Thursday 26 March 2015

Michael Cochrane

British actor Michael Cochrane in 'Downton Abbey'

Michael Cochrane:

Another familiar face, equally often seen with a villainous sneer as with a cheerful grin. Michael Cochrane's expressive mouth and narrow eyes, combined with his suave manner, have seen him cast in a range of upper-class roles over the years. Seemingly able to convincingly embody the quick-tempered brooding bully or the likeable silly ass, he has appeared in a long list of popular British TV dramas over the years, from 'The Pallisers' in the early '70s, to its modern counterpart 'Downton Abbey'.          
In an episode of the dogfight drama 'Wings' from 1977
After 'The Pallisers', another early success came with the popular WW1 drama 'Wings' following the early days of the Royal Flying Corps, in which he played young officer Charles Gaylion. Throughout the '80s and beyond, he was ubiquitous in quality TV drama such as 'The Life & Times Of David Lloyd George', 'The Citadel', 'The Far Pavilions', 'Nancherrow', and 'Holy Flying Circus' in which he played Malcolm Muggeridge. Cult TV fans will clock him in two 'Doctor Who' stories from the '80s - and Radio 4 stalwarts will know his voice as that of permanently exasperated country gent Oliver Sterling from 'The Archers'.
Well played Doctor! As a cricketing aristo congratulating Peter Davison
in the 1982 'Doctor Who' story 'Black Orchid'
More 'Doctor Who'. Proposing to blow Sylveste McCoy's head off
with an elephant gun in the 1989 story 'Ghost Light' 
More lightweight fare includes 'Jonathan Creek', 'Spooks', 'Pie In The Sky' and a briefcase-full of police procedurals, whodunnits and courtroom dramas. The comedy strand is a decently varied collection stretching from 'The Two Ronnies', 'Shelley' and 'To The Manor Born' to 'Keeping Up Appearances', the Ardal O'Hanlon sitcom 'Big Bad World' and even an episode of 'Love Thy Neighbour'.         

As the ever-unpleasant Sir Henry Simmerson in 'Sharpe' 
Movie work has been regular, but there isn't a career-defining role among his appearances in 'Escape To Victory' (1981), 'Return Of The Soldier' (1982) and 'Iron Lady' (2011), or a host of forgettable titles like 'Ascendancy' (1983), 'Real Life'(1984), spy spoof 'Number One Gun' (1991) and the Val Kilmer take on 'The Saint' (1997).

His most recent recognition has come through 'Downton Abbey' in which he plays the enthusiastically Anglican village vicar, Reverend Travis.

Monday 16 March 2015

Peter Elliott

Peter Elliott:
In the David Hughes pseudo-documentary 'Missing Link' (1988)

The go-to guy for gorillas in the British film industry, Peter Elliott is one of the world's most accomplished animal actors, specialising in the movements of apes and ape-like creatures.   

Putting his face on, in 'Buddy' (1997)
And if he's done anything, he's done apes – donning the monkey suit for 'Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord Of The Apes' (1984), Gorillas In The Mist' (1988), 'Congo' (1995), The Island Of Doctor Moreau (1996), Fierce Creatures (1997), and 'King Kong Lives' (1986).

On all fours again, but no fun-fur this time. As one of
the sinister Wheelers in 'Return To Oz' (1985)  
In the days before CGI, this is how you did scenes of utter devastation and carnage.
A man in a gorilla suit treading on a model Lamborghini in 'King Kong Lives' (1986)

He's also been in Red Dwarf as a chimp and he played Bollo the gorilla, from 'The Mighty Boosh' - but only in the episodes set in Dixon Bainbridge's zoo.

The more domesticated Bollo from the later series of 'The Mighty Boosh'
isn't played by Elliott, but by Dave Brown 

Peter Elliott-imdb

Monday 9 March 2015

Denis Lawson

British actor Denis Lawson as Wedge Antilles in 'Star Wars'

Denis Lawson:

Compact and suavely handsome in a slightly weasely way, Scottish actor Denis Lawson is a stalwart of British television, but probably known only to the wider world - or the nerdier portion of it - as Wedge Antilles, one of the heroic X-Wing pilots of the original 'Star Wars' trilogy. Extra galactic trivia points are doubtless also accrued by being the uncle of Obi Wan Kenobi, Ewan McGregor. 

British actor Dennis Lawson in the 'Merchant of Venice'
As Launcelot Gobbo in the 1973 ITV version of
'The Merchant of Venice'
'Survivors': an episode called 'The Future Hour' from 1975
Up until 'Star Wars' (1977) or whatever they call it now, he had been in an interesting grab-bag of serious drama, typified by the televised version of the NT 'Merchant of Venice' with Laurence Olivier, late night plays like 'Ms Jill or Jack' and 'The Paradise Run', and middle-brow TV hits like 'Survivors', and 'Rock Follies'.

Starring in the DJ sitcom 'The Kit Curran Radio Show'
made by Thames Television in 1984.
The '80s were a bit of a boom time and he appeared in memorable stuff like the quirky time-travel TV play 'The Flipside of Dominick Hyde' and the prescient neo-noir conspiracy crime serial 'Dead Head' as well as getting the starring role in the lightweight sitcom 'The Kit Curran Radio Show'.    

As a jet-setting assassin in 'Bergerac' 
There was also some day-to-day drama and comedy to fill the diary too, 'Boon' and 'Bergerac', 'Robin Hood' and 'Miss Marple', and 'The Good Companions' and 'Victoria Wood: As Seen On TV'. More recently, he had the key role of Jarndyce in the BBC's adaptation of 'Bleak House', as well as major parts in the ghost tale 'Marchlands', 'Criminal Justice' and now 'New Tricks'. I also enjoyed the bleak slapstick of the 'Inside No 9' episode where he played the victim of Shearsmith and Pemberton's hapless art thieves.

Aside from the George Lucas gigs, his film credits include a rare Scottish part in 'Local Hero' (1983) and Jack Rosenthal's clever class vignette, 'The Chain' (1984). He also appears alongside his nephew in 'Perfect Sense' (2011), an example of that under-represented genre, romantic Scottish epidemic-apocalypse sci fi.