My Own Private Michael Sheen Season

I love Michael Sheen.  I can’t get enough of the man.  His little face, his brilliant acting, that cheeky grin that can say ‘I’m a champion’ one moment and ‘I’m in misery’ the next.  The man is a chameleon, a vessel for weird and wonderful Britons of the last hundred years.  His deployment in so many iconic roles recently has been inspired.  A truly great British actor.

So it follows that I should host my own Michael Sheen Season!  I’d like to call this my Sheen Season but that could be confusing (not that I’d begrudge anyone a Charlie or Martin season).  I have to admit this wasn’t planned very carefully.  It’s rather been an organic exploration testifying to the addictive property of the actor’s presence and work – you just want to go back for more.

Front/Nixon

Most recently for us it’s been Ron Howard’s Frost/Nixon.  This has been one of those big films that everyone cool says is great – a bit like Good Night and Good Luck – critically accclaimed, intelligent, big.  It always takes me a while to get round to watching these.  Maybe it’s War and Peace syndrome except on a small scale with movies: a big committment for a Friday night!  Anyhow, we watched it and loved it.

Sheen was great as hedonistic David Frost.  We felt that Frank Langella’s Nixon was something of a caricature, but maybe this role demanded a bit of overplaying.  Nixon has been caricatured so many times since his presidency that it’s the caricature that everyone remembers anyway.  It was the right choice, because we forgot about Langella quickly and focused on his Nixon instead.  A great, entertaining film that gives you just enough information on the background so that you can learn and enjoy.  And Sheen?  Perfect!  The role doesn’t stretch him hugely, but that’s the role.

Kenneth Williams: Fantabulosa

Before Frost/Nixon it was Fantabulosa.  Aired by BBC4 (I missed it and rented the DVD – worth it!) this drama depicting the adult life of Kenneth Williams is stunning.  The writing felt just a little slow and clumsey at the very beginning, but the story unravels fantastically and manages to be dark, tense, uncomfortable and funny, like the man.  Playing both the young man and ageing Williams, Sheen is camp, delerious, mentally and physically ill, and miserable.  This finished on BBC iPlayer but it’s all over youtube.  Here’s one of my favourite sections (it’s worth waiting until around 5 minutes in to see the brilliant, hideously awkward ‘love’ scene – be warned, not one for the kids).  In my opinion this is Sheen at his very best:

The Deal; The Queen

Sheen has played Tony Blair twice.  I would summarise these as Nasty Ambitious Blair in the 2003 TV drama The Deal and Great Guy Blair in The Queen.  He’s best known for the latter, but I prefer the Nasty Blair of The Deal because its focus is on Blair himself and it’s a more thorough exploration of the man.  And he’s portrayed as a nasty git!  In any case, Sheen gets quite the accolade from me for doing two different Blairs, each one great.

The Blair character promises a lot more screen time.  We’re still waiting for War Criminal Blair, but I suspect that can only be done once the outcome of the current Iraq Inquiry is known and Blair is retired and we have a little distance from it.  Perhaps Pierce Brosnan’s ex-Prime-Minister in Polanski’s The Ghost will take us part of the way there.  I haven’t seen it but I don’t think a character played by Brosnan who merely alludes to a Blair-type figure is a sufficient third part of this trilogy.  There’s a great movie in the Blair story yet.

Wilde

And last but not least in my Season, we must revisit Wilde (1997).  Sheen in a love scene with Stephen Fry as Oscar Wilde?  Must be done!  Ealier roles such as this promised just what we have now:  a fantastic, developed actor with a great CV, screen presence and versatility.  And tonnes of potential yet.  Look at him there, snogging Fry! (Again, NOT for the kids!)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4mTcelHf5s&feature=related

Anyone have any other recommendations?  I still haven’t seen The Damned United due to my football-schmutball attitude, but I must get over that!

9 Comments

  1. Surely you mean Charlie Sheen?

    Jokes aside, apparently he’s in the League of Gentlemen movie so we should dig that up and watch again – even though it was slightly rubbish.

    Comment by icey penguin — April 22, 2010 @ 12:54 pm
  2. Aha, yes! He played none other than Jeremy Dyson, the non-acting one. That was an honour for both Dyson and Sheen if you ask me, although it’s a pity about the film generally!

    Comment by comelybankingcrisis — April 22, 2010 @ 1:05 pm
  3. The Damned United is great – very evocative and so stylistically effective that you feel like you’re back in the ’70s (or, where applicable, there for the first time). Ed’s choice and I thought I’d hate it but no!

    Comment by Oona — April 22, 2010 @ 3:28 pm
  4. He seems a great mimic with a good bit of screen presence but how do you think he’ll do with imagined roles where he needs to put a lot of creativity and himself in? Saying that, mimic is a skill in itself and not every actor can manage it.

    Never seen Fantabulosa, looks very interesting.

    Comment by cinematheque — April 22, 2010 @ 8:36 pm
  5. The picture you have of him at the top looks like he was also in the Lord of the Rings – or is on his way to The Hobbit casting.

    Comment by blackwatertown — April 22, 2010 @ 10:53 pm
  6. Blackwatertown, yes! He always brings Andy Serkis to mind for me, who seems to inhabit a similar world (not the Lord fo the Rings world – acting world!). It’s that cheeky face!

    Cinemateque, funny you should say that because I was thinking about some of his other films and decided not to bother mentioning them as I wasn’t too interested, but they involve more imagined characters and probably account for the main part of his income and spread his fame the most: the Underworld series and Twilight series. I’ve seen all the uunderworld series and thought he was fine, but again not hugely interesting, and just the first Twilight (can’t even remember if he was in it!) I think he has a lot more potenntial though, I’d like to see him play Caligula, Nero, Commodus or some other historical villain – which would involve a bit more interpretation.

    Comment by comelybankingcrisis — April 23, 2010 @ 8:30 am
  7. For early young and eager Sheen get out Oliver Parkers ‘Othello’. He plays Lodovico and enters at the end. He is fantastically intense and over the top with his eyes darting everywhere. Obviously trying to impress…..

    Comment by Brendano — April 23, 2010 @ 2:43 pm
  8. Thanks Brendano, sounds great! “Intense and over the top with his eyes darking” sounds just like him! I saw news today, by the way, that Sheen is coming up in a Woody Allen film with Carla Bruni! Looks like it’s a fairly minor role though.

    Comment by comelybankingcrisis — April 23, 2010 @ 3:21 pm
  9. Yay – I’ve plugged you. But not in a Martin McDonagh way. It’s here http://wp.me/pDjed-k1

    Comment by blackwatertown — April 25, 2010 @ 11:25 am

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