Smile Through It II: The Next Chapter

Chasing dreams, because I can

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Jonathan Pryce

Posted by Oli on Tuesday 27th October, 2009

The one upside of Willows going into rehearsals this week of all weeks (LIPA reading week, that is) is that I was still around to witness this year’s first Masterclass with the legendary Jonathan Pryce of Evita, Pirates of the Caribbean and Miss Saigon fame.

Once again revealing quite how aged I am in relation to the rest of the students at LIPA (or at least the majority), I first saw Jonathan Pryce when he played Fagin in Sam Mendes’ revival of Oliver! in the West End way back in 1994 when most of my classmates were learning to walk.

Thanks to the Pirates series, he’s now famous throughout the student body at LIPA and, since he’s literally just up the road (about 500 yards from LIPA) doing The Caretaker at the Everyman at the moment, he stopped in to talk to us all today.

He may have been nervous or just unsure at the start, as he was somewhat bland and struggling to relate to the audience to begin with, but as time went on he warmed up and became more and more ebullient and amusing with all of his anecdotes. Among my favourites:

  • He turned down the opportunity of taking over from Michael Crawford in the title role of the original production of Phantom of the Opera
  • He gave first jobs to both Julie Walters and Bill Nighy, recalling of Nighy’s audition that he thought we was either an absolute genius or absolute rubbish. He maintains (jokingly) it’s the latter.
  • When he and Nighy were reunited on the set of Pirates of the Caribbean 3, Nighy performed in a lycra body suit with motion-capture markers all over his body and face. The sight made it impossible to get through an emotional scene without laughing, prompting the writer to approach Pryce and ask if everything was OK with the scene.
  • He never actually read the entire script for Pirates and frequently only knew what was going on by asking Jack Davenport while the shots were being set up.
  • When performing in the ill-fated National Theatre production of My Fair Lady, he remarked to one audience “This is you first Eliza, but it’s my second today and third in two days. If anyone would like to apply to play Eliza in this production, please contact Stage Door after the show.”

It’s amazing to be studying what I love in a place I can’t get enough of and to have the added bonus of people like this coming in to talk to us. After almost 2 hours at it, I think the entire audience of actors, dancers, technicians and managers left the room utterly inspired and energised.

Who’s next?

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