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Dreamy Paul McGann - Part One

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Joined: 25 May 2006
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Location: Preston, Lancashire

PostPosted: Sat Jun 24, 2006 3:24 pm    Post subject: Dreamy Paul McGann - Part One Reply with quote

Hi Everyone

Here is the article that accompanies the Dreamy Paul McGann pic I posted last week as promised. I will post Part 2 shortly - when I have finished typing it!

Dreamy Paul McGann – By Pattie Barron, Cosmopolitan Magazine June 1989

This Liverpool Lad is currently riding high with two films and two TV series about to hit our screens. Not to mention a new home and a new baby!

“I read that Shelley once described acting as a ridiculous art, a meaningless cosmetic existence, and that depressed me. I thought, ‘Shall I give it up? Shall I get a proper job?’” It’s the intense animation of Paul McGann’s face, rather than the intense agony of the tormented actor, that has you smiling instead of reaching for the sick bag. Or maybe it’s that dreamy, drifting voice, as mesmerising as John Hurt’s. At any rate, it’s hard to tell when McGann is serious and when he’s kidding, but then you feel he’s not altogether sure himself.

Paul McGann first gained popularity on TV as Percy Toplis in the BBC series The Monocled Mutineer, and then on the big screen as the deliciously panicked character in the whimsical Withnail And I (he played I). Despite poor distribution, the film attracted wide acclaim and shoved newcomer McGann to the next stage of select-a-script.

“What I admire about McGann in Withnail And I was his ability, like Jimmy Porter in Look Back In Anger, to deliver long tirades about life in general and the life of an actor – with a great sense of comic grievance,” notes the film critic Alexander Walker.

In fact that description fits McGann’s real persona to a tee. “You’ve got to stay angry to work, to stay intelligent,” he says, gulping down tea and shoving his hands through his silky brown hair that’s as excitable as he is. “After all, acting’s my oovre,” he declares feelingly, then asks me if I know what that means, because he’s got no idea. He heard it on TV once and thought it sounded good.

Wrap this tongue-in-cheek patter around the lilting Liverpool accent that expresses despair, enthusiasm and elation in double-time – and that’s just when he’s chatting about slipping his garden slugs a beer overdose – and you have a fair picture of an actor who would make compelling viewing just standing in front of the cameras sounding off about life and his Catholic upbringing.

He’s not exactly hard to look at either, with translucent skin, blue eyes, and a poetic face that could portray Romeo or rascal without altering a long, curling eyelash. Clad in any-old jeans and T-shirt, McGann has classic boy-next-door appeal (he’s 29, looks younger), or, okay, the boy you wouldn’t half mind living next door.

Withnail left McGann with a taste for more of its kind. “The good times we had were so good, the script was so good, that after going back to reading the normal quota of drossy scripts, I said to director Bruce Robinson, ‘There’s nothing around.’ He said, ‘You’re crazy. Don’t wait for another Withnail cos you ain’t going to see one. Keep the ball rolling,’”

The result of rolling the ball was an exhausting slog of four pictures in the last eight months of 1988. (Aside, that is, from the lead role as Venetian artist, Carianni, in a TV period play with a tortuous plot. “I didn’t understand it and I was in the f…ing thing,” he says. “All those blank expressions were for real.”)

The film after Withnail, Tree Of Hands, stars Lauren Bacall, Helen Shaver and Kate Hardie. McGann’s reasons for doing it are diverse, and almost an apology. “I liked the script. I thought, ‘Lauren Bacall, great!’ Well, you can’t always get it right. Often the best laid plans…..” The film casts McGann as a suspected child beater who comes over, I tell him, as a nasty piece of work likely to have his Withnail admirers recoiling in horror. He brightens up. “Great!” he exclaims. “Because I’ve played rank bastards in the past that have somehow come over as sweethearts through some psychological quirk of nature.”

He also portrayed cardboard cut-out soldier Anton in Ken Russell’s movie version of The Rainbow and starred in a man-on-the-run thriller for Channel 4, Streets Of Yesterday. Two of the four projects are good and two are bad. “I just hope that a bad one will come out with a good one, or that the bad ones will sink without trace.” New boy on the block, he has learned from all his experiences, particularly from his last film Dealers.

“It would be a mistake for me ever to go into something again that I felt 50-50 about,” he says. “With Dealers, the backers were trying to make it a Wall Street with three million quid. And I was miscast!” Honesty prevails once more.

“Well, I might have been well cast if I’d been on the ball, but I wasn’t. I was on my knees by then. They could see I was buckling and they’d say, ‘Do this and that, but do it with pzazz!” He clicks his fingers and cringes. “I know actors who could read a cornflake packet and make it sound interesting. I can’t, I’m not that versatile.”

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Down East

Joined: 08 Feb 2006
Posts: 574
Location: Maine & CT, USA

PostPosted: Sat Jun 24, 2006 4:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another interesting article I've never read.
So, from what I gather from least at that point in time, bad scripts don't get a lot of enthusiasm or energy from him. I can't blame him. Like a job you're just not suited for. He's certainly had his fill of bad scripts.

>I know actors who could read a cornflake packet and make it sound interesting. I can’t, I’m not that versatile

We've seen him in a number of those works with bad scripts...and many thought he could do those parts in his sleep. I guess that's what he thought too.


I thought he was perhaps miscast in Dealers, though I think he did a very good job anyway and it wasn't half bad. It was entertaining in many ways, and the British Financial stuff was interesting to me--who knows nothing about it. I thought he and Rebecca DeMornay had good chemistry together and played off each other well.

You know, he really did a good job in Seduction of a Priest. His character was kind of sweet and innocent in the beginning, vulnerable, and then turns rather selfish, mean and self indulgent. That part was not very believable. Then you feel sort of sorry for his character--toward the end. Anyway, he carried that film, though the overall film itself wound up having a somewhat silly premis, with the Inquisition almost portrayed as the good guys--and the crazy color scheme and so forth.

Ah...Paul is in need of a VERY good script, something they're willing to give high production values.

Thanks for typing this and posting it, Sam!
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