Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Day 153: Favourite Actresses No 4 - Shirley Henderson

Shirley Henderson is most known for her role of “Moaning Myrtle” in the Harry Potter series of movies, the ghost that lives in the lavatory at Hogwarts. I first became aware of her, however, not in the Ladies toilets, but in the Michael Wintebottom film Wonderland (1999) in which she plays Debbie, a hairdressing, single mum, one of three sisters at the centre of this film set in London, a latter-day Chekhovian piece, if you will.

A Scott by birth, she has already clocked up a swag of films, successfully crossing over and back between big scale productions like Bridget Jones’s Diary (and it’s subsequent sequel), the Potter films and a host of independent Britfilms: Tristram Shandy, Trainspotting, 24 Hour Party People, Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself and Once Upon a Time in the Midlands.

There have been forays into the world of period pieces too with home-turf material like Rob Roy, and then Sofia Coppola’s filmic confection, Marie Antoinette and Mike Leigh’s hymn to operetta and "low-brow burlesque on the banks of the Thames", Topsy-Turvy.

In Topsy-Turvy - the story of how Gilbert & Sullivan’s famous relationship nearly came apart but instead, re-invented itself and came up with ‘The Mikado’ - the actors that Mike Leigh cast for the film, actually are the singers too. Shirley Henderson, as Leonora Braham (a real life figure, creator of soprano roles in the D’Oyly Carte Company), playing the part of Yum-Yum in 'The Mikado', like her fellow cast members, does not have another actress doubling for her in the songs; the voice that that we hear is hers, and it is wonderful, most notably in the show-stopping number ‘Three Little Maids‘ and in the film’s final piece, Yum-Yum’s aria ‘The sun whose rays are all ablaze’.

In the Bridget Jones and Harry Potter films, it’s Shirley Henderson’s comedic talents that come to the fore, whilst in most of the other movies, it is her dramatic skills that are asked of her.

In an interview with Jane Graham, for the Guardian newspaper earlier this year (to promote her new film, Todd Solondz’s Life During Wartime) the journalist ends her piece thus “This is a woman who knows who she is without checking herself in the mirror.” The article is peppered with salutary morsels like “...Henderson prefers the professional formality of an army officer’s handshake...” or “...the 44 year-old is neither shy nor coquettish; she is no-nonsense and business-like...” and “...that fighting spirit, which Henderson has used to great effect.....”

I’ve somehow, always thought that Shirley Henderson is a formidable person, she certainly is an actress that I feel inspires respect through the intensity of her work.

Day #153 Tip: I can write that.....
Whilst I’m pretty keen to say that my favourite type of movie to, is crime, I will write in any genre if money is going to be deposited in my bank account. Maybe it won’t always be this way and maybe one day I will have the luxury of being able to say “no” to things, but that isn’t the case right now, or should I say “write now”; because I will “write now” if commissioned on a musical, romantic comedy, horror story or even a Manga piece if that’s my master’s bidding.

Who knows, maybe I have an undiscovered niche or talent that I am as yet unaware of and should be ready to mine, if given the chance? I must keep and open mind to these things. I’ve always believed that the trick is ‘to keep writing’. I can’t possibly get all artistically snooty or picky about what I think I should or shouldn’t be writing.

Got an idea, got a cheque book.....then I’m your guy?

I don’t suppose that when Shirley Henderson graduated from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama it was top of her list that she would play a Muggle-born that would meet her end when the Monster of Slytherin (a Basilisk) fatally looked her in the eye in a toilet stall; bet the payday was pretty good though.

I can write in Parseltongue if needs be....I can.....honestly.

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