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Brian Cox: ‘The white man is reaching his sell-by date’

How do you follow up a Golden Globe win? If you’re all-round stage and screen legend Brian Cox, you hoof it to west London to direct an obscure fringe play

Brian Cox, 2020
Photograph: Jack Latimer
By Joe Mackertich |
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Fresh from his Golden Globe triumph for playing tyrannical patriarch Logan Roy in ‘Succession’, Brian Cox has shifted gear: he’s directing ‘Sinners – The English Professor’, a fringe production of a play by Israeli writer Joshua Sobol.

Hi, Brian! How did you come to do this play? 
‘I was drawn to it. The writer has had a lot of difficulties in his own country. I felt a sort of kinship with him. The play is really to do with the historic debasement of women.’

A very topical subject. 
‘I think it’s gone on long enough. Women have shown themselves more capable than men. The white man is reaching his sell-by date.’

How did your own stage career start? 
‘When I walked into Dundee Rep for the first time, to interview for the job of errand boy, no one judged me. I remember there was an actor and a stage director having a fight, a literal fight, with all hell breaking loose. It was ten o’clock in the morning and they were both drunk. There was this other guy standing on the landing, smoking, and he saw me and said “You all right, darling?” ’

How did that make you feel? 
‘Nobody had ever called me darling before in my life! It was so welcoming. He didn’t know who I was or where I came from. He did not care. That’s what the theatre means. That’s what it represents.’

You played Hannibal Lecter. Do you think there are similarities between him and Logan Roy? 
‘There are certain similarities. It’s psychopathic behaviour. And it’s to do with belief. The belief in your own infallibility, like the Pope. Last year I met Michael Bloomberg, he was very nice, and we spoke about Vietnam. He told me that if he’d gone, he wouldn’t have been an ordinary soldier. He said “Of course, I’d have been a lieutenant.” I didn’t challenge him; I thought that said enough.’

Has your life changed at all, now that you’ve become a household name? 
‘It is just work. People think television is all red carpets, beer and skittles. It isn’t. Red carpets… quite frankly, I find it embarrassing. But you have to do it. Going through 117 photographers saying “Over here, Brian. This way, Brian!” Like a performing fucking monkey. It doesn’t appeal to me at all.’

You starred with Steven Seagal in ‘The Glimmer Man’. Any good anecdotes? 
‘Well, Steven is, uh… well, ostensibly, Steven is ridiculous.’

Go on…
‘In the days before mobiles, he would have a landline telephone with him at all times, even when he ate lunch. I remember thinking: Steven, just eat your lunch.’

It’s good to have you back in London. 
‘I have such a strong feeling about London because it’s the first place I experienced true freedom. I will always love it.’

‘Sinners’ is at The Playground Theatre until Mar 14.

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