Jim Broadbent, whose filmography includes Topsy-Turvy, Gangs of New York, Moulin Rouge! and Iris, delivered an enchanting Life in Pictures interview with Boyd Hilton. This event was sponsored by Deutsche Bank.
Listen to Jim Broadbent's A Life in Pictures:
Download the transcript of the event here.
"Rather than babysitters we were often left back stage [...] it was terribly exciting" noted Jim Broadbent as the interview commenced with a discussion regarding his childhood involvement with theatre followed by memories of drama school, which, Broadbent noted was "the complete playground I'd been looking for".
Moving from theatre and onto the screen, Broadbent discussed his early collaborations with director Mike Leigh. In particular, the television film A Sense of History catalysed Broadbent's career as he both wrote and starred in the short production. "I was walking on my own talking to myself" noted Broadbent, "and came across this character. I thought 'oh, he's new, I'll keep him talking" and six months later the film was aired on Channel 4.
Describing his BAFTA-nominated role in Topsy-Turvy, Broadbent was honest and reflective, suggesting that "it was not a role I would have chosen for myself [but] it was a really exciting job". From the meticulously researched characterisation of W. S. Gilbert to the extravagant flamboyance of Moulin Rouge!, Broadbent described the experience as "thrilling" and noted that when approached for the musical role he thought "whatever else, it was going to be utterly extraordinary".
2001 proved a prolific year for Broadbent, whose collaboration with Judi Dench in Iris earned him a BAFTA nomination, an Oscar and a Golden Globe. Broadbent nodded towards drawing on personal experience for the emotional role and described how hearing an interview with John Bayley really helped: "if the voice is there I find it useful, so useful, to hear the voice and get into character", he observed.
Discussing his experiences in comedies such as Hot Fuzz, and most recently, Le Week-end, the actor highlighted the importance of humour: "if you do get it right and it is true it will make people laugh.. that’s where comedy comes from". As the interview drew to a close, the audience enquired what draws Broadbent to the roles he takes on: "is it something I would like to go and see? Would I want to be in the audience?" Broadbent posed, "if not then it would probably be something I would pass on."
Jim Broadbent's Career in Film
To think 'Jim Broadbent' is to think 'versatility'. Whether bringing a comic ease as the quiet, loveable father in Bridget Jones's Diary (2001), a deep poignancy to When Did You Last See Your Father (2007), or his sensitive performance as Denis Thatcher in The Iron Lady (2011), Broadbent's career has delved and dived across a stunning spectrum of medium, genre and character.
As the son of amateur actors, Broadbent began on the stage before moving onto both the big and small screens where he has accumulated over 130 credits. With central roles in TV movies Walter (1982), Birth of a Nation (1983) and Messiah (1984) – the latter which he co-wrote - Broadbent also featured in The Black Adder (1983) and Happy Families (1985).
Broadbent's early film roles include appearing in Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits (1981) and Brazil (1985), as well as Mike Newell's The Good Father (1985) alongside Anthony Hopkins. But it wasn't until 1990 with Life Is Sweet that his film career really hit its stride. This working relationship with director Mike Leigh was to prove fruitful, resulting in films including Vera Drake (2004) and Another Year (2010). One of their most famous collaborations remains Topsy-Turvy (1999), where Broadbent’s charismatic performance as W.S. Gilbert resulted in his first BAFTA nomination in 2000 as one half of the Victorian theatrical duo Gilbert and Sullivan.
Broadbent's first BAFTA win came in 2002 for his portrayal of the flamboyant Harold Zidler in Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge! (2001), where he memorably sang an unforgettable version of Madonna's Like a Virgin. It would prove to be a prolific year for Broadbent; his depiction of John Bayley in Iris (2001) alongside Judi Dench gave him a further BAFTA nomination, an Oscar and a Golden Globe Award.
His continued work in television has also been met with critical acclaim. Broadbent received his second BAFTA in 2007 for his depiction of the eponymous Longford (2006) to accompany a further two nominations for television, most recently for his touching performance as Logan Mountstuart in Any Human Heart (2010).
Broadbent's latest roles include playing a terrifying psychiatrist in Filth (2013), as well as the down to earth university professor in Roger Michell's Le Week-End (2013) bringing his natural comic wit to the film. Both of these performances emphasise Broadbent's ability to consistently surprise and delight audiences in equal measures throughout his career.