Instead of quietly slipping off to Tuscany and working on his memoirs, veteran British actor Gawn Grainger stepped into the role of ex-showman Billy Rice in THE ENTERTAINER, the final production in the Kenneth Branagh season of plays at The Garrick. The 78 year-old replaced John Hurt, who was originally cast to play the father of washed-up music hall performer Archie Rice, but had to withdraw for medical reasons.
Gawn’s illustrious stage career began with his West End debut at the age of twelve before going on to be part of Lawrence Olivier’s inaugural season at the National Theatre and has since worked with the professions finest. Paul Taylor wrote about Gawn’s performance in his Independent review “Gawn Grainger is perfection at conveying the Edwardian staunch pride and garrulous irritability with the modern world.” He signed my drawing at the stage door, commenting, “it looks like me,” which is always a good sign.
Twelve Angry Men was originally written for television in 1954, later adapted as a feature film with Henry Fonda, then for the stage.
The real-time jury room drama, in which a lone crusader for justice (Juror 8) persuades his unforgiving fellow white jurors that the unseen black prisoner on trial for his life may not be guilty, returned to the London stage at the Garrick Theatre at the end of 2013 and early 2014.
Nick Moran, “every mum’s favourite angel-faced thug” (as described by The Spectator), is Juror 7, a nervy, clownish, spivvy marmalade salesman, impatient to delivery any verdict so he can slope off to watch a ball game. He was part of an impressive ensemble cast that included Martin Shaw, Robert Vaughn, Jeff Fahey, Miles Richardson and Tom Conti.
Jeff Fahey has starred in many indie classics, including the title role in the cult sci-fi hit The Lawnmower Man opposite Pierce Brosnan and Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse. Other films include Clint Eastwood’s White Hunter Black Heart; Silveradd and Wyatt Earp, both with Kevin Costner.
Jeff’s extensive television career includes playing the title role in The Marshal and most recently, the hit series Lost playing helicopter pilot Frank Lapidus. His humanitarian work involves assisting the establishment of the American University of Afghanistan, projects to assist orphans in Kabul and is a Global Ambassador on the US Committee for refugees and immigrants.
Jeff is part of a stellar cast in the latest West End revival of the classic courtroom drama Twelve Angry Men. He plays the estranged third juror – the last one to vote not guilty (Lee Jacob’s role in the 1957 movie). He signed and dedicated my sketch before yesterday’s matinée at the Garrick Theatre.
One of my boyhood TV heroes was Napoleon Solo in the classic 60s spy series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. So it was great to eventually meet Robert Vaughn… albeit 40 something years later in London this weekend.
I am also a big fan of Hustle, in which Robert plays the veteran grifter Albert Stroller. He’s been one of the biggest stars in the business for the past 50 years. Robert was gunman Lee in the Magnificent Seven (1960) and is now the only surviving member of the title cast. He has been nominated for the Oscar (The Young Philadelphians), a BAFTA (Bullitt) and four Golden Globes. He won an Emmy for his portrayal of George Washington in 1978. He also has a PhD in Communication from the University of Southern California – an actor and an academic.
Robert is currently applying his intellect on the West End stage at the Garrick Theatre in Reginald Rose’s jury drama Twelve Angry Men, playing the wise old juror #9, identified late in the play as ‘McCardle’. He signed my sketch of his character going in for Saturday’s matinee performance.