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An interview with star of Maurice's Jubilee, Julian Glover

Posted: 14 January 2013
An interview with star of Maurice's Jubilee, Julian Glover

In any profession, networking is part of the culture and for actors in particular it is important to be seen in the right places and at the right time. An enjoyable visit to the theatre, especially on First Nights, may have unexpected consequences, as Julian Glover can attest.

'It was the opening night of The Lady from the Sea at the Rose Theatre in Kingston and I ran into Nichola {McAuliffe} who asked me if I was doing anything in the summer.' Julian recalls. 'If so, would I be interested in reading a play she’d written? It duly arrived in the post and eventually I sat down to read it, rather reluctantly, I must admit. But within the first six pages, I thought to myself that this is good. In fact, this is bloody good. Good roles for men of my age are few and far between and I saw at once that Maurice was a fantastic part for me. I’m seventy-seven but I’d be playing a man of nearly ninety and that would also be a challenge. I’d never appeared on the Edinburgh Fringe, the story-line was very entertaining and for all these reasons, I couldn’t pass up such a good opportunity.'

Julian plays Maurice, a retired jeweller who has known the good life but who now lives in much reduced circumstances with Helena (Sheila Reid), his wife of many years. They make a convincing Darby and Joan, their incessant squabbling and crosstalk concealing a profound feeling for one another.

'I think that one of the themes of the play is long-term love – habit-forming love,' says Julian. 'It’s also about one man’s obsession to realise his dream and a lot of people recognise that characteristic within themselves, especially those who have failed to fulfil their dream. At the start of her time at RADA, my wife Isla wanted to leave but her father advised her to stay on for at least another term. Otherwise, he said, she’d always regret giving up on her dream.'

In the course of the play we learn that Maurice and Helena have come down in the world, either through bad luck, poor judgement or a combination of both.

'Sheila and I have worked out a back story that Helena was the daughter of a Polish countess. Initially Maurice was doing terribly well and they made an affluent couple. I know a block of riverside flats in Barnes where they would have lived and which they would have had to give up. As a result, they have lost their leading social position in Barnes. I’ve known lots of people in that situation. It must be very painful when you’re seventy to have to move away from where you’ve been such a big cheese, a person who matters.'

Within the first moments of the play, we learn that Maurice is seriously, perhaps terminally, ill. Yet he largely treats his impending demise with calm practicality.

'Maurice is so down-to-earth about it, provided he can last until his ninetieth birthday and with it the realisation of his dream,' explains Julian. 'His body decides that there is no reason to live on. I suppose we all think about dying from time to time, even the young, before we move on to something more cheerful. Maurice’s Jubilee shows the reality of death and how we react to it.'

What are the benefits of working on a play written by another actor?

'Nicola understands all the problems we can have with dialogue. Often people in plays speak in non-sequiturs and you, as the actor, have to wrestle with the lines to make them work. That was not the case with Maurice’s Jubilee. The three of us got on very well. I’ve known Sheila for fifty years and we’ve worked together a couple of times, but I’d never worked with Nichola until now. There were a few arguments in rehearsals but nobody stormed out. We’d sometimes ask Nichola what she meant by a word or a sentence and if she’d be happy if we re-phrased it. It was all wonderfully cooperative.'

Julian may have reached his late seventies but he retains the vigour, the energy and the incisiveness which have made him a leading actor for more than fifty years. His height and commanding presence have often cast him in unsympathetic roles, characters he describes as 'good and bad villains.' Despite his long years in the profession, Julian has not become any more tolerant of those periods of unemployment that must be a feature of most actors’ lives. There is certainly no thought of retirement.

'I have to work,' he says simply. 'And at the moment, I have the next series of Game of Thrones to keep me going. So far, I have been really lucky with my voice. It still has great strength and I haven’t developed any old man’s quaver. I’d love to play Coriolanus, although I’m much too old. When I played Aufidius to Alan Howard’s Coriolanus, my little boy Jamie played the son and now he’s forty-three! I’d also like to play Lear again- perhaps when I’m eighty which is his age in the play. When I played the part before, I was a mere sixty-six. I’m not good at being out of work, Isla says my head drops. I think that acting must be a kind of need for me. I have to do it.'

Julian has an enormous range of credits, moving from Classical work at Stratford and Shakespeare’s Globe to prominent roles in the Star Wars, James Bond and Indiana Jones franchises. Yet the public only knows the face- the name often escapes them. Yet Julian seems happy with this situation.

'I’m not a Gambon or a McKellen but I do have a good position,' he explains. 'Stars have to put up with so much that is intrusive. Robert Pattinson lives locally and he can hardly come out of his house. I got to know Charlton Heston very well when we were working together and I remember booking a table for us in an Italian restaurant with Charlton facing the wall. But even then a waiter had to ask for his autograph.'

Julian has often worked on location on films financed by Hollywood. Has he never been tempted to try his luck in Tinseltown?

'In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, I played an American and Spielberg said to me that I’d get lots of offers of work in the US because my accent was so perfect. I’m still waiting! On the other hand, I’ve seen so many people come back from the States with their tails between their legs. I think I prefer it when members of the public come up to me in the street and say to me- you are, aren’t you? It means that you’re still in the public eye.'                                                                                          

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