Monday Night Clive
Transcript of appearance on June
*transcribed by Catherine Kerrigan
CJ: One of the glories of the
English theatre is that there has always been more than one contender
for the title Great Actor of His Generation. But, if anyone has
ever got close to monopolising the role, it's the man you're
about to meet. What's more, he's played every king in the book
without lording it over anybody. Stand and unfold yourself, Kenneth
CJ: Kenneth, you don't strike
me as a shy guy.
KB: Oh! I've been shy in my time.
I think a lot of actors are - it's a funny little paradox, but
it's always the case in adolescence - did you have in Australia,
um, we didn't, that high school prom thing where you had to find
CJ: Oh yeah.
KB: We had discos and things
that used to ...
CJ: On no, no, I was long before
your time. There were no discos. We had to touch the girl. And
if your hands, like mine, were dripping with water, with the
sweat of fear ...
CJ: I could actually hear the
water falling off my hands.
KB: Oh no!
CJ: As I hid in the toilet -
I actually did hide in the toilet for two and a half hours at
the first social I ever went to. But I think your generation
has been lucky. Were you shy at school?
KB: I, well, I was over issues
like that. We didn't have to do this prom thing but there were
discos and of course, there was this desperate attempt to, you
know, find the gap at the end of the evening as the slow dances
were beginning to emerge (shapes his hands as placing them around
a girl's waist), and you just had that chance to, you know, instead
of (mimes disco dancing) doing all that on your own, of actually
moving in and holding on to her (hands once again as though around
a girl's waist), but trying to get in there before whoever it
might be, Chip or Chunky, you know, very much taller, very much
more handsome young man whipped in and took his pick of the girls,
so there was always a terrifying moment, the last ten minutes.
CJ: Tough school? Was it a touch
KB: Um, the discipline was very,
um, particular. We had a teacher who used to have, um, ah, two,
you know, gym shoes, one called Zebedee and one called Dougal,
then you were called up to the front of class and if you'd been
naughty or done something silly, and hit with one of them - Zebedee
CJ (disbelieving): You were beaten
with Magic Roundabout characters?
KB (laughing): You see, I think,
um, exactly. The names were, I think, we used to kind of take
the edge off what was quite a savage thing. Some sort of fun
to be had. Oooh, what's it going to be? Is it going to be Zebedee
or Dougal? Oh, not the right hand, not the right hand.
CJ: I've done my calculations
and you were practically playing King Lear when you were 8. I
got the impression, because I was following your career at that
time, that you went straight out of drama school and right in
at the top. You went straight in and played the king. You never
carried a spear, you always had a crown on your head. Is that
KB: I was ever so lucky, ever
so lucky. Although some people have said to me, you know, and
in fact, a good actor friend of said, you know, what you needed
was a really decent period of obscurity.
CJ: I kind of resented it when
I read about your meteoric start to your career, because I could
have been an actor. At school, I wanted to be one, but I always
got the part with two lines in it and, you know...
KB: Were you brilliant though?
CJ: Well, no, because the part
with two lines the guy is never brilliant, because he spends
all night thinking of those two lines and then he comes on and
gets them wrong. I would come on and say "The carriage will
see you now, my lord".
KB: Yeah, yeah, you come on with
that "What's that in the road? A head?
(Burst of laughter from CJ)
KB: Oh, "What's that in
the road ahead?" Or "What is this thing called? Love?"
Uh, "What is this thing called love?"
CJ: Your reputation as a Shakespearean
actor, does that help you with your fellow thespians in America,
or does it hinder? They're a little bit nervous about him.
KB: They get a little bit scary
about - it helps once you've entered the room and I'm not wearing
tights, fluffy white shirt, big thick book under the arm and
going (puts on fruity voice) "Daahling! Ohhhhh!" and
all of that.
CJ: That's the Royal Shakespeare
KB: (Does it again) Yeah, or
the surprise and delighted (mimes it) thing, surprised and delighted
curtain call (mimes it again and takes 2 mock bows) and that
sort of actor, actor-laddie voice (puts on very strange accent)
when people talk in this strange way, very strange inflections,
up and down (reverts to normal voice). So, uh, once you don't
do that, they're kind of, they're happy. And anyway, the mission
has always been to make it seem as though it's about here and
CJ: Well, your latest movie,
you're directing it, Woody Allen is. It's Celebrity. And, um,
I love it. I saw it, I saw it this week and it's just such a
penetrating study of what it is like to be adulated and to want
to be adulated and for your character who'll do anything he can
to get his screenplay made, and we've got a scene here of you
actually in action on screen with Leonardo DiCaprio who's playing
the star you're trying to impress.
(Shows beginning of hotel bedroom
CJ: You, actually, in this movie
do a better impression of Woody Allen than Woody Allen does.
Was that your idea?
KB: Well, I think it was on the
page. I didn't specifically try to, um, imitate him, but it's
definitely in the writing, it seems to me, the little hesitations,
and this neurotic (starts to do Woody) nervous energy, "You
know, what, what are you crazy?" (Reverts to his own voice).
This kind of, suddenly the shoulders go up and the neck disappears
(demonstrates), and this kind of thrusting thing, the neurosis
which is the kind of comic engine of it all and so I started
doing that and he seemed to go for it.
CJ: He didn't mind?
KB: He didn't mind - he stopped
me every time he thought it wasn't funny, but that?
CJ: I suppose the upside of stardom
is that you can meet whoever you want to meet - you've met Sir
Les Patterson for example.
KB: Extraordinary to be on the
same show as Sir Les - one of Australia's finest exports and
a wonderful, wonderful film critic.
CJ: Yes, he liked Celebrity an
awful lot, didn't he?
KB: Yeah, he did, though he was
a little unkind about the lips, given the nature of his dentures,
but, you know, there you go.
(Big laughter and applause from
CJ: You never stay away from
Shakespeare for long, whatever happens to your career, how big
it gets in Hollywood, you keep getting back to Shakespeare. What
takes you back?
KB: Well, it's always a challenge,
um, over the years of the things that I've been doing it, there's
been a significant mailbag from, um, kids in schools who've been
introduced to the plays or to Shakespeare in general through
one of my films or one of the other films that have been occurring
over the last few years, and yet I have evidence, everybody has,
that it is arse-paralysing! You just want to take that paint-drying
thing out of it. The challenge is: keep coming back and finding
it be real. The latest thing we've done is a musical version
of a little-know, relatively little-known Shakespearean comedy
called Love's Labour's Lost. And that is an attempt to say, with
music and with dancing, with full-on numbers, all-singing, all-dancing,
to try and release everything that I love in that play, that
people don't know about.
CJ: You're in it? You're singing
and dancing in it?
KB: I am singing and dancing
CJ: Who do you play?
KB: I play Berowne who's the
more cynical of four boys who meet four girls. Ah, the four boys
have decided to give up women for three years and the moment
they take that vows, they bump into four women and guess what
happens? They fall in love and, you know.
CJ: They sing, they dance.
KB: They sing, they dance, they
make you want to wear tights.
(Burst of laughter from the audience)
CJ: Well, I think for me, it
was the movies that did it. When I was in school, you studied
Henry IV in class and it was terrible and terrifying and I was
almost lost to Shakespeare. And then a couple of years later
I saw the American Julius Caesar with Marlon Brando as Mark Anthony,
and it was Brando that did it. It wasn't Brando as The Wild One
that did it for me - it was Brando as Mark Anthony.
KB: In fact, my first introduction
to Shakespeare was Peter Sellars on some Sunday night - you were,
it wasn't your programme, was it? Because you were a slip of
a girl at that stage. But late Sunday night, when did the Beatles
song, A Hard Day's Night, It's Been A Hard... he did Olivier.
CJ: He pretended to be Laurence
Olivier pretending to be Richard III pretending to sing It's
Been A Hard Day's Night.
KB: That's right. It was a post-modern
impression, wasn't it? It was Peter Sellars as Laurence Olivier
as Richard III singing* (starts to do it as Sellars as Olivier
as RIII) "It's been, it's been a hard day's night, and I've
been working like a dog. It's been a hard day's night" (reverts
to own voice) I should do that. (His right should goes up for
the hump and he goes back to the impression.) "It's been
a hard day's night. I should be sleeping like a log, but when
I get home to you, I find the things that you do, they make me
feel all right."
(Big round of applause from the
CJ: It's been a pleasure.
KB (blushing): I can't believe
I just did that.
CJ: Thank you very much, Kenneth
KB: Thank you.
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