2001 AN EXCELLENT
YEAR FOR ANGLOPHILES
Copyright 2001 www.variety.com
[ December 29th 2001 ]
Bridget Jones to Harry Potter, The Lord of the
Rings to Gosford Park, 2001 in movies was an exceptional
year for Anglophiles. And it wasn't bad for British
actors either. "It's funny, isn't it? We're having
one of our times," says Julian Fellowes, the screenwriter
of Gosford Park, director Robert Altman's 1930s
mystery satire set at an English manor.
ensemble cast includes nearly 20 British stars,
including Helen Mirren, Kristin Scott Thomas,
Emily Watson and Clive Owen. "I think most Americans
really are Anglophiles. Aren't we all in a funny
way? The language and history between us is such
a connection," Altman said.
of the year's early hits was the adaptation of
Helen Fielding's best-selling novel Bridget Jones's
Diary, about a thirtysomething Londoner. And the
emphasis on things English carried right through
the year, from small-scale tragic tales such as
Iris, about author Iris Murdoch, to large-scale
epic adaptations such as "Harry Potter and the
Potter filmmakers made a point of preserving the
Britishness of the story, language and cast. The
movie is so ripe with the aristocracy of Anglo-Irish
acting - Richard Harris and Maggie Smith, for
starters--that London actor Alex Jennings recently
joked about establishing "a Harry Potter help
line" to support British actors who didn't make
the final cut.
other big British fantasy series brought to the
screen this year was J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord
of the Rings, with a cast including Ian McKellen,
Ian Holm and Christopher Lee. "I would imagine
it's coincidence, because very often these things
are," Mirren says of the English cavalcade.
Mike Myers' ogre in the fantasy hit Shrek spoke
with a Scottish burr. Many non-British actors
had to brush up on their British accents for 2001
films. The casting of Texas-born Renee Zellweger
to play the very English Bridget Jones at first
raised eyebrows, but her British co-stars praised
her accent and performance.
Jolie became the upper-crust Lara Croft in the
cyber-fantasy adaptation Tomb Raider. Australian
Cate Blanchett turned Scottish as Charlotte Gray.
Nicole Kidman was a British mom plagued by otherworldly
visitors in The Others. And Johnny Depp and Heather
Graham took on accents for the Jack the Ripper
tale From Hell. Mirren, 56, who is married to
American director Taylor Hackford, noted that
many Hollywood filmmakers "people the smaller
roles with British actors while having usually
one to two big American stars."
new movies, for instance, The Shipping News has
two American leads in Kevin Spacey and Julianne
Moore, with Britons Pete Postlethwaite, Judi Dench
and Rhys Ifans offering support. Behind Blanchett
and American Billy Crudup, Charlotte Gray's tony
supporting cast includes Michael Gambon, Anton
Lesser and Ron Cook, all established names in
was also in the ensemble piece Last Orders, adapted
from Graham Swift's prize-winning novel set in
and around the pubs and cemeteries of southeast
London. She co-stars with Michael Caine, Bob Hoskins,
Tom Courtenay, Ray Winstone and David Hemmings
- about as accomplished a lineup of British actors
this side of Gosford Park.
filmmaker Fred Schepisi, who directed Last Orders,
said British actors "have this wonderful level
of cross-training where they do theater and TV
and movies...all at a level of intelligence."
Steve Kloves, the American adapter of author J.K.
Rowling's Harry Potter, put it another way: "You
go, 'I've got Maggie Smith saying my lines.' She
can say 'Pass the salt' and make it funny. It
makes me look brilliant at times, and really it's
just Maggie." .