British actor Brian Blessed is a force of nature. Everything about him is big, robust, and gung-ho. He’s a boys’ own adventure wrapped in facial hair.
His autobiography, Absolute Pandemonium, is everything you would expect from such a singular creature – full of ripping yarns, scrapes, scraps, and quite a lot of swearing. Oh yes, the language is quite colourful in places.
By any measure Blessed has had an extraordinary life. From humble beginnings in a mining town in South Yorkshire he’s had a career that has seen him steadily employed (when he wasn’t too busy climbing Mount Everest) for over 50 years. He’s appeared in everything from Blackadder and I, Claudius to Flash Gordon and Much Ado About Nothing. And he’s got a few stories to tell, some of which might actually be true.
To give you a bit of insight into what Absolute Pandemonium is like, I thought I’d share a few descriptions of famous people Blessed has met, loved and worked with over the years –
On Peter O’Toole:
Peter O’Toole wasn’t just a man of extremes; he was the man of extremes: Lord Byron with a knuckle-duster, love.
On Prime Minister Harold Mcmillan:
…he was about as animated as a curling stone, though seemed to move slightly slower.
On Orson Welles:
He seemed to be about the size of a rhino. Absolutely enormous, he was, and smoking a cigar that looked more like a log.
On Katharine Hepburn:
Boudicca in slacks
On Geneviève Bujold:
She was effervescent, naughty and very, very beautiful.
On meeting legendary Hollywood producer, Dino De Laurentiis for the first time:
He greeted me warmly, like a long-lost son.
‘Who the hell are you and wada-you-want-a?’
On Timothy Dalton:
Tim’s an incredibly handsome man and looked just like Errol Flynn in the film. A bit of rough compared to me, of course, but he definitely has something.
And finally, on his own good self:
Now, if I ever had to choose one word to describe myself, in addition to virile, sensual, intriguing, dainty, elegant and of course sensitive, it would have to be tenacious.
Definitely recommended for fans of the man himself or the people he’s worked with to get the inside (though possibly exaggerated) story on what they were like – honestly the section on O’Toole is rivetting.
To be honest, towards the end I was a bit over all the anecdotes in which Blessed’s tremendous actorly insight saved the day but I’ll forgive him because if you can’t skite a bit on your own memoir, when can you? It’s also extremely funny and I was hooting with laughter within the first few pages so I can forgive Blessed a bit of ego stroking.
What are your thoughts on Mr Blessed? Delightfully madcap or too much like a foghorn for polite company? I suspect both…
A enormously fun read! Like you say, little bit over him at the end, but his style is so engaging you want everything to be true! (may have rewatched part of Lawrence of Arabia last night)