A dream held since 1991 came true a couple of weeks ago when I met one of my favourite actors, Christopher Eccleston. Helping to raise money for the Watermill Theatre just outside Newbury, he spent about an hour in hilarious conversation with the theatre’s artistic director on his career including his Hollywood roles, his Doctor Who career, Hillsborough and the A-Word.
He’s such an icon that it’s unusual to hear about what makes him tick, and while we still don’t know a lot about him, it was fascinating to hear about his career, particularly from his early days in unemployment and a stint selling ice creams at the National Theatre from where he could admire those such as Anthony Hopkins whose appearance on-stage proved they had ‘made it’. Of course, Eccleston himself performed there himself in 2012 in Antigone.
As a teenager, for some reason (probably to avoid doing any revision for forthcoming GCSEs), I went to see Let Him Have It on my own at the cinema – it wasn’t the kind of thing that my other friends wanted to see. Playing Derek Bentley, a lad with learning difficulties who ended up being hanged for murdering a police officer (even though he didn’t), I HOWLED with grief on the bus home afterwards. Christopher Eccleston’s performance in that is mesmerising, and in his interview, said he was cast because he fitted the bill owing to being ‘young’ and ‘unpolished’.
After admiring his performance (plus the giant blue eyes and curly blond hair didn’t hurt) in Let Him Have It, I actively tuned into Cracker. I distinctly remember the scene where the lead character comes into a lecture hall and starts throwing text books into the crowd saying “I rehearsed the death of my father for years”, that line stuck with me for ages. Apparently Eccleston was drawn to this line too and it led him to take the part of DI Bilborough.
Afterwards, there was CAKE and the chance to meet the man himself. Instead of remaining calm, I took the opportunity to make a stupid Doctor Who joke, although it wasn’t the ‘knock knock’ one….