Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Jim Broadbent Perfects the Best Supporting Husband

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Jim Broadbent Perfects the Best Supporting Husband

Article excerpt

Most actors face a moment in their youth when they must choose between pursuing acting or taking safer routes -- the useful degrees and 9-to-5 safety nets suggested by well-meaning parents. For Jim Broadbent, known to millions as Hogwarts professor Horace Slughorn, family legacy presented a different choice: Should he stay an actor or become an artist?

It turns out that Mr. Broadbent, so convincing over the years while playing ordinary, tweed-and-teatime British family men such as Denis Thatcher, husband to Meryl Streep's prime minister in the just- released "The Iron Lady," comes from Bohemian stock. His pacifist parents were professional artists and amateur actors, he says, and "growing up, it was always going to be the arts or theater, I suppose."

He initially chose the former, enrolling in art school, but says he "was good enough to realize I wasn't good enough" for a career. He started his career on stage, but unlike those English actors who hone their craft through years of Shakespeare,

Although it has been a few years since his last stage performance, he'd jump at a good script, especially one by Martin McDonagh, whose "The Pillowman" supplied Mr. Broadbent with a meaty role in 2003. Mr. McDonagh found film-world acclaim with "In Bruges" soon after.

Mr. Broadbent's most fruitful professional relationship has been with another veteran of both stage and screen: Mike Leigh. Mr. Leigh's 1990 "Life Is Sweet" was the actor's breakthrough with American audiences; in 1999's "Topsy-Turvy," playing musical- theater pioneer William S. Gilbert (of Gilbert and Sullivan), Mr. Broadbent was as much in the spotlight as he has ever been.

One wonders what the left-leaning Mr. Leigh, whose movies often focus on working-class hardship, thinks of his co-worker's presence in "The Iron Lady," a biopic that many believe treats right-wing icon Margaret Thatcher as a too-heroic character.

Asked about his own sentiments during Thatcher's rule, Mr. …

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