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Star of the Day (2007)

David Thewlis perches on his seat, jangling with bracelets and hippie-ness. He looks considerably more attractive than his screen roles might suggest: whether that is the raggedy man in “Naked”, Professor Lupin in the Harry Potter movies or even the identical twin brothers in the opening episode of “The Street”. The latter, his first TV role in a decade, features one archetypal Thewlis mise en scene. We are in a welfare office where rows of workers toil under the eye of a monstrous Orwellian clock. Thewlis’ character is screaming down the line at a caller to get a *&%$^ job. It is heart-bursting acting – raw, seemingly unfettered, almost comic – and you realise that in such moments few actors can touch Thewlis. Like in “Naked”, where his rage was a howl at the world, he has a knack for nailing desperation.

The man is a different proposition. Amiable, entertaining and effortlessly modest, he is, to abuse a cliche, a Renaissance type. There is the award-winning actor, the talented screenwriter and director, the hobbyist painter and the first-time novelist. This is “The Late Hector Kipling” – a portrait of artist in free-fall that splashes a surrealist picture of the London art scene. “I’ve got to say that I’m a fan of that world,” says Thewlis. “In fact I do little bits of sculpture myself and I collect some art.”

The 43-year-old’s drive is impressive. He started work on his novel seven years ago. Shut himself away in an apartment in Soho, cut off the television and toiled six hours a night. Making movies and money intervened before it finally hit the shelves last month to largely favourable reviews. It is a work of fiction but reflects – if in disguise – the places, people and emotions he is most familiar with.

Thewlis grew up in the seaside town of Blackpool: a wonderful world he remembers as “one big toyshop”. His parents, Alec and Maureen Wheeler, owned a shop next door to the ‘Pleasure Beach’ where he worked the rides and stalls. He had ambitions to become a racing driver (undeterred even when he failed his driving test) but it was the arts that claimed him. Music was his first love but he also wrote as a teenager. “I remember the very first time that I put pen to paper because I wanted to instead of being told by a teacher,” he says. “At that time in my life there was a lot of trouble at home. One day I was particularly upset so I went into my room and wrote a piece. The first two lines were not very original. They were from a Shirley Bassey song – ‘I who have nothing, I who have no one’ – and seemed very relevant to my situation at the time.”

With his first band he played support to the ‘Nolan Sisters’. His second band, ‘Door 66′, took him to ‘Guildhall School of Music and Drama’ in London where the plan was to act during the day and play music at night. It didn’t quite work out like that. Stage life too over even if he did qualify for his Equity Card by singing in Blackpool clubs. He now cites Mike Leigh (“Naked”) and Alan Clark (“Road”) as two major influences on his early acting career: the totems of film and TV. When he won the ‘Best Actor’ award at ‘Cannes’ in 1993 (“Naked”) he said that for a while afterwards he felt like ‘Monkey Baker’ (the chimpanzee awarded the Medal of Honour for being the first monkey in space).

It was the best of times and sometimes the worst. The latter was probably “The Island of Doctor Moreau”, a mad, bad shoot with Marlon Brando, Val Kilmer and director John Frankenheimer (“one of the most unpleasant men that I ever met”). Thewlis kept a diary of his experiences which he has never published even though he has been approached (he says he will consult with Kilmer, who he likes, beforehand). But “Naked” also allowed him the latitude to fulfill certain ambitions. He wrote and directed two films (the short “Hello, Hello, Hello” and “Cheeky”) and is now enjoying his most high profile role as Professor Lupin in the Harry Potter franchise. “Wherever you go you meet kids or their parents who point at you and say ‘there’s the guy from Harry Potter!’. And I play a good guy so that’s even better.”

Thewlis, who has also has a home in London, lives in Los Angeles with the actress Anna Friel (formerly of “Brookside” but making waves Stateside with the hit TV show, “Pushing Daisies”). They first met – a brief encounter – on a plane to Cannes. The second time was at a party when Thewlis had just finished the first draft of his novel. He subsequently stated that before he met Anna he wrote out of angst and that his “writing was quite miserable”. That has changed. He and Friel have a daughter, Gracie (2) and life is sweet. Now DT is content to make some movies, write his book and hang out with his daughter. “We were planning not to tell Gracie about Harry Potter initially because I’m not in the first two films. Then when Gracie gets to be a big fan I’ll ask her, ‘do you want to see the third one? I believe that you will find it be the finest one yet!”

· Published | 10 November 2007
· Journalist | Susan G. Cole
· Source | © RTE Guide
· Credit | Submitted by Helia

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