voice are to most Americans. Without any prosthetics or makeup to help him physically resemble Martin, Jeremy was able to embody the cool, sexy essence of the man. He captured Dino’s mannerisms, voice, facial expressions, and above all, attitude, so well that Jerry Lewis himself gave the performance his stamp of approval. (From Laura)

As Dean Martin, 'Martin and Lewis'


27. The speech by Sir Robert Chiltern to Parliament in An Ideal Husband(from the American Rhetoric site). Follow the link for the transcript and an audio clip of the speech. (Chosen by Joan)

As Sir Robert Chiltern, 'An Ideal Husband'


28. Two memorable scenes from Cypher. There’s a moment early on in the movie when Morgan Sullivan’s doing dishes in the kitchen with an apron on. His wife is in a power suit. He shyly and so proudly states he’ll be working as an “independent contractor.” It’s so touching. You have the sense that he’s trying to assert himself and is excited thinking about being a corporate spy, working at something new and maybe even dangerous. I just love that scene! It’s so small it’s easy to miss, but Jeremy turns it into a gem. The scene makes me think of the lengthy interview that was included in the Region 2 DVD. I remember Jeremy saying at one point in it, “Something has happened to [Morgan] in his life, we’re not quite sure what, that has made him such a meek soul….” He said it with such compassion. He felt that the character had been shaped and influenced by events in his life—which seems obvious, I know, but I think a lot of actors would just say, “I play a nerd.” (From Ansie)

Later on there’s another gem of a scene in which Morgan wakens in his hotel room to find Rita Foster (Lucy Liu) there to give him instructions. He asks if he can see her again. When she flatly tells him this isn’t possible, Morgan says “I’m never getting out of this, am I?” The hopelessness in his voice and on his face is very affecting, and it seems to touch Rita too, because it leads to their kiss.


29. The way he was able to do so much with just a few scenes in Creation. Jeremy’s Reverend Innes has relatively little screen time, yet he’s not a two-dimensional character. You get a real sense of his inner struggle between his beliefs and his friendship with Charles Darwin. The scene in the garden with the two men sitting together on a bench is especially well done.

As Rev. Innes, 'Creation' (with Paul Bettany)


30. The passage in Our Man in Havana where Jim Wormold goes into the American bank—Jeremy’s reading of this scene from the audiobook is priceless! Excerpt from Our Man in Havana:


31. His entrance as Walter Hagen in Bobby Jones Stroke of Genius. I absolutely love this performance by Jeremy. When Hagen appears, stretched out in the back of his red convertible, still wearing last night’s tux and with a lipstick kiss on his cheek, I can’t help but smile.

As Walter Hagen, 'Bobby Jones, Stroke of Genius'

He then proceeds to make everyone wait while he grooms himself (“Genius deserves patience, my friend”), and touches up his chauffeur/caddy for money (“I’m afraid I’m a trifle soft in the treasury”). Next he introduces himself to Bobby, who tells him, “I know who you are. How do you do?” His priceless response is “Better than most, son. Better than most!” Jeremy gets all the best lines in the movie, and he delivers them flawlessly. Hagen could have come off as an arrogant jerk, but in Jeremy’s capable hands he’s an incorrigible scamp you can’t help but like. I cannot resist wicked “Sir” Walter’s mischievous charm! (Chosen by Laura)


32. Jeremy’s wonderful, intimate, witty reading of “The Aspern Papers,” by one of his own favorites, Henry James. I am completely in love with it. My absolute favorite part, in danger of being worn out from repeat listenings, is the scene where our unscrupulous narrator thinks he’ll take a little look in Miss Bordereau’s “secretary” to see if he can discover (and steal) the elusive Aspern Papers, only to find that the spectral old lady is not asleep, but standing watching him, fully aware of what he is after. For the first time, he sees the old lady’s famed, extraordinary eyes … “she hissed out passionately, furiously, ‘Ah, you publishing scoundrel!’” Jeremy’s voice, barely above a whisper, makes my pulse race and the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. It’s unforgettable. (From Gill)


33 Three scenes from his brilliant performance as Sir Thomas More in The Tudors. Jeremy was magnificent in this role, doing justice to a complex historical figure’s legacy. However, these three scenes from the second season are worth particular notice. As in most of Jeremy’s scenes in The Tudors, some of the lines he speaks in each one are the actual words of Thomas More.

First, the visit to More by Bishop Tunstall (Gordon Sterne), who is on a fact-finding mission for King Henry. Jeremy’s every gesture, every expression has a purpose here; nothing is extraneous. “They shall Never Deflower Me”:

A conversation in the Tower between More and Thomas Cromwell. James Frain matches Jeremy note for note; the scene only gets better with repeated viewings. “Cromwell vs. More”:

And the trial scene. Jeremy’s sparse use of anger makes it much more effective when it eventually comes. Watch his face especially at 5:40-6:10 in this clip, as More is condemned to death. “The Trial of Thomas More”:


34. The luncheon scene from The Statement, in which Jeremy does a wonderful turn at slicing the fish, and his Col. Roux comments that the woman behind him is staring because “it’s the first time she’s seen me in uniform”;

As Col. Roux, 'The Statement'

as well as the sexual tension that simmers just below the surface between Roux and Judge Livi (Tilda Swinton), especially in the overnight problem-solving session (“So, Colonel, we finally get to sleep together.” “I never thought you’d ask.”) and that positively erotic deleted scene where they pass a cigarette back and forth. (Contributed by Joan)


35. Jeremy’s reading of “Ode to a Nightingale” by John Keats. Listening to him read this poem, one of my favorites, I can almost hear the nightingale singing his heart out “in full-throated ease.” Jeremy is a gifted poetry reader; his interpretations have given me new insight into poems both well-known and unfamiliar. (Picked by Laura)


36. These favorite moments from The Misadventures of Margaret, in which Jeremy plays Edward Nathan, the English Lit. professor of your dreams: The way Edward looks at Margaret (Parker Posey) with love and pride when she’s accepting her award and the “lonely” scene where he’s walking around the empty apartment before he decides to join Margaret in France. So sweet! (Chosen by Gammie)

As Edward Nathan, 'Misadventures of Margaret'

And two scenes that show the influence of the 1937 screwball comedy, The Awful Truth, on Misadventures’ screenwriter/director Brian Skeet: at the beginning of the film, the snappy dialogue in the limo and the physical comedy of Edward putting Margaret over his shoulder and carrying her to the elevator come straight from the 1930s. “You’re aging,” Margaret tells her husband of seven years. “You’re helping,” he replies without missing a beat. One of Jeremy’s lines, “Ah, to have used up the best years in a young woman’s life…,” is almost word-for-word the same as one Cary Grant says in The Awful Truth. (From Gammie and Joan) The reconciliation at the end echoes the one in the earlier movie as well, although the Misadventures scene is sweeter. Edward, in dressing gown and bare feet, comes into Margaret’s room and tells her “All I know is that seven years ago, I took a teaching job at City [College] solely to be with you, and somewhere along the line I seem to have forgotten that. I don’t care what’s happened. I’m still in love with you.” (Suggested by Joan; Laura contributed the connection to The Awful Truth) The Reconciliation:


37. That bittersweet last scene in Possession. Taken directly from A.S. Byatt’s novel, this scene lets the audience in on a secret that none of the characters know: Randolph Henry Ash knew he had a daughter. Jeremy plays the meeting between the two with his usual subtle brilliance. The expression on his face as Ash waves goodbye to the little girl is breathtaking—and heartbreaking!


38. The way he mixes humor and gravity in his reading of George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London. Sue Arnold, the audiobooks reviewer for the Guardian said of Jeremy’s reading, “It takes a wise, albeit worthy reader to appreciate that this sort of writing—stark, shocking and often hilarious (washing-up in Paris and being a tramp in London have their funny moments), needs no embellishment.” (Guardian, 12 Feb 2010) Listen to this excerpt for a very funny moment indeed!


39. Jeremy’s scenes with Ally Walker and William H. Macy in Happy, Texas. We know he has great chemistry with his leading ladies, so it’s no surprise Jeremy and Ally Walker are great together. “Like Some Straight Guy Is Ever Gonna Say That”:

But who knew he’d be so funny and sweet with a guy? The scene where they dance together is a classic, of course, but I also like the comedic interplay between the two men in the scene that sets up their date, where Harry and Chappy go rabbit hunting. Watching these two wonderful actors together is a joy. Harry could have done a lot worse than end up with Chappy! (Chosen by Laura) “If You Were Gay”:


40. How good he is at love scenes. This must be a nightmare for many actors. There you are, stripped bare (sometimes literally) and you have to kiss someone you may or may not like in a passionate, intimate and convincing way whilst a film crew intrudes to film your every writhing. There’s absolutely no fooling the camera, it reveals all with merciless candor, and yet I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve watched films and TV dramas and groaned (or laughed!) as the actors fob us off by kissing each other’s chins and generate such lame chemistry that you feel they really must loathe each other, the artifice is revealed and the mood ruined. Not Jeremy. In keeping with his perfectionist attitude to the rest of his work, he is a fabulous film kisser. I could wax lyrical at greater length but perhaps a film clip will allow you to be the best judge! All I’ll add is my grateful thanks to him! (Contributed by Gill) Jeremy and Jennifer Ehle setting the screen on fire in Possession:


41. He is absolutely the best at on-screen kissing! I remember, at one of the sites dedicated to Jeremy, a discussion of how he should give lessons to another (unnamed here) actor. There was no shortage of volunteers to help with the demonstration! (Chosen by Robyn) He got to kiss two leading ladies in The Golden Bowl, Kate Beckinsale and Uma Thurman, but it’s the ones with Uma’s Charlotte that are the real scorchers.

As Prince Amerigo, 'the Golden Bowl' (with Uma Thurman)

With Uma Thurman

And then there’s this kiss from Carrington, with Emma Thompson.

As Beacus Penrose, 'Carrington' (with Emma Thompson)

Even this sweet one between Mr. Knightley and his Emma has some passion to it.

As Mr. Knightley, 'Emma' (with Gwyneth Paltrow)


42. Those smoldering kisses between Lily and Philip in Voices from a Locked Room, like the one at the piano, when Lily first visits Philip’s apartment, and the one on the train going to his mother’s house, when he proposes to her. (Suggested by Gammie)

As Philip Hesteltine, 'Voices from a Locked Room' (with Tushka Bergen)


43. The way Jeremy uses his hands. The best example I can think of is when Randolph Henry Ash unlaces Christabel’s corset in Possession. Is there a more seductive moment on screen? (Chosen by Robyn)


44. That wonderfully expressive face that conveys so much of a character’s inner life to the audience. Happy, Texas director Mark Illsley said he thought Jeremy “was the kind of actor who could do really small things really beautifully.” Jeremy Northam is not a scenery chewer. Oh, he can command the “big” moments with the best of them, but where he really excels is in the kind of scene I’ve taken to calling his How Does He Do That? moments. These are scenes where Jeremy uses the subtlest changes of facial expression to communicate volumes about his character’s mental and emotional state. There are many of these remarkable moments I could use as examples. Think of Mr. Knightley’s jealousy of Frank Churchill in the recital scene in Emma. Or, from The Tudors, Sir Thomas More’s despair when his daughter Margaret visits him in the Tower and begs him to take the Oath of Supremacy.

As Thomas More, 'The Tudors'

Or Matt Proctor’s anger and disgust as he listens to his patient Carla’s boyfriend explain why he can’t handle her paralysis in Miami Medical. None of these characters needs to state how he feels because the look on the man’s face has already said all we need to know. I’m in awe of Jeremy’s ability to portray so much so quietly. (Contributed by Laura)


45. The irresistible Northam Smile! Look at it—it pierces you to the heart!

And he smiles a lot, that man. There is a saying: “A Smile is worth 1000 Words”; only too true in his case is all I can say. And Jeremy has mastered all the nuances of smiling: dangerous, secretive, heartfelt, dreamy, waggish, dashing, tender, knowing, naughty, shy…that list of adjectives could be continued as you like.

There is the little, hinted smirk—a barely visible, more one-sided twist of the corner of the mouth, accompanied by the proverbial twinkle of the eyes, along the lines of “If you could read my mind just now”.

Or that big grin, however the lips are tightly closed, as if somebody is perhaps afraid to show too much zeal? The easy laugh is only allowed to the eyes… “No, not a single syllable will leave my mouth!”

And then the gentle, calm smile, which shows the luscious but manly lips to their best advantage (ahem), with a stare into the distance, or you can call it a cutaway view, as if he wants to say:

I exist as I am, that is enough,

If no other in the world be aware I sit content,

And if each and all be aware I sit content.

One world is aware, and by the far the largest to me, and that is myself,

And whether I come to my own today or in ten thousand or ten million years,

I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness, I can wait.

―Walt Whitman, from “Song of Myself”

(Recited by Jeremy himself in The Misadventures of Margaret) (Contributed by Martina)


46. All these great smiles:

As Anthony Jordan, 'A Village Affair'

As Edward Nathan, 'Misadventures of Margaret'

As Mr. Knightley, 'Emma'


47. And all the Northam Smiles in this wonderful video by Princessamerigo. “When Jeremy Smiles”:


48. His beautiful, silky voice. Even when reading various characters in his audiobook performances, his gorgeous resonant voice shines through! As adaptable as his voice is, it always sounds great. (suggested by Gammie) Here’s an excerpt from “For Special Services” by John Gardner.


49. His wonderful and rich singing voice. As Ivor Novello in Gosford Park, Jeremy so delighted us when he performed several of Novello’s songs that we perk up our ears whenever a Northam character breaks into song—usually for just a few short bars—like Miami Medical’s Dr. Matt Proctor singing “I’m Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover,” or the Rev. Innes leading the congregation in “All Things Bright and Beautiful” in Creation. In Gosford Park, Jeremy handles the jaunty humorous tunes and the serious love songs equally well. And his interpretation of “The Land of Might-Have-Been” is achingly beautiful. (Submitted by Ansie) “The Land of Might-Have-Been”, from the Gosford Park OST:


50. Because he looks like this!

We love him for his intelligence, his prodigious talent, and the warmth and humor he displays in interviews, but there’s no denying that Jeremy is one beautiful, sexy man. Fifty is going to look fabulous on him!

Thank you for all the wonderful entertainment you’ve given audiences over the years, Jeremy! We eagerly anticipate seeing you next year on television in White Heat and in your return to the stage in Hay Fever.

We wish you a Very Happy 50th Birthday today. May happiness, love, good health, and many choice roles be yours for at least another fifty years!


Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this special birthday post, and extra special thanks to Laura for having the idea and for curating it so beautifully.

If you’d like to send personal birthday wishes to Jeremy, you can do so at our Just Giving page.

Licence Renewed and For Special Services read by Jeremy Northam: review

15 Jul

Thirty years after they were first published, Orion have released a hardback reprint of five of John Gardner’s James Bond novels. Mr Gardner wrote fourteen in total (more than any other Bond author, including the originator of the series, Ian Fleming).

From Orion:
Swordfish, the new imprint from The Orion Publishing Group, is celebrating the 30th anniversary of John Gardner’s first James Bond novel with the publication of his first five Bond titles in a highly collectable hardback edition. Featuring the original cover art, the first three titles – Licence Renewed, For Special Services and Icebreaker – will all be published in a distinctive new livery on 23 June 2011 (hardback, £16.99 each/eBook at £8.99). Nobody Lives For Ever and Role Of Honour will follow suit on 7 July 2011 (hardback, £16.99 each/eBook at £8.99). All of John Gardner’s Bond novels will be released in paperback in 2012.

If you’d like to find out more about John Gardner, I recommend a visit to the official website:

Jeremy Northam has recorded the first two novels in the series as audiobooks: Licence Renewed and For Special Services. Naturally, yours truly has been having a listen …

Written and set in the 1980’s, in Licence Renewed James Bond is older and times have changed. M is still his boss, but ’00’ status no longer officially exists (though M refuses to acknowledge this), and Bond’s duties are far more mundane. That is, until he is required to return to his old role and save the world, yet again, from a mad genius intent on world domination.

I always think of Bond stories as adult fairy tales, with Bond as our invincible handsome prince on the side of good and all that is right, saving damsels in distress from the big bad wolf. It helps me to accept the casual sexism, xenophobia and general lack of political correctness that are an inescapable part of the best James Bond stories (a reflection of the time they were written). Jeremy plays it straight when it would be easy to colour it with a 2011 perspective, and this helps to create an authenticity and connection with Fleming’s originals, something I never really felt with Sebastian Faulks’ Devil May Care (also read by Jeremy). By doing so, Jeremy also avoids all comparisons with Mike Myers’ extremely successful Bond pastiche, Austin Powers. (Yeah baby!)

Despite being older, James Bond has lost none of his skill, nerve, and prowess with the ladies, though he drinks less and smokes low tar cigarettes (especially made for him, of course).

Bond’s gadgets come from Q branch, as before, but this time via a woman, nicknamed Q’ute. John Gardner was careful to make all of Bond’s gadgets realistic, and he maintained that a Saab with the modifications Bond has installed would have been an option for anyone with the money to afford it.

Bond must stop Anton Murik, Laird of Murcaldy (aided by international terrorist Franco) from taking over six nuclear plants and holding the world to ransom. Needless to say, there is a glamorous Bond girl with an appropriately ludicrous name (Lavender Peacock, known as ‘Dilly’, pronounced with great relish by Jeremy as Bond) and an enormous villain (reminiscent of Jaws) named Caber.

Some of the novel is set in Scotland, and though Jeremy’s ability to create believable, consistent and appropriate voices for his characters is nothing short of amazing, his Scottish accent is a little shaky (I’d be prepared to offer lessons, being from that country myself …), but I am being needlessly picky, and it’s a hell of a lot better than Mel Gibson’s!

It’s a typically tense, fast-paced romp, punctuated by testosterone-fuelled battles, car chases and romantic interludes. Anton Murik is a Bond mad scientist villain who sounds like he could have been played by Charles Gray (I particularly loved Gardner’s description of the mad and dangerous gleam in his eyes resembling lava). Dilly squeals, simpers and looks gorgeous, and of course Bond was always going to come out on top (ahem).

The second novel, For Special Services, picks up where the first left off and is more filmic, thanks to Gardner doing a better job with setting the scene, and, of the two, this was by far my favourite. James Bond is on secret loan to the US government and, teamed with his old friend Felix Leiter’s daughter Cedar (a CIA agent), he must stop legendary secret organisation SPECTRE and their evil leader ‘Blofeld’ who are, of course, up to no good on a grand scale. Blofeld was responsible for killing Bond’s wife Tracy (in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) and was later killed by Bond. Who is the new ‘Blofeld’? We don’t find out for sure until the very end of the book.

Cedar Leiter is a match for Bond, and a forerunner of Halle Berry’s character in Die Another Day. Naturally, she is also very beautiful.

This audiobook really is a Bond film performed entirely by one man and can only be described as a tour de force. There are many plot twists and turns (some of which you’ll see coming), some great set-piece scenes worthy of the best Bond movies, and a large cast of vivid characters, all of which are created with verve and gusto. The New York gangsters, Texan millionaire Markus Bismaquer and skull-faced Walter Luxor (who will make your flesh creep) are characters you’d never believe could possibly spring from Jeremy’s lips, and yet they do, brilliantly. Jeremy has proved, in several audiobooks, that he can successfully perform female characters, but you have never heard anything like the steamy love scene he creates in this book. Much as I’d have loved to be a fly on the wall in the recording studio, perhaps you need to be alone in such circumstances … !

The relationship between Bond and M is rather touching, and Bond and Moneypenny continue to have a little flirt (a scene without which any Bond film is incomplete). This book has everything you could want from a Bond novel, and Orion absolutely picked the right man for the job in Jeremy, with his success as a leading man and his gifts as a character actor.

If you enjoy James Bond (novels or films), you will adore these audiobooks. Laura has written about Jeremy being her ‘intellectualizer‘, introducing her to books, periods of history and other subjects she might not otherwise have felt inspired to explore. In this case, I haven’t been ‘intellectualized’ in the slightest. I’ve had a good, healthy dose of pure entertainment. And why not? After listening to every last syllable of Homage to Catalonia, I think I deserve it!

For Special Services and Licence Renewed, read by Jeremy Northam, are available as CDs and digital downloads (digital download not available in USA) from Orion and a range of audiobook retailers. It is possible that more of John Gardner’s James Bond novels may be released as audiobooks. Orion’s Audio Editor Pandora White told me:

“He did such a good job with the Faulks book and he’s a fantastic reader and the right age and tone of voice.  If these work then yes, we will do more and with Jeremy.”

Let’s hope so!

Many thanks to Louise Court at Orion.

by Gill

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