fabulous scripts

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MORE favourite dead not-American actors: an Advent Calendar

Day 2: Peter Ustinov

To call Peter Ustinov simply an actor is to do him a great disservice: few people can genuinely be called polymath, but he’s one of them. Writer (his first full film script, The Way Ahead, was written at 23), director/producer at 25, (School for Secrets), set designer, opera director, raconteur, multi-linguist, UNICEF ambassador, and of course, the voice of Prince John in Disney’s Robin Hood

For all that, he is a delight as an actor. There’s an aura of self-mockery about him that never descends into hamminess or knowingness. He’s an innocent abroad, a petulant child, a harmless dope; except he’s the cleverest man in the room, the sneakiest thief, the craftiest opponent. He is - and this is not something you can say of everyone - a joy to watch. And he has great hair. 

Favourite Role: Jules in We’re No Angels (1958) which is a joy of a film, with a great cast (Bogie, Baz, etc) and Jules is the most adorable safecracker you will ever see. 

Another good place to start: Hot Millions (1968) which is a corker of a film, Ustinov and Maggie Smith taking on the old school tie system and winning. They are both the most adorable people ever and it’s a little gem. And it would be rude not to rec a Poirot, so I would go for Death on the Nile (1978) because it’s probably the best of his, he’s back with David Niven 30-odd years after he was his batman during the writing/filming of The Way Ahead, and you get Angela Lansbury doing the best drunk acting on film possibly ever

“His voice is throughout the show,” Coleman says of Moffat, “his humor, his imagination, his quick-wittedness, his sharpness. Having so many layers and also within one episode and also the way he can pepper and arc the story throughout the series – I think is quite incredible. It’s a really, really dynamic show that’s always moving and never does it patronize and it appeals to four-year-olds, it makes them laugh and kind of appeals to a 78-year-old, and that all boils down to Steven’s writing.”

“Yeah, I think that the expanding success of the show has to be put onto him,” Capaldi agrees. “What people don’t understand is that if you’re a showrunner as good as he is, one of the great legends, is that he will come in if you’re having trouble with a script and with one fabulous idea, turn that script around. And so his influence on the material and on the other writers’ work is major. Because he’s such a huge fan of the show, his connection to it is very deep. He absolutely loves this show. He’s the person that makes it. If you ever see an episode of Doctor Who and think, ‘Wow that’s the best thing I’ve ever seen,’ it’s because of him.”

– Jenna Coleman and Peter Capaldi on Steven Moffat

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New video: Martin Freeman about Fargo, his character Lester Nygaard and the fabulous script. (X)

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