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What's Inside


In 1996, I found myself seated next to the actor Nigel Hawthorne on a plane, and we got talking about our respective work.

‘I once did a film with Sylvester Stallone,’ he moaned at one point, apropos of exactly what, I don’t remember.

‘Oh, that’s nothing,’ I told him, playing my ace. ‘I can beat that.

I’ve just done a film with Steven Seagal.’

‘Oh,’ said Hawthorne. ‘Really? What was that like? Do tell.’ ‘Well . . .’

Steven Seagal, I told Nigel, is as ludicrous in real life as he appears on screen. He radiates a studied serenity, as though he’s on a higher plane to the rest of us, and while he’s certainly on a different plane, no doubt about that, it’s probably not a higher one. Seagal suffers from that Donald Trump syndrome of thinking himself far more capable and talented than he actually is, seemingly oblivious to the fact that an army of people are helping to prop up his delusion.

Seagal would never do off-lines for others. Off-lines are when you do a scene and the camera’s on your character, while the other actor stands there to provide you with your feeds. It’s a bit boring for the one off-camera but most actors, the ones who aren’t Steven Seagal, will do it because it’s part of the job. But on The Glimmer Man, the

director, a lovely man called John Gray, took me to one side and said, ‘The continuity person will be doing your off-lines, I’m afraid. Steven won’t do them. Steven doesn’t do off-lines.’

‘That’s a relief,’ I said, ‘it would only be a distraction.’

One particular day when Seagal was showing a girl around the set he stopped by where I sat with the script in my hand. ‘You see,’ he purred serenely at the girl, ‘this is how a great actor works.’

‘No, Steven,’ I sighed. ‘I’m just learning my lines, that’s all.’

The next thing I knew, he materialized, mysteriously keen as mustard to do his off-lines for me. But Steven doesn’t do off-lines, I thought. Confused, I glanced across to see John Gray shrugging, and I wondered if Steven’s attendance had anything to do with the girl he’d been escorting around the set. Could it be a coincidence that she stood not far away?

Action. We began the scene, but the problem was that Steven didn’t know his lines. He kept fluffing them. ‘Steven, it’s very nice of you to do this,’ I said at last, ‘but it’s really not necessary. Why don’t you go back to your trailer?’

Thankfully, Seagal agreed that his absence would make our hearts grow fonder, and there were audible sighs of relief as he left us to it.

And that was what I told Nigel Hawthorne about my experience of working with Steven Seagal.

‘Well, I can’t do that sort of thing anymore,’ he shuddered, ‘I can’t play that kind of action movie type part.’

‘I don’t feel that way,’ I told him. ‘To me, the nature of the actor’s life is that we do the job, we do the best we can and move on.’ I added that I’d just read a book by Michael Powell, A Life in Movies: An Autobiography, about how he and Emeric Pressburger became the pre-eminent film-makers of their generation. In the book, Powell says something along the lines of, ‘In movies, there are no big parts or small parts. There are only long parts and short parts.’ He means that no matter what the part, it can be as big or as small, as slight or as impactful as the film or actor allows.

It was a piece of wisdom that had stuck with me, and as someone who had decided their future lay as a supporting actor, it lit the way for me from that moment on. It freed me, in fact. It removed ego from the equation and allowed me to disregard the size of the role, the star wattage of my co-performers, even, to a certain extent, the quality of the film I was in, and concentrate solely on what I was able to contribute to my character and what my character could contribute to the film. Actor, character, text. That’s all it is.

No doubt my words fell on deaf ears, because even though Hawthorne had put  Demolition  Man behind him and gone on to make The Madness of King George as well as a brace of well-received Shakespeare adaptations, he was still fixated on that Stallone experience. That, too, is a characteristic familiar to the actor, that feeling of deep-seated insecurity. All actors suffer from it. We’re all desperately insecure.

All of us, that is, except Steven Seagal

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Meet The Author: Brian Cox

Brian Cox currently stars as ‘Logan Roy’ in the HBO series Succession, for which he won the Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama and was nominated for the Best Actor – Drama Emmy, one of 18 nominations for the show. He most recently appeared on Broadway in Robert Shenkkan’s The Great Society, for which he received rave reviews for his towering portrayal of LBJ. He has worked extensively with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and is also known for his roles in Super Troopers, The Bourne Identity, Braveheart, Rushmore, and more.

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"Cox writes eloquently about his origins in Dundee, Scotland, as the youngest of five children who occasionally had to beg for batter bits from the local chip shop. . .[O]n the page, at least, he is present, lively and pouring forth."—New York Times
"[Cox] offers a bold, funny account of his path from an impoverished boyhood in Scotland to the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre, and Hollywood. The narrative is punctuated with gossip ('Did I forget to mention that I got touched up by Princess Margaret once?'), frank appraisals of industry bigwigs (Johnny Depp is 'so overblown, so overrated'), and frank reflections on his own shortcomings as a spouse and father. At its core, though, the book is a meditation on craft and a paean to acting."—The New Yorker
"Putting the Rabbit in the Hat tracks [Cox's] journey from embattled working-class lad in Dundee, Scotland, to, at age 75, improbable pop-culture icon — and forfeits none of the spiky candor that got him there."—Washington Post
"The versatile actor’s voice rings loud in this no-holds-barred memoir that traces his rags-to-riches story."—USA Today
"Wisdom, a modicum of modesty, and delicious gossip make for an entertaining memoir."—Kirkus Reviews
"In this candid work, Scottish actor Cox (Salem to Moscow), of HBO’s Succession, chronicles the triumphs and setbacks in his distinguished career. . . [I]ts prickly honesty is delightfully refreshing."—Publishers Weekly
“[Cox’s] road to fame makes for fascinating reading.”—People Magazine
"[C]andid and engaging. . . Theater fans and viewers of Succession will enjoy the personal stories this accomplished actor and raconteur has to tell."—Booklist
"[A]musingly irreverent."—The Guardian
"An enjoyable and conversational backstage pass to the entire life of a highly respected character actor."—Library Journal
"[U]ndoubtedly [Cox's] most comprehensive, and candid, work."—Yahoo! Entertainment
“A life well lived and a story well told. From first page to last, Brian Cox the great actor is Brian Cox the great storyteller, and nobody is spared his sharp eye and his caustic wit, himself and some big Hollywood names included. He is brutally honest about who and what he likes and doesn’t like, and honest too about his own failings. But what shines through every page is a man who loves being an actor and who has a deep understanding of why culture, and especially theatre and film, really matter.”—Alastair Campbell
“Rage and vulnerability, loss and passion, self-doubt, triumphs and laughs. Brian Cox’s memoir brings to mind the Blake poem ‘What is the price of experience? Do men buy it for a song? Or wisdom for a dance in the street? No, it is bought with the price of all that a man hath: his wife, his house his children.’ What a treat and privilege to be invited in. I’ve never read a book that conveys the joy, grace and pain of the journey of being an actor and a human more honestly and with such straightforward blistering charm.”—Kate Beckinsale
“It is much more than a rabbit Mr. Cox pulls out of his hat. In this candid vision of his life it is revealed how it is he is able so convincingly, authentically and uniquely to play such an abundance of characters. All of them different, all of them real, all of them him.”—Hampton Fancher
“Brian Cox is not only one of the greatest actors of his generation, he is a gentleman among men. Kind, wise, funny and intense in the best ways possible, Brian is also a wonderful tale-teller as this book proves. It is an honor to call him a friend and I’m so proud of him. What a life well lived.”—Ryan Murphy
“Wonderfully honest, touching and funny.”—Gemma Jones
“There has always been a coiled-spring energy to Brian’s acting and, now in his 70s, he has lost none of it. This book is like listening to him talk, switching from anecdote to diatribe to honest self-reflection and back to his original story before he interrupted himself. The effect is of undiminished curiosity and passion for life and work. All his observations are laced with his characteristic generosity, self-deprecation and cut-the-crap wisdom.”—Harriet Walker
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The incredible rags-to-riches story of acclaimed actor Brian Cox, best known as Succession’s Logan Roy, from a troubled, working-class upbringing in Scotland to a prolific career across theatre, film and television.

From Hannibal Lecktor in Manhunter to media magnate Logan Roy in HBO's Succession, Brian Cox has made his name as an actor of unparalleled distinction and versatility. We are familiar with him on screen, but few know of his extraordinary life story. Growing up in Dundee, Scotland, Cox lost his father when he was just eight years old and was brought up by his three elder sisters in the aftermath of his mother's nervous breakdowns and ultimate hospitalization. After joining the Dundee Repertory Theatre at the age of fifteen, you could say the rest is history — but that is to overlook the enormous effort that has gone into the making of the legend we know today.

Rich in emotion and meaning, with plenty of laughs along the way, this seminal autobiography captures both Cox's distinctive voice and his very soul.