Brian Blessed: the great bearded man mountain

Brian Blessed hams it up as Hook

Brian Blessed hams it up as Hook

When Kenneth Branagh described Brian Blessed as “the quietest, stillest man I have ever met”,  some people must have thought he was joking. 

But this great bearded man-mountain is indeed blessed with much more than a booming voice.

 An energetic character who was once voted “the man who looks most like God,” his interests range from mountaineering to butterfly breeding, and his enthusiasm for life in all its forms, large and small, is infectious.

 His versatility as an actor came to the fore in Branagh’s adaptation of As You Like It, where he took on two roles, as a pair of feuding Dukes.

 “It helps to have a good, strong voice, but there are moments in acting when it makes more of an impression to be still, or very quiet,” Brian explains.

 “Acting requires strength of mind, imagination, and vision – but you also need to be able to show vulnerability. As long you believe in what you are doing, you can play it big or small.”

 This belief leads him to tackle the part of a pantomime villain with as much relish as he brings to any Shakespearean role.

 “Playing Captain Hook is as much of a challenge as playing King Lear,” he says, “and it’s fun to be the baddie!”

 His portrayal of the fearsome pirate captain does bear some similarities to one of his best-loved characters: Vultan, leader of the hawk men, in the film Flash Gordon.

 “Flash Gordon is a stylised, comic-book story which has become a cult movie all over the world,” he says. “People love to hear me shouting out that famous line: ‘Gordon’s Alive?!’”

 While fans often clamour to hear him belt out a catch phrase, there is more to this multi-faceted man than an impressive ability to project his voice.

  “Acting is holding up a mirror to life – but climbing Everest – that is life!” he says.

 This breath-taking experience is described in his book the Turquoise Mountain, and Brian has now set his sights on travelling to Ecuador to climb a volcano.

 Having reached the peak of his mountaineering skills, what greater heights now beckon for this miner’s son from South Yorkshire?

 Since being chosen to join a space programme in Moscow,  he has begun training in preparation for a flight into space at some point in the near future.   ”Going into space will certainly be a dream come true for me,” he acknowledges. “We are hoping to get as far as Mars”.

 While many of his projects are on such a grand scale, he also takes pleasure in staying close to home: pottering in the garden, breeding butterflies and spending time with his family – his wife Hildegard Neil and daughter Rosalind.

 The family home is a farm in Chobham, Surrey, surrounded by seven acres of land and countless animals, many of them rescued.

 “It’s not unusual to find a Shetland pony in the kitchen!” smiles Brian, whose favourite pet is his little Jack Russell, Misty.

 At the age of 72, he shows no signs of slowing down, and is certainly not the retiring type. 

 “I will never retire from life!” he declares.

 “People think that some of my exploits are dangerous – but to me, the greatest danger in life would be to avoid adventure.”

 A_A

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~ by A_A on May 6, 2009.

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