Thursday, 16 February 2006

Têtes à claques VII

See these people here? (I’ve arranged them in strict alphabetical order so that they don’t think I’m being unfair.) What do they have in common?

1) They're all actors
2) Each of them is a louse (read on: a pattern will emerge very soon)

Louse no.1: Charles Dance – I knew him, back in the ‘70s, when he was with the RSC: he was a very nice, very considerate man (I expect he still is). He asked me to look after his underpants once… nah, it’s a long story. Well, he had been married for a very long time to a woman who’d supported him through the lean years when he fell in love/lust with a starlet, less than half his age. As I asked in a previous post, “What does a man of 58 see in a girl of 25?”

Louse no.2: Ralph Fiennes – he was married to the most beautiful woman I have ever seen in my life. Alex Kingston is stunning. You have no idea how much. And a real sweetie. Ralph left her for Francesca Annis (can’t stand her as an actress: she adds a little laugh at the end of every line she utters – extremely annoying), who was old enough to be his mother. Strangely enough, they met when he played Hamlet opposite her Gertrude. Duh! I can’t remember whether she was still married at the time, but, who cares, it was unseemly. And now he’s left her – what a surprise! – for a very much younger woman. Yuck!

Louse no.3: Anthony Hopkins – he’s had four wives. I don’t know the details; I just know he left the penultimate one minutes after giving an interview in which he said he was now a reformed character (he used to drink a lot) and happy. How can someone who can express such subtle emotions (that scene in Remains of the Day where Emma Thompson tries to prise the book he’s reading from his hands… oh, it’s so painful!) be such an inconsiderate human being?

Louse no.4: Ben Kingsley, oops, sorry, Sir Ben Kingsley – what’s that nonsense about insisting on being called ‘Sir Ben’?! It’s so ridiculous. Those titles mean absolutely nothing and everyone knows they don’t. The problem with BK is that he takes himself sooooo seriously. Always have. I attended a talk he gave at the Shakespeare Institute, at Stratford-upon-Avon, in 1975. It should have been a ‘talk’; it was a lecture. I can’t remember exactly what it was about, but I remember it as very very boring. I didn’t care at the time because I’d seen his Hamlet the day before and I was still under the spell: I'd been sitting in the aisle in the RSC studio and BK had directed one of the speeches straight at me. He’s got such intense dark eyes; I was completely mesmerized.

I know he can be relaxed: I have on one of my walls a big black and white photo taken during a rehearsal of Nicholas Nickleby (that unforgettable RSC production). It shows BK (who played Squeers) and Edward Petherbridge (who played Newman Noggs) laughing their heads off, while Timothy Spall (who played Wackford Squeers) is pretending to chew on a huge roll of sellotape (who plays a bun). So, BK, lighten up! Anyway, he too left his wife of many years for a floozy, who has to call him ‘Sir’ even in private, they say.

Louse no.5: Kristin Scott Thomas – I’ve seen so many articles (in French and British magazines) telling us what a charmed life she had in Paris with her wonderful obstetrician husband and three well-behaved children. It was all a sham. She’s now left her hubby for a young actor. Erm, it won’t last, Kristin; see above, Louse no.3: in time, you will be Francesca Annis to his Ralph Fiennes.

I’m old-fashioned: I believe in loyalty.

Slap, slap, slap, slap, slap!

Update: If you want to read about what it feels like for a woman to be left for someone younger, click here.


  1. I'm completely disillusioned now bela. I will slap them all extra hard for that!


  2. To add a note of balance, or just to be controversial, perhaps, I'd like to add:
    a) monogamy, fidelity, staying with the same person ad infinitum is a convention we see as a norm. It may not be right for everyone. We shouldn't be critical of people who do not fit into this particular box. maybe they feel pressured to try to conform, but are unable to see it through.

    b) Do we want people to be unhappy, trapped in inadequate relationships?

    c) Our media tells us endlessly how we are no good unless we are young, fit, healthy and on the celebrity A-list, selling us endless products to disguise our true selves and corporate opportunities to achieve greatness. Such faithlessness within the justified celebrity pantheon is, perhaps, the truest expression of our society's values.

    d) It is possible to behave morally and responsibly in an unhappy situation like a relationship breakup/trading in an old model. These things happen. There are good and bad ways to deal with the transition that don't involve treating the ex like crap. Would the media tell us if Sir Anthony was sensitive to his exes needs?

    e) There was an 'e', but I got over excited with 'd' and forgot.

    Something to consider, I hope.

  3. Here's the thing about famous people: they WANT to be famous. You do not remain famous by inertia; the world moves on without you. You remain famous only by the use of expensive and deliberate fame-renewing devices (e.g., aggressive publicists). Thus, I always wonder about the basic character of enduringly famous actors. No doubt, many of them are wonderful, talented people with solid priorities, but I would guess that among the bunch there is a higher-than-average degree of narcissism and self-absorption, characteristics that manifest themselves in the type of acts you've described. Instability, insecurity, competitiveness, and the need to be adored at all times are, to my mind, scary traits, and relationship killers.

    I know I'm going to tick you off with this comment, theater aficionado that you are, but, although I have great respect for artists, I've never had much respect for actors in particular. I can't help thinking, "Pretending you're someone else? THIS is your contribution to the world?" Sorry. *cringe*

    (With that comment I have just ensured that the fates will slyly conspire to make my daughter want to be an actress when she grows up.)

  4. I think JvS's second point, about celebrities being more caught up than even the rest of us with the idea that young and beautiful is better, because they are at the centre of the myth themsleves, is very interesting and strikes me as almost certainly true. However, all those people that Bela lists are serious actors and not celebrities, so they have spent their lives - I always thought, anyway - dealing in literature that goes below the surface, going below the superficial themselves in order to present truth to us. I think that is partly behind the disappointment - it's the same way I felt when Germaine Greer went on Celebrity Big Brother - I expected more from her than common fallible humanity. It's depressing that when you lose a really good role model.

    Of course we shouldn't all have to stay in unhappy relationships. And monogamy is a real challenge. But there's a difference between being really unhappy in a relationship, and being a bit bored. I have an aunt who has ruined her life because she doesn't understand that being 'in love' is just the first phase of a relationship, and whenever the honeymoon feelings faded, usually after 2 or 3 years, she would leave and look for the next man. She never got on to the stage of building a life tigether.

    Also, I reckon there's a big difference between splitting up with someone, because of what is happening in that relationship, and leaving them for someone else, especially someone who can offer something, i.e. youth and beauty, that the old partner cannot compete with. The first is sad but more honourable, and both partners suffer disruption, loneliness, a feeling of failure. In the second, the one leaving hops straight into lovely warm new feelings, being appreciated, being 'in love' again, and the deserted one suffers alone. And for the deserting one to have someone else to move straight on to, it means they were having an affair for probably months in secret.

    The other factor is that quite often one partner has supported the famous one, emotionally and perhaps financially, through their non-famous years, when that person wasn't surrounded by tempting new adoring flesh and even if they were, they didn't have money and fame to compensate for their own wrinkles.

  5. Oh, I was writing my comment when WW was writing hers. I see I too have illusions about actors that she doesn't share, LOL! I do see the point about the narcissism and need to be adored. I don't know many actors but I accept that it must be an essential character trait, to succeed in the business. I just thought that also maybe they did have constant examples in their daily work of the fact that all actions have consequences, and spend their rehearsal time in frequent consideration of moral against immoral behaviour, in a way that those of us busy doing more plodding jobs don't have the time for.

  6. Bela! While I understand why you slap all these people, I must slap you back, I'm afraid, because if there's one thing I can never bring myself to do, it's to judge the hearts of people in love. We don't know what goes on between those people when they're at home. Who can tell how unhappy they become?

  7. Thank God I don't know any of the people being slapped. I have a few freinds who have recently left their marriages, and they all need loads of therapy. They need to leave me alone. I would like to slap all those who leave their partners and expect to cry on the shoulders of their freinds. Perhaps I should be slapped for being a lout of a freind!
    Carole (madamex from fragrance board)

  8. Adding kudos to Paul Newman & Joan Woodward, one of the few loyal Hollywood couples I can think of. I'm sure there are others, but I can't think of them now.

  9. I'm simply unsympathetic to those who habitually leave one person for another, rather than ending things with partners when they realize their unhappiness. The key here for me, though, is habitually. There are serial relationship jumpers, and actors are no less prone to it than anyone else, though I do suppose one could argue they may be more prone to it. If it's a fluke thing, or they don't have a track record of doing so, then I am rather disinclined of judging anyone. Serial disloyalty and unkindness is of course another matter, and I would not limit it to just romantic relationships. Hopkins has I guess royally screwed up his relationship with his daughter, as well, partly due to his alcoholism, and partly due to his unconcern with her until she had long been grown. That's really sad, I think.

  10. Quite often you read about how the older actors leave their wives and have a baby with the new younger woman, and then do interviews about how great it is to have a second chance at beig a father and this time they are going to do it right and spend more time with the new kids, and not be self-obsessed or absent as they were with their now teenage or grown-up offspring. That's great for the new family, but I always wonder how the first batch of children feel about that. Mighty p***ed off, I'd say.

  11. Good point from Lulu, think I might join the slapfest after all.

    Charles Dance: Sinister and knows it.

    Rayf Fiennes: Sinister and likes to pretend he isn't.

    SirTony: I have very little sympathy for people who allow their alcoholism damage their offspring. If it is a disease then they should allow medicine to cure them.

    SirBen: My partner says he's supposed to be a nightmare, that's good enough for me, even if he was Gandhi and Otto Frank.

    Scott Thomas: never liked her. Propogates the lies about upper class British twiticisms, if you ask me. Unforgiveable.

  12. So interesting. I believe in loyalty, and in not remaining within an unhappy relationship. Serial jumpers? There seems to be a pathology to that. Also to not making every attempt to honor a vow one makes. And having the grace to be deeply shamed if one breaks it. xoxo

  13. To care about these people's personal lives gives them more credit than they're due.I'd have to start caring just to not care.They represent modern society in the sense that everything is disposable, including people's lives,and feelings.Once someone gets tired of somebody,the motto today is, go fetch someone new.No one can stay in that perpetual high of being in a new relationship before it starts to mellow out.These emotional "high" seekers are akin to a drug addict always on the lookout for the next hit and the big high feeling.They too,always come crashing down wondering what has happened to them as a human being.Yet,they can't and won't stop.Same with people who find moving from one partner to another seeking for perfect,everlasting,glorious joy.They will always be disappointed.Shame on society where values,morals and common courtesy and respect are no longer the goal to attain.

  14. So many interesting comments! And I got slapped too! What more does a blogger want? LOL!

    Some of you have expressed perfectly what I was trying to say. In fact, CH has summed up so well how I feel about modern society! And I was going to use the word ‘disposable’ too.

    I’d like to add that, as far as I’m concerned, people in the public eye are fair game and I feel no qualms whatsoever about judging them: they spend their lives looking for publicity; once they’re famous they have to come to terms with the fact that what they do may (and will) be scrutinized. What the people I mentioned also have in common is that I adore them – as actors (RF a bit less than the others, but still…) and I was very disappointed when I read about some of their antics. There must be some truth in the reports.

    WW, there is a lot more to acting than pretending to be someone else. That art form wouldn’t have survived for so long if didn’t provide us with something essential, namely ‘catharsis’. I believe actors know more about psychology than the experts.

    Finally, I was once the ‘betrayed spouse’; the one lied to; the one made to look a fool; the one who took over a year to recover a semblance of self-esteem, so, although there are quite a few subjects I’m prepared to change my mind about, this isn’t one of them.

  15. Here, here
    I thought that I was the only one who believed a contract is a contract,and loyalty a virtue.
    I agree with Kris' comments,too, BTW.

  16. J, there are probably more of us than you think, but it's rather démodé to think we do.

    All in all, I agree with Mireille.

  17. Oops, I meant to write '.... to think as we do.'

  18. I kind of feel sorry for actors, in whom narcissism and dependence form a never-balanced seesaw. Yes, they are full of themselves, but they also must count so heavily on the opinions of others for their own sense of self-worth. Perhaps it is this emotional seesaw that drives the 'serial relationship' thing - narcissism encourages them to think they really deserve to have whatever they want, even at the cost of hurting other people, while dependence on public opinion requires at least a nod to social convention. Thus they cannot openly express their narcissistic tendencies without risking the disdain of the audience.
    What would we think of them if they came right out and said, "Eh, I'll stay with her until I get bored, or until the next tempting bit of younger flesh parades itself before my eyes"? They have to at least pretend that *this* marriage is forever, *this* time, they're really committed. Who knows, perhaps they even believe it themselves, a necessary self-deception to mask the monstrous selfishness.

  19. I think you're a little too harsh towards actors, D: they are everything we all said they are, but they also have charm (I think charm is a rare and underrated quality, not to be confused with 'attractiveness') and most of them are incredibly good company. I love them - on the whole.

    I chose actors to illustrate my point because we all know them. I've known people who've been just as selfish and cruel, but I couldn't possibly use them for obvious reasons - mostly because no one here would have been able to relate.

  20. Why anyone is surprised is what surprises me. More than half of marriages end up in divorce, yet we continue to believe in "happily ever after." It's the only area of life in which rational, sane people refuse to take serious consideration of the facts and act accordingly.


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