Day 7, and seven being my lucky number, we have to talk about Fiona Shaw.
There is no finer actress.
This goes right down to the core. Now, at risk of sounding creepy, I love Fiona Shaw. Bear with me: This is for very good reasons, which can be boiled down to one absolute truth.
When I started writing Sex, Death & Canapés, UK: https://amzn.to/2MXOaXL –
USA: https://amzn.to/2olxxHK I knew exactly who Roland was.
I knew him inside out. He was a combination of my darker demons, with a moustache. He said all the lousy things I didn’t want to hear. I was quite certain I’d want to kill him pretty early on. I don’t think I even got as far as Chapter 2 before I wanted him hollowed out and mounted.
I knew Elvira. My dear brother, Paul, recognised her as someone we both know. I thought she was like someone else I know. The someone else being a chap I know who gets a bit more involved in other people’s lives than is strictly advisable. But everyone knows someone like that, don’t they?
I knew Sylvia – to begin with, she was me. She’s become her own person now, and frankly, I wouldn’t mind distancing myself from some of her darkness, because really, there’s a line. And it’s so far away from Sylvia, that the line is now a dot on the horizon.
I knew Desmond completely. Mungo and Maria held no mysteries. There are a whole bunch of others, but I knew everything about them.
But I didn’t know much about my main character.
All I knew about her with any certainty was that she was an artist, probably gay, and too good for her husband.
That’s not a lot to know. Not really. And so, I went about thinking through what might be her better qualities. She was kind. She was funny. A world-class artist. An excellent cook. She needed to be sexy, kind of dark, capable of finding humour that would carry her through. She would be elegant. She would be admired. I didn’t know her name.
I think it was in the autumn when I saw The Hippopotamus. And there she was.
Miss Lomax from Three Men and a Little Lady – someone I thought I might become.
Irma Prunesquallor in Gormenghast – where I kind of lost my heart to the line – “No, I do not think, Alfred. Thought is for mortals. I am a woman.”
Near-constant companion through my film nights at the Legion, with one title or another.
And suddenly, I could assign all the positives to a face I felt I knew. And all right, I’m not a moron, I know I don’t really know her. But it almost doesn’t matter. You can paint a picture of a person, and see them as you think they could be, and sometimes that’s enough.
In all honesty, it was gratitude that made me name the character after her.
And if you haven’t already seen it, go and look for ‘Killing Eve’. Personal opinion, but it’s the best piece of television I’ve seen in the last ten years.
Okay then, day seven of things to be grateful for – Fiona Shaw.