I had to think long and hard about compiling this list. Who would I include? Who would I exclude? Why would I include and exclude them?
Regardless of my choices I was always going to leave someone out, piss someone off; and besides, on what grounds would I make my selections? Using what criteria? Would it be by the number of Oscars on their mantelpiece? Number of films in the can? Area postcode in which they were born?
The list of great actors born elsewhere but raised on Liverpool’s streets is a fair one and includes such names as Daniel Craig (Chester) and two of my old mates, Malcolm McDowell (Leeds) and Ricky Tomlinson (Blackpool). As is the list of talent with Liverpool parentage…Mike Myers and Halle Berry included.
But I wouldn’t dare list such greats as these for fear of upsetting the ‘Purple Wheelie Bin Brigade’. Because, believe it or not, to some (the type who claim that the captain of Liverpool FC is not from Liverpool) the colour of their wheelie bin is THE most important box to tick of all.
There are some people out there who, rather than emit great pride in actors such as Oscar Winner Rex Harrison, (he who taught Audrey Hepburn how to talk ‘Proper’) or two time Oscar winner Glenda Jackson, would much sooner question their allegiance to the Liverbird, scrutinize their ‘Scouseness’, ‘dis’affirm their roots.
I can picture the comments board now…
“But Sexy Rexy was born in Huyton lad…He’s a WOOL”
“That Glenda Jackson la…She’s a wantaway from Birkenhead”
I’ve never understood people like this. In one breath they’ll castigate great Scousers such as Lennon and McCartney and in the next take pride in exiles?
“They’re Plazzy Scousers them Beatles lad…left when the going got good!…But did you know that Kim Cattrall was a Scouser la!”
So, my hatred of internet snarlers did lead me to my first decision. I would endeavour to leave out non-natives.
This still left me with a problem however; a problem that always arises when compiling a list of anything creative out of Liverpool; and that is the sheer number of names eligible for consideration. There have been so many great professional actors from the River City, whether famous or not. Hundreds and hundreds in fact.
So, in the end, I decided it would probably be best if I only chose from actors I have worked with. This seemed so much fairer. Not only would it greatly whittle down my list of names but would ensure the list be true, more personal, an opinion based on firsthand experience and not just reputation.
This meant of course that a great deal of talent would not make the cut; wonderful Liverpool actors I have not yet had the privilege to work with (either because they’re no longer with us, or because fate hasn’t yet written the script). Actors such as Alison Steadman (Life Is Sweet), Andrew Schofield (Sid and Nancy), Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter), Paul McGann (Withnail and I), Neil Fitzmaurice (Going Off Big Time), Shaun Evans (The Take), Leonard Rossiter (Rising Damp), Tom Baker (Dr Who), Paul Barber (Only Fools And Horses), Phil Campbell (The Hide), Craig Charles (Red Dwarf), Kathy Tyson (Mona Lisa), Ravi Kapoor (24), Mark Moraghan (Holby City), Leslie Sharpe (The Full Monty), Vic Maguire (Bread), Natasha Little (Spooks), and many many more.
Then there were the actors I have worked with, but would have to settle for a place on the bench (now I know how Dalglish feels, I can only choose TEN after all). Fine actors such as Kenneth Cope (Randall & Hopkirk deceased), Kerrie Hayes (Lilies), John McCardle (Merseybeat), Mark McGann (Shackleton), Phil Olivier (The Crew), Crissy Rock (Ladybird Ladybird), Gary Cargill (Merseybeat), Stephen Walters (Springhill), Alexei Sayle (The Young Ones), Kevin Knapman (Hillsborough), Alison Cain (The Crew), Paul Broughton (Liverpool One), Phil Barrantini (Ned Kelly), Razza Jaffrey (Spooks), Sean McKee (Liverpool 1), Gillian Kearney (Casualty) and Tony Haygarth (Sharpe) – I apologise if I’ve missed anyone out.
So, let me make it clear, this is NOT a TOP TEN based on ability (for who am I to judge!)…It is merely a list of my 10 FAVOURITE Liverpool actors (that I have worked with).
So, enough of the build up. In NO particular order, here it is…
(10) TONY MAUDSLEY
I worked with Tony on the Liverpool period Drama “Lilies”. A fine character actor who came to our attention when he played the wrongly imprisoned Stefan Kiszko in “A life for a life”, Tony is one of Liverpool’s most liked and busiest actors and has cropped up in many a good film, including “Sleepy Hollow”, “Born Romantic” and “Harry Potter and the order of the Phoenix”, as well as keeping his hand in consistently good TV drama, recently turning his hand to comedy with infinite ease playing Kenneth in “Benidorm”.
(9) PAUL USHER
I have never acted in a Soap Opera, partly because of this man. Paul Usher is the finest example I could find to demonstrate the power (and curse) of The Soap. Paul is perhaps the most under-rated actor I have worked with. By that I don’t mean to discredit his talent, what I mean is, when most people see ‘The Ush’ they think of Barry Grant or PC Des Taviner. Well, you don’t get labelled TV’s greatest ever villain for nothing.
I have worked with Paul on four projects. His performance in “Liverpool 1” as Mafioso John Sullivan was masterful. To go from Barry Grant to a similar character, but dress him up with many more layers was a great and brave challenge, one which Paul smashed out of the park. Sullivan could not have been more different to Grant.
(8) MARK WOMACK
I first worked with Mark on “Hillsborough”. His performance as Eddie Spearitt was remarkable. Those trapped tears of a proud and broken man that finally fell in the closing scene was nothing short of heartbreaking.
I went on to do a series of Merseybeat with Mark as well as two series of “Liverpool 1”. His role of DC Mark ‘Cally’ Callaghan was a fine example of understated screen acting. He had a great presence and subtlety as well as a cracking chemistry with Samantha Janus (so good in fact they fell in love). Our scenes together as two sparring, warring brothers remain amongst my personal favourites.
(7) TOM GEORGESON
I first became aware of Tom when he played the role of Dixie Dean in “Boys From The Blackstuff”. So many great dramas followed, including “Between The Lines”, “Bleak House” and Bleasdale’s “G.B.H.”. However it was his performance as DI Howard Jones in “Liverpool 1” that sealed the deal for me. Great actors personalize things, likening scenarios to those of their own, substituting characters with people from their lives. The passion Tom brought to that character was incredible to watch. He treated each case as if it truly meant something to him. The scene in which he falls to his knees as he discovers the body of a missing child, will stick in my memory forever.
(6) RITA TUSHINGHAM
Born in Garston almost 70 years ago, what can I say about Rita Tush? As a teenager I would watch “A Taste of Honey” on a constant loop. “Doctor Zhivago”, “The Knack and how to Get It”, “The Bed Sitting Room” and “The Trap”. She came out of that great era of British Film, the early 1960’s, and is still working constantly today.
Along with fellow top-tenners Paul Usher and Tom Georgeson and reservist Alexei Sayle we did a film called “Swing” together. I couldn’t take my eyes off her.
(5) DAVID MORRISSEY
One of my earliest introductions to ‘Great’ television drama was Willy Russell’s “One Summer”. Billy Rizley and Icky Higson running away to North Wales only to run into trouble. What can I say about David, a true gentleman and fine player with an immaculate CV and a voice to die for. “State Of Play”, “The Deal”, “Blackpool”, “Hilary and Jackie” and a pot full of awards.
I had to wait 24 years between “One Summer” and “Cape Wrath” (the TV series that finally brought us together) and it wasn’t a disappointment. Like all good actors, David continues to grow, (his recent performances in “Thorne” are amongst the best of his career) and only this year I had the privilege of seeing his excellent Macbeth on stage at The Liverpool Everyman.
(4) CHRISTINE TREMARCO
It feels like I have grown up with Christine Tremarco. Ever since she played my kid sister back in the mid 90’s, I have always looked out for her, always looking forward to everything she does. After a series of memorable performances playing vulnerable adolescents, in iconic dramas such as Jimmy McGovern’s “Priest” and “The Leaving of Liverpool”; Christine matured into a very fine character actress. Despite her beauty she put aesthetics aside and threw herself headlong into a series of roles centred around tortured, strong and working class woman. Whether they be from Liverpool, Leeds or London it didn’t matter, Christine made them her own, working with the UK’s very best television writers and directors. Roles in such great drama’s as “Dockers”, “Hold Back The Night”, “Clocking Off”, “Swallow” and “Faith” would cement her reputation.
(3) TOM BELL
One of the true greats. A fabulous actor, that I was honoured to have worked with before he sadly passed in 2006. Essentially a character actor, Tom is most famous for drama’s such as “The Krays”, “Wish You Were Here”, “Prospero’s Books” and of course “Prime Suspect”.
To this day, Tom is the only actor I have ever worked with who wanted FEWER lines in his script. Coming down for work one morning on “Swing”, he pointed to an entire page of scripted dialogue and said to the director “I can do all of this with a look”. Tom probably hadn’t learned his lines, but it didn’t matter, because he was right. He did do it all with a look and it made the scene so much better for it!
(2) STEPHEN GRAHAM
Three words: “This Is England”. Quite simply one of THE greatest performances in film history. A master class in acting by the young actor from Kirkby. That’s right KIRKBY!! One in the eye for the Purple Wheelie Bin Brigade! I’ve worked with Stephen twice. First Time was on Liverpool One in 1998, but we never got to share the screen. I watched him grow and grow in stature until FINALLY in 2007 I got to act with him.
The film was “The Crew” and our scene in the woods when his character of Franner makes Ged Brennan commit an execution style murder, is one of my most favourite scenes to date. Acting is re-acting; we are only as good as the actor in front of us. We put our boats on the other actor’s river and what the boat does depends entirely on what their river is doing. For that reason he is possibly the actor I have most enjoyed working with. A truly fantastic actor who fully deserves the huge success he is now reaping.
(1) IAN HART
Simply put, when I was a young actor hanging around the theatres of Liverpool, Ian Davies (as he was then Called) was the actor I looked out for the most. I’d seen him in a short film called “Stealing Stephen” and he had something, an edge, he was different to most others. In the flesh he was insular, humble, enigmatic, charismatic, intelligent and angry. Just a few years later when I was cast as Pete Best in “Backbeat”, he walked into the room as John Lennon and I almost fell off my drum stool. Now I was working with him at last.
Ian stole ‘Backbeat’, it was all about him. When the caption appeared at the end of the film stating that ‘John Lennon was assassinated in 1980’ I wept every time, despite it being very old news. This is because Ian had brought SO much to a character that we felt we already knew and couldn’t know any more. Ian had humanized Lennon, made him feel like a brother, made him feel like yourself.
Backbeat was Ian’s debut picture (as it was mine), but he has made many dozens since; films such as “Harry Potter 1”, “Enemy Of The State” and “Finding Neverland”. Ian is one of the most prolific character actors in British Film today, who continues to maintain a very high level of consistency and a huge versatility in his role choices. Beethoven, Arthur Conan Doyle, Nobby Stiles and Hitler, not to mention his incredible performance as Brian Keenan in “Blind Flight”.
I think it’s safe to say that Ian Hart is one of the reasons I became an actor. Recently, after a 17 year gap I got to work with Ian again on a film called HARD BOILED SWEETS. In the one scene we had together I was instantly reminded why I do what I do.
HARD BOILED SWEETS is due for release later in the year.