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Makin' Bacon.

Derek Jacobi seems `amazed at how much he looks like Francis Bacon, the lamed 20th-century painter whom he portrays in Love Ls' the Detail. Jacobi isn't being naive about the physical resemblance; it's just that this actor's actor doesn't believe in mimicry or in doing a waxwork impersonation.

He also doesn't believe the public should know much at)out an `artist:. So when he hears himself referred to, along with Elton John and Ian McKellen, as one of England's "gay knights" (Her Royal Highness knighted Jacobi in 1994), he laughs pleasantly `and murmurs, "Oh, of course," but says nothing else to either confirm or deny the characterization.

Jacobi is perhaps best known for his role as Roman emperor Claudius I in the classic 1976 BBC-TV miniseries I, Claudius. He is also known for his lead part in Breaking the Code, portraying--on both stage all television--Alan Turing, the World War II cryptographer who deciphered Germany's secret Enigma code and was subsequently persecuted for his openness about his homosexuality. Now Jacobi can add Bacon to his gay repertoire.

"It's not a typical biopic of an artist," the actor says of Love Is the Devil. "You don't see me pretending to paint a Bacon picture, which never seems to work." Nor is it a gay film, he adds. "It's a movie about a relationship and about what these people do to each other. What Francis did and what George [Dyer, Bacon's lover] did."

Of course, what Bacon and Dyer did may scare off some moviegoers--a prediction based less on the film's sexual content than on its emotional brutality. Cruel, spiteful, and uncommonly unkind, Bacon--who died in 1992--comes off as anything but a saint. Jacobi notes that he never met him. "I'm one of the few who hadn't," he says. "I suppose my lifestyle didn't fit in. I'm not a heavy drinker, and I don't stay up all night. I take a cup of cocoa and have my eight hours," he continues. "But I read the biographies, and there's a lot of video footage of him, which was very useful. It's the body language there, the physicality. He was an asthmatic all his life, so he would take breaths very often. That sort of thing I tried to use."

Love Is the Devil seems to suggest that the cliche of the tortured artist may be a cliche simply because it's so often true. But according to Jacobi, Bacon was less tortured than a torturer. "Francis was aware that he was a witty man, very good at the repartee, and he liked to score, tie had that queeny, stinging tongue. He enjoyed that. His dearest friends and George were on the end of that tongue, and they were stung by it."

Despite the film's unquestionably bleak look at Bacon's gay life, Jacobi says it is "not selling how awful it is to be gay." Besides, he adds, "they [Bacon and Dyer] enjoyed it. They were having a ball. Francis disapproved of the whole gay pride thing and [of] coming out, tie was homosexual at a time when it was deeply illegal, but that brought with it a degree of excitement. That very danger brought [gays] closer together. When that was all busted, he didn't approve at all."
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Title Annotation:actor Derek Jacobi
Author:Schaefer, Stephen
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Date:Oct 13, 1998
Previous Article:The devil made him do it.
Next Article:Stupid Kids.

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