Like many people, I first became aware of what a massive talent Brian Cox was when I saw him in 1987’s Manhunter, Michael Mann’s adaptation of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon. Although only on screen for about 10 minutes, Cox stole the entire film. While poor distribution means his role in the film is less well-remembered than Anthony Hopkins in Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs four years later, the film paved the way for a hugely successful career as a supporting actor in Hollywood.
Not that success seems to have changed him. Having cut his teeth as a gofer in Dundee Rep in the early-60s and gone on to master not only stage, but also TV and film, Cox is about as far from being a “luvvie” as an actor can get.
He sets out his stall at the very start of the book with a hilarious deconstruction of the grotesquely inflated ego that is Steven Seagal and takes in equally astute dismissals of the likes of Johnny Depp and Quentin Tarantino. His anecdote about friendly rival Michael Gambon’s habit of plastering his dressing rooms with autographed photos of Robert De Niro he’d signed and sent to himself is a classic. As is his retelling of Gambon’s taking Terrence Rigby up in his private plane to cure him of his fear of flying only to pretend he had a massive coronary in mid-flight.
It’s not all score settling, though. Those who come in for especial praise include long-time friend and mentor, the late Fulton McKay of Porridge fame, Alan Rickman and Lindsey Anderson. The latter’s unforgettable 1970s recommendation “don’t just do something, stand there!” is a lesson that Cox says has served him well throughout a career that now stretches to 234 credits on IMDb.
Having reached the ripe old age of 75, Cox now finds himself beloved by millions of TV viewers across the UK for a two-word catchphrase that has competitors trembling – “Vur-gin Me-di-yah!” he shouts about a million times nightly from my TV. Anyone disagreeing with Cox’s razor sharp insights into the various facets of acting and the entertainment business in general might be well inclined to take the equally pithy two word advice of a rather less well known Cox creation and “fuck off”.