Being Blair ; Tony Blair May No Longer Be Leader but He Remains a Potent Weapon in Labour's Election Armoury. the Former Prime Minister's Acting Skills Are Cited as the Reason Why He Remains Such a Political Force. but What's It like Playing Him? Pierce Brosnan, Star of the Ghost, and Other Blair Impersonators Tell Liz Hoggard about the Man Behind the Mask

By Hoggard, Liz | The Evening Standard (London, England), April 13, 2010 | Go to article overview
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Being Blair ; Tony Blair May No Longer Be Leader but He Remains a Potent Weapon in Labour's Election Armoury. the Former Prime Minister's Acting Skills Are Cited as the Reason Why He Remains Such a Political Force. but What's It like Playing Him? Pierce Brosnan, Star of the Ghost, and Other Blair Impersonators Tell Liz Hoggard about the Man Behind the Mask


Hoggard, Liz, The Evening Standard (London, England)


PIERCE BROSNAN Plays Adam Lang in The Ghost, a PM who took Britain into the war in Iraq, now under quasi-arrest in Cape Cod with his lawyer wife (played by Olivia Williams) I was in London doing the press for Mamma Mia! when I got the call from my agent saying: "[The director] Roman Polanski wants to see you for this movie The Ghost." I hopped on a train and had a wonderful lunch with Roman in Paris.

I asked him, "Am I doing Tony Blair?" And he said: "No, you're not playing Tony Blair. Don't worry about that." However, all roads and emblems lead to only one man -- and that is Tony Blair.

My task was to get to the heart of my character, so I began to play tapes of Blair as PM. And Roman sent me six photographs of Blair from which I did my imitations. You know, the chipmunk smile, with the lips tightly drawn, and that quizzical look of: "How do I dodge this bullet?" and "Oh my God, they've found me out", or "How dare they speak to me in such a fashion?" Blair's sincerity was truly there for the people in those early days, I believe. As a man, as a politician, he believed he was doing "God's work". Charm is an extraordinary thing to have -- especially wielded by someone who is going to manipulate society.

My character, Adam, is this hollow man, this tin man, this spiritually, emotionally, intellectually rudderless fellow. He's run out of road. I thought there was a tragedy in there. I thought there was something Shakespearean about it. When you see Olivia [Williams, who plays Lang's wife, a character said to be inspired by Cherie Blair] doing her thing, it's such an electric, legendary, blue stiletto performance.

As for Blair, I'm sure this film will sting his pride a little. But he's got broad shoulders. I don't think the Iraq inquiry has put the kibosh on the film.

We had this central piece of cinema, Blair in the hot seat, and Roman incarcerated [under house arrest in Switzerland], so there's a real vortex of drama within it. How do you present that as an actor? I think Roman has the sword of Damocles above his head. The road has run out and he has to face the music. I said yes to the man as a director and great artist, as a cinematic icon, and to the role I was offered, and the rest is really none of my business. But you wish for closure -- for his family, for her family, for the children, because they have suffered. As for Tony? Don't forget we were blatantly lied to -- they just kind of bent us over and had their way. You read the history books and the stories of the little man -- and you are the man with no power. One of the most political gestures I ever made was to become an American citizen, to have a voice against the politics of my time.

If you look at David Cameron you see his youthful exuberance and ebullience for politics. And then you look at Tony from Day One to where he is now, and you see that the mask is torn apart.

The Ghost is released on April 16.

IOAN GRUFFUDD Played Tony Blair in Oliver Stone's 2008 biopic W, opposite Josh Brolin as George Bush It's the first time I've played a living person that we know so well. I told myself not to wave my arms about so much, to try and be more grounded and rooted into the earth, not to smile, just concentrate on what you're doing.

Usually you have a rehearsal process but I literally flew in during the middle of the movie for two days -- and then left. So my preparation was at home watching YouTube with my Dictaphone.

I recorded myself imitating him, like a mimic. Then I tried to bring it down and make it more human rather than a robotic imitation.

I noticed he uses his hands a lot in public -- he uses the open palm, suggesting "Trust me, believe me, I'm speaking honestly", so I was doing that a lot. But actually it was distracting for the camera, so Oliver was on my back a lot about that.

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Being Blair ; Tony Blair May No Longer Be Leader but He Remains a Potent Weapon in Labour's Election Armoury. the Former Prime Minister's Acting Skills Are Cited as the Reason Why He Remains Such a Political Force. but What's It like Playing Him? Pierce Brosnan, Star of the Ghost, and Other Blair Impersonators Tell Liz Hoggard about the Man Behind the Mask
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