Posts Tagged ‘Brian Blessed’

Brian Blessed Talks about his Role as Boss Nass in Star Wars Prequels

December 24, 2017

In this clip I found on YouTube, the mighty Brian Blessed is interviewed by host Jaime Stangroom about his role as the amphibian alien king, Boss Nass of the Naboo, in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Stangroom opens the interview by declaring that Blessed is a British institution. Or belongs in one, referring to the great man’s over the top personality. He notes that among his other achievement, he’s the oldest man to go to the South Pole and has climbed Mt. Everest.

It seems George Lucas was quite a fan of his. Before they started filming, Lucas asked to be alone with Brian for about half an hour. He said he wanted to cast him as Jedi, but that he would be too powerful for such a role. What other role could he cast which would be more suitable for his energies? Quick as a flash, Blessed’s agent, who surely deserves their fee, suggested Boss Nass.

The scene where Nass finally offers peace between the Naboo and humans was unscripted. The crowd surrounding Nass were to kneel or stand respectfully towards him, waiting for him to make a pronouncement. But Nass’ lines hadn’t been written and it was left to the Dynamite Kid to make them up. Which he did. He made the characteristic noises, before making his pronouncement of peace between human and amphibian. Lucas was delighted, and said that was exactly what was in his mind.

Stangroom asked the inevitable question about what he thought of Jar Jar Binks. Blessed, like the professional actor he really is, is very careful in his reply. He states that it’s always dangerous to criticise another actor’s interpretation. He just says that you have to make sure that the noises the Naboo characters make do not overshadow the spoken lines, as you can lose a lot of plot that way. He then gives a demonstration from his own performance as Boss Nass to show how he avoided that problem.

Rather more entertaining is his tale of talking to the actor, who was unveiled as the true face of Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker in last of the original trilogy, The Return of the Jedi. The actor, who played him had been a big star in the 1940s, but was now quite elderly, or at least when Blessed talked to him. He remembered that he’d been in a film, where they took a mask off him. He had a bit of a struggle remembering who he’d played, until it came to him: Darth Vader. Blessed was astonished. ‘You played Darth Vader! You don’t know how big that character is!’ before going on to explain how massively popular Vader was and how everyone wanted to play him. The actor replied by saying, ‘Well, they only gave me a little wage.’

Blessed’s got a reputation as something of a bit of a ham, thanks to his powerful personality. Well, as Fritz Leiber, who was the son of Shakespearian actors wrote in A Spectre is Haunting Texas, ‘All actors are hams and secretly love it’. But the interview reveals that behind the shouting there’s a very thoughtful mind that carefully considers what to say and what to put into the performance.

He’s also very left-wing. Blessed himself is working class, the son of a northern miner. When he did a one-man show back in the 1990s, He described going to the peace conferences in the 1950s. At one of these he found himself sitting next to a foreign gentleman. He asked who he was. ‘Picasso’, the stranger replied. ‘Oh yes, what do you do?’ ‘I’m an artist’. So Blessed asked him if he could draw something for him. So Picasso drew a picture of a dove on a bit of paper hankie Blessed had at the time. Of course, Picasso drew it in his extremely simplified, modernist style. When Blessed got home and looked at it, he declared it was ‘rubbish’, and that Picasso wasn’t an artist at all, and threw it in the bin. Thus throwing away potentially thousands of pounds.

Blessed for a long time said that he wanted to play Dr. Who. I think that time is long past, as he’s rather too old now. And the job of the new Doctor is already taken, and he’s the wrong gender. But he has appeared in the show. He was in the Colin Baker ‘Trial of a Timelord’ serial ‘Mindwarp’, in which he played an alien samurai warrior battling the evil Mentors, and the alien supercapitalist Sil.

Oh yes, and while Han was killed in the last Star Wars sequel, we can always take comfort in that Gordon’s Alive !

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Brian ‘Vultan’ Blessed on Brian Cox’s Science Show, Tomorrow Radio 4

July 7, 2013

A few weeks after announcing he had completed astronaut training at Russia’s Star City and was in line to voyage to the International Space Station, Brian Blessed is on the radio tomorrow. He, Stephen Attenborough and Dr. Kevin Fong will be on Brian Cox and Robin Ince’s The Infinite Monkey Cage discussing space tourism. The programme goes out at $.30 pm.

One of the other speakers on the programme, Dr. Kevin Fong, is well worth hearing if you have the opportunity. He’s a Chinese-British doctor who specialises in space medicine. As well as being a knowledgable speaker, he’s also a very funny guy. I saw him back in the late 1990s talking about the medical problems involved in space travel at the Cheltenham Festival of Science. It was at the time the Bird Flu epidemic was raging. Fong turned up suffering from an awful, but blessedly normal cold, for which he apologised. ‘It’s all right’, said the good doctor, ‘I was in Beijing last week, but it’s only the common cold. It’s amazing the amount of space you get on the Underground now if you’re an Asian with a cold.’

As for the living legend that is Brian Blessed, what more needs to be said except

‘GORDON’S ALIVE!’

Gordon’s Alive! Vultan to Fly Aboard the International Space Station?

June 29, 2013

The stentorian voiced cult actor, mountaineer and one-man dynamo of fun Brian Blessed was on Russel Howard’s Good News on Thursday. The Dynamite Kid had been in the news that week for punching out a polar bear when it invaded his expeditions tent up in the arctic. In the chaos of the bear’s attack, Blessed retaliated by punching the bear on the nose. To his immense surprise, it ran off. Blessed is a veteran actor, who had been in a number of classic TV roles such as I, Claudius and Z Cars and as the king in the very first Blackadder series waaaay back in in 1983. He was also Vultan in Dino de Laurentiis remake of Flash Gordon, a film which the Fortean Times described as ‘camper than your gay uncle’s dressing up box’. His best known line from that movie is his cry of ‘Gordon’s Alive!’. He now repeats this whenever he appears as a guest on TV, to the huge delight of the audience.

There are deeper aspects to him beyond the exuberance and the over-acting. He supports an animal charity and said that he has about 3,000 animals. He’s also a Christian, who gave a brilliant defence of his faith on Radio 4 one morning. The son of a Durham miner, he is also quite left-wing politically. Talking to Howard, he mentioned that he’d just completed astronaut training at the Russian Zvesdny Gorodok, or Star City and was now the stand-in for the voyage to the International Space Station sometime next year. He was immensely proud of this, as he was 74. ‘Follow your dreams!’ bellowed the great man. It wouldn’t be the first time Blessed has ventured into space, if only in the confines of the TV studio. Apart from Vultan, he has always wanted to play Dr. Who. He had the role of an alien warrior king – also with a loud voice and lots of shouting – in the Colin Baker Dr. Who serial, ‘Mindwarp’. If all goes well, he’ll be travelling into space for real. Will the ISS’ intrepid crew be able to take it! Remember, in space, the whole cosmos can hear you scream ‘GORDON’S ALIVE!!!!!!’