Until this Friday, Tom Burke has been one of Britain’s most underrated screen actors. That’s when his new movie, ‘The Souvenir’, comes out and the plaudits should finally flood in. It’s a glorious cine-memoir of ’80s London – and he’s shout-it-from-the-nearest-rooftop brilliant in it.
As his small but fervent army of fans will tell you, it’s high time. He’s a supremely gifted actor with a knack of bending scenes to his own mysterious rhythms and a face you probably know but can’t quite place. It could be from BBC period pieces like ‘War and Peace’ and ‘The Musketeers’, or maybe his Sherlock-like turn as a private detective in the hit JK Rowling-created crime show ‘Strike’. He’s been magnetic on the London stage, too. On the big screen, though? Not so much. There’s been a memorable turn in ‘Only God Forgives’ and a few supporting roles but, for some reason, his talents haven’t been seized on. Then ‘The Souvenir’ writer-director Joanna Hogg came knocking.
She wanted him to play Anthony, a version of her own older, worldlier, heroin-hooked boyfriend from her film-school days in ’80s Knightsbridge. She’d cast Honor Swinton Byrne, Tilda Swinton’s daughter, as a version of herself. ‘I jumped at the part,’ says Burke. ‘When Joanna spoke about Anthony, I felt more and more curious. She shared his letters, photos and notes with me. I think she was surprised by how much overlap [between us] there was.’
‘The set had a ghostly air. I think I needed some reality by the end.’