In celebration of Mr Callow; Did you know Simon Callow had directed opera, is a dictionary obsessive and loved to torment his teachers? As he brings a one-man show to Wales, Kathryn Williams reveals some facts about the much-loved actor.
From Mozart to lovable Gareth in Four Weddings And A Funeral, Simon Callow has an enrapturing stage and screen presence. Now audiences in Wales are in for a treat as he's preparing to bring his one-man show The Man Jesus to The Riverfront in Newport. Part of the centre's 10th anniversary celebrations the show leaps back 2,000 years to discover the stories of Jesus but through the eyes of people who know him - from birth to death. Reviews of the show have savoured seeing one of Britain's greatest actors up close and personal, doing what he does best - acting. But for all his roles as some of history and literature's legendary figures what do we know about the man himself? Here we bring you the essential guide to Simon Callow - not to be confused with Simon Cowell - both on and off screen. Let's start with the basics... Callow was born in Streatham, London in 1949 into a Roman- Catholic family. As a youngster his most treasured book was the English Oxford Dictionary. His love of vocabulary stemmed from when his mother would read the lead column from the Daily Telegraph. It was an impressive skill, but he used it well - to torment his teachers. He attended Queen's University Belfast but fell in love with acting at home, after working at the National Theatre - a job suggested to him by Sir Lawrence Olivier after a young Callow sent him a fan letter. He made his stage debut in 1973 in a play called The Three Estates in Edinburgh's Assembly Rooms. Stage managed... Once the young actor was off there was no stopping him and to this day Callow has racked up more than 40 different stage productions in his 40-year stage career. He has portrayed Mozart, Charles Dickens, trod the boards of the National Theatre and with the Royal Shakespeare Company. In 2008 he took the role of Dr Martin Dysart in Equus and a year later he appeared in a starry production of Samuel Beckett's Waiting For Godot alongside Sir Ian McKellan and Sir Patrick Stewart. We wonder who got the biggest dressing room? Screen saver... Seeing Simon Callow's name on the credits of a movie is a draw for most film fans. His first major role was Emanuel Schikaneder in the 1984 Milos Foreman film version of Amadeus, and his role in the following year's A Room With A View, as The Reverend Mr. Beebe, saw him gain a nomination for best supporting actor at the Baftas. His next Bafta nomination came from the film from which he is known to millions. The role of Gareth in Four Weddings and a Funeral was Callow's most famous role yet - a fun-loving party animal who dies half way through the film and whose surviving partner (played by John Hannah) reads one of the big screen's most memorable eulogies.
The actor has recently mused that many think his exuberant performance as Gareth is the only acting style in his repertoire. He said: "Four Weddings and a Funeral was an important film to do. My character, Gareth, was a gay man who was a) not very typical and b) died of something other than Aids. But there was an unfortunate consequence of my character's eccentricity; it stuck in people's heads. "Twenty years on some people think I am like Gareth in real life - or think that particular acting style, which I call 'the life and death of the party performance' - is all I can do, which certainly isn't the case." Another hit Callow appeared in was 1998's Shakespeare in Love. Notably he also had roles in Streetfighter and Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls.
Literary loves... Literary loves... Being a self-confessed dicBeing a self-confessed dictionary obsessive it's no surtionary obsessive it's no surprise that Callow has a penprise that Callow has a penchant for writing (and chant for writing (and reading). In 1983 he wrote his In 1983 he wrote his first autobiography first autobiography Being An Actor - in Being An Actor - in which he took the which he took the opportunity to get his opportunity to get his sexuality out in the open. "sexuality out in the open. "We has said of the book: He has said of the book: "While I often told inter"While I often told interviewers I was gay (in the viewers I was gay (in the 1980s), they never1980s), they never printed it. So I printed it. So I thought, 'I've got to thought, 'I've got to get this out in the get this out in the open air,' and I open air,' and I wrote the wrote the book. Many book. Many people were people were concerned on concerned on my behalf about my behalf about the consequences, but as the consequences, but as it happens, it was (using the it happens, it was (using the book) to attack the power of the book) to attack the power of the directors in theatre that might directors in theatre that might have had the biggest consehave had the biggest consequence." Callow has also written biogCallow has also written biographies of Oscar Wilde, Charles Laughton and Orson Welles, as well as extensively about Charles Dickens. He has also written anthology of Shakespeare passages, Shakespeare on Love, and contributed to Cambridge's Actors on Shakespeare series.
Music man... Callow has a long love affair with classical music and has directed opera - even though he can't play a musical instrument. Earlier this year he was in South Wales to narrate one of the performances at the Vale of Glamorgan Festival - Tarik O'Regan's Suite from Heart of Darkness. "My grandmother was a wonderful singer and has a huge colderful singer and has a huge collection of 78s," he said ahead of the festival. "She had all sorts of classical music and I just listened to it and it inspired me. I can remember it to this very day - music like Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No 1 and a lot of opera, she adored opera. "Unusually for a child, I loved classical music. I never really got into pop music at all - it just passed me by a bit." The Man Jesus is at The | Riverfront, Newport tomorrow at 7.30pm. For tickets, call 01633 656 757
The Man Jesus looks back two thousand years to witness key moments in the life of 'the man Jesus', through the eyes of the people who knew him