Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Alternative Heroes - Christopher Ecclestone

Christopher Ecclestone is one of those actors that can credibly portray just about any kind of character, from any kind of background, believably and sincerely. My first exposure to Christopher Ecclestone was in the TV series Cracker, in which he played DCI Bilborough, who ends up being snared and fatally stabbed by a pschopathic football fan (Robert Carlyle). My second was in the mid 90s TV series Hearts and Minds, in which he played a teacher that makes a off-hand comment that spirals out of control and ends up dividing the school and turning his life upside down. In both these roles, Ecclestone played grounded, salt of the earth characters with such finesse that it was impossible not to become emotionally attached to them.

Every actor should be able to play a role, but what separates Ecclestone from 90% of other thespians is that he is equally skilled at being both hero and villain, victim and oppressor. As the ex-pat bad guy in Gone in 60 seconds he played a fairly eccentric but lethally ruthless furniture enthusiast. As the lead character in The Second Coming, he played an ordinary guy going through extraordinary circumstances. And in Working Title's Elizabeth, he played the part of the villainous Duke of Norfolk with such relish and panashe that it's almost impossible to imagine anyone else ever being able to do the role justice.

I must admit that I haven't seen Shallow Grave, in which Ecclestone is said to shine (this will be rectified as soon as I can make my way to the video store), and I haven't seen anything of the new series of Doctor Who, in which he has apparently brought gravitas and authenticity to the role, but if his enviable resume is anything to go by they are bound to be interesting.

One mark of a great actor is that whatever they're in is good (Tom Hanks, David Jason, for example). This is certainly true of Ecclestone, and it's for this, as well as being arguably the best actor in England, and for being in that fantastic TV show from 1996 Our Friends in the North, that, Christopher Ecclestone, you are an alternative hero.


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