Talking gibberish: Gwyneth Paltrow
An almighty balloon of self-regard went ‘pop!’ last week when television’s Martin Freeman – one of our more politically active thespians – admitted that actors can be pompous.
Mr Freeman’s remarks were swiftly interpreted as an attack on his Sherlock co-star Benedict Cumberbatch, who recently hectored a London theatre audience with a high-flown lecture on the Syrian refugees crisis.
Mr Cumberbatch, an Old Harrovian whose expensive education may not have stretched to many history lessons, ended his speech with the rallying cry: ‘F*** the politicians!’
‘Actors can be pompous and we overestimate our importance,’ said Mr Freeman, who plays Dr Watson opposite Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes.
The actor, who this year appeared in a Labour party election broadcast, rather hypocritically observed ‘it’s deeply annoying to hear someone like me, who doesn’t know everything, bang on – the quickest and most justifiable way for people to hate me’.
His comments may not earn him many friends in the more refined parts of showbusiness where, increasingly, actors take it upon themselves to establish a right-on political identity.
From the likes of Hugh Grant and Steve Coogan leading the campaign against Britain’s free Press to Hollywood stars taking shrewd career positions as Unesco ambassadors or on minority rights, actors have never been so eager to push themselves forward as leaders of political opinion.
Mr Freeman’s remarks in the Radio Times may not stop the steady stream of silliness from theatricals and film stars who think they have answers to the world’s problems.
The blight of the Left-leaning ‘luvvie’ (as Private Eye magazine calls them) is too deep-rooted for that.
But is it not a joyously comical aspect of public life? Along come these actor types, as self-inflated as motor car airbags after a prang, puffed up with a notion that they know how to put the world to rights: it is often far more entertaining, far funnier, than anything they produce on stage or screen.
The sight of a polemicising player is a delicious one, whether it’s ‘Hanoi Jane’ Fonda on Vietnam decades ago, the dotty Redgraves on international socialist revolution, that modest (multi-millionaire) bloom Russell Brand on the redistribution of wealth or even harrumphing Old Harrovian Cumberbatch offering us his anti- democratic prospectus. Just because they have an aptitude for standing on their hind legs and spouting a few lines while covered in greasepaint and powder, they suddenly think they are Barack Obama or David Cameron.
Just one small snag, of course: they have not been elected.
Few actors run for public office. Glenda Jackson became a Labour MP and a Forties B-movie actor called Ronald Reagan did reasonably well in American politics.
But on the whole, thesps steer clear of the vulgar business of doorstep campaigning. Their vanity shrivels from the prospect of electoral rejection.
Rampant ego mania: Sienna Miller, left, while Helen Mirren, right, wins the prize for biggest potty mouth
They spend their lives being told how ‘mah-vellous’ they are and eventually they believe this simpering sycophancy.
They believe their publicists’ publicity. They inhabit a world where the make-believe intermingles with reality and, therefore, it should not be a surprise that they struggle to comprehend what will work in the real world. Truth, for them, is an artistic ideal, while for the voter it tends to be a less romantic abstract.
Seemingly it is the actors who are most successful who are most pompous and Left-wing — Vanessa Redgrave, my dears, is as pukka as a Raj memsahib.
The same ones tend to be the richest and, therefore, the most able to afford the taxes they want to impose on less wealthy workers.
Outrageous boasting: Madonna
From their opulent homes in Los Angeles, Hampstead or some other privileged ghetto, they presume to speak for the oppressed masses who, more often than not, take precisely the opposite view.
‘F*** the politicians!’ screamed posh-boy Cumberbatch, wanting our Government to take in more Syrian migrants. But opinion polls suggested the majority of voters thought ‘f*** the politicians’ for the very opposite reason — that the Government was admitting too many refugees!
In celebration of luvvie lunacy, which keeps us cheerful in the darkest times, we present our awards for actorly pomposity — the Pomp-Oscars.
‘It boils down to a choice between a Labour government or a Conservative one. But it isn’t just a choice between two different plans, two different ways of getting the deficit down. It’s a choice between two completely different sets of values. A choice about what kind of country we want to live in. And I don’t know about you, but my values are about community, compassion, decency; that’s how I was brought up.’
‘A conservative frame of mind is very limiting for an actor, and a human being, too.’
‘The Tories are for people with yachts.’
‘There are conservative values where certain lifestyles are imposed and everybody should have 2.4 children and a dog and a cat and a house, and you should feel like God and you should believe in God and you should be a capitalist. I don’t buy any of that.’
And the winner is … Martin Freeman
‘F*** the politicians.’
Benedict Cumberbatch on the Syrian crisis, said on stage after playing Hamlet
‘F*** the Tories.’
Martin Freeman, March 2015, after doing a Labour party broadcast
‘It’s quite valuable to have the courage and the confidence to say: “No, f*** off, leave me alone, thank you very much.” ’
Dame Helen Mirren
‘Any British politician, like Prime Minister David Cameron, who claims to be a Christian, which means “to practise the teachings of Jesus Christ”, has to, like Jesus, heal the sick, not, like a ****, sell off the NHS.’
And the winner is . . . Helen Mirren
Repeat offender: Benedict Cumberbatch, pictured with his wife on Wednesday, talks gibberish and has a potty mouth
‘A retired intelligence officer was talking today about how we should let returning jihadists regain entrance into the UK. Why wouldn’t we want to learn from them what the hell is going on over there? What made them want to do it? Who recruited them, and how to stop the recruiting? What, we just shut the problem out?
‘Yes, I understand that it stems from a security concern that one of those returning radicals could then carry a bomb onto public transport, but if it’s managed — and I think with those who are known, how could it not be managed? — how would we not benefit from them being reabsorbed back into our culture?’
Benedict Cumberbatch, September 2014
‘A great poet, a considerable philosopher, but, by modern standards, quite a poor playwright.’
Tom Conti on, er, William Shakespeare
Keira Knightley: ‘I never liked being a child’
‘I would rather die than let my kid eat a Cup-a-Soup.’
‘As bad as calling a black man a n***er’
Sir Trevor Nunn on the use of the mocking word ‘luvvie’
‘Holding negative energy drags down the facial muscles, puckers one’s frown and causes lines around the mouth. Working daily on forgiveness (forgiving oneself as well as one’s enemies) is the cheapest, most effective facelift in the whole wide world.’
‘Why should Right-wing, oppressive patriots be the only ones to be patriots?’
And the winner is . . . Gwyneth Paltrow
RAMPANT EGO MANIA
‘This is probably a stupid thing to say, but I never liked being a child. I wanted people to take me seriously.’
Keira Knightley, October 2007
‘You could stick a knife in my thigh and I wouldn’t tell you. But pull the hair on my head the wrong way and I would be on my knees begging for mercy. I have very sensitive follicles.’
‘Even as a junkie I stayed true [to vegetarianism] – “I shall have heroin, but I shan’t have a hamburger.” What a sexy little paradox.’
‘Everything bad that can happen to a person has happened to me.’
‘I can’t avoid flying. [I can’t] start building boats and rowing myself around. I can start taking less baths.’
Sienna Miller while promoting environmentalism
‘It’s unfortunate and I really wish I wouldn’t have to say this, but I really like human beings who have suffered. They’re kinder.’
Emma Thompson (thought to be worth £30 million)
‘I love cigarettes. Love them. I think the more positive approach you have to smoking, the less harmful it is.’
Sir Jonathan Miller
Fan of Corbyn: Daniel Radcliffe, pictured, said the Labour leader reminded him of his English teacher
‘I still have a gypsy sense of adventure. I don’t think I have slept in the same bed for more than three or four months my whole life. I am always planting vegetables that I never get to eat and flowers that I never see flower.’
Dame Helen Mirren
‘[Jeremy Corbyn] reminds me in the loveliest way of my English teacher, who is someone I am very, very fond of — so he has a fast track to my heart!’
And the winner is . . . Sienna Miller
‘Acting is a dangerous business. You see mutilated corpses of relationships everywhere: actors who have fallen in love with each other and only afterwards realised it was the character they fell for.’
‘It’s difficult to believe in yourself because the idea of self is an artificial construction. You are, in fact, part of the glorious oneness of the universe.
‘Everything beautiful in the world is within you. No one really feels self-confident deep down because it’s an artificial idea.
‘Really, people aren’t that worried about what you’re doing or what you’re saying, so you can drift around the world relatively anonymously: you must not feel persecuted and examined. Liberate yourself from that idea that people are watching you.’
‘Ultimately the problems in today’s society — truancy, crime, ill health, fundamentalism — are things that a well-funded arts sector can be part of a solution to.
‘How is it possible to become a fundamentalist? By not seeing things from another’s point of view. Well, that’s what art lets you do.’
‘The more we’re governed by idiots and have no control over our destinies, the more we need to tell stories to each other about who we are, why we are, where we come from and what might be possible.’
And the winner is . . . Russell Brand
Justin Bieber: Hoped Anne Frank would have been a ‘Belieber’
‘I am who I am. I can’t pretend to be somebody who makes $ 25,000 a year.’
‘We ALL need to be Jesus in our time.’
‘The only happy artist is a dead artist, because only then you can’t change. After I die, I’ll probably come back as a paintbrush.’
‘I’ve got taste. It’s inbred in me.’
‘When you’re a Scientologist and you drive by an accident, you know you have to do something about it because you know you’re the only one who can really help… We are the way to happiness.’
And the winner is… Madonna
‘Her odious suburban gentility and sentimental, saccharine patriotism, catering to the worst elements of commuter idiocy.’
Sir Jonathan Miller
‘Our feeling was that Margaret Thatcher was far more terrifying than any monster the Doctor had encountered.’
Sylvester McCoy, who played Doctor Who between 1987 and 1989
‘[My grandfather] went just before Thatcher and I was upset because I thought that he had missed the boat, but with the media coverage I was so pleased that he had not been listening and watching all of that. That would have killed him listening to all that nonsense.’
Actress Maxine Peake on the death of a Communist relative, March 2014
‘Where Mrs Thatcher is going very soon, she won’t need to worry about coal, because it will be roasting hot . . . and when it happens, I’ll be having a pint with the miners.’
And the winner is… Jonathan Miller
SINGING THEIR OWN PRAISES
‘Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a Belieber.’
Justin Bieber, writing in the Anne Frank House visitors’ book
‘I think it was Flaubert who said you had to be bourgeois in everyday life so you can be daring in your work. Most rock ’n’ rollers wear a clothing of rebellion, but in private they are reactionary and dull. Except me.’
‘U2 is an original species . . . there are colours and feelings and emotional terrain that we occupy that is ours and ours alone.’
And the winner is . . . Justin Bieber