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“I’ve had a great career, I’ve loved every minute of it and I wouldn’t change any of it for the world,” says Brian Cox, the revered Scottish character actor who, over the course of a half-century career, has worked with everyone from Laurence Olivier to “Cousin Greg” and been recognized with Olivier, Emmy and Golden Globe awards, as we record an episode of The Hollywood Reporter’s “Awards Chatter” podcast. The 74-year-old currently plays the cunning, conniving, self-made media mogul-in-winter Logan Roy on HBO’s acclaimed drama series Succession — but for much of his life, Hollywood stardom, which he had dreamed of since his childhood, eluded him. There were numerous close-calls and false-starts in film and TV — like the role of Hannibal Lecter in Michael Mann’s 1986 film Manhunter, five years before Anthony Hopkins won an Oscar for playing the same part — which would inevitably lead him back to the theater, which he loved and loves, but was not all that he wanted to do.
LISTEN: You can hear the entire interview below.
Past guests include Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, Lorne Michaels, Barbra Streisand, George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro, Jennifer Lawrence, Eddie Murphy, Gal Gadot, Warren Beatty, Angelina Jolie, Snoop Dogg, Jessica Chastain, Stephen Colbert, Reese Witherspoon, Aaron Sorkin, Margot Robbie, Ryan Reynolds, Nicole Kidman, Denzel Washington, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Matthew McConaughey, Kate Winslet, Jimmy Kimmel, Natalie Portman, Chadwick Boseman, Jennifer Lopez, Elton John, Judi Dench, Quincy Jones, Jane Fonda, Tom Hanks, Amy Schumer, Justin Timberlake, Elisabeth Moss, RuPaul, Rachel Brosnahan, Jimmy Fallon, Kris Jenner, Michael Moore, Emilia Clarke, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Helen Mirren, Tyler Perry, Sally Field, Spike Lee, Lady Gaga, J.J. Abrams, Emma Stone, Al Pacino, Julia Roberts, Jerry Seinfeld, Dolly Parton, Will Smith, Taraji P. Henson, Sacha Baron Cohen, Carol Burnett and Norman Lear.
At one point in the early 1980s, Cox says from quarantine in upstate New York just weeks after being nominated for the best actor in a drama series Emmy for Succession, he felt so “woebegone” and “fed up” that he quit acting altogether and went to work at a gym. But shortly thereafter, a promising project pulled him back in, and the rollercoaster ride continued, ultimately leading to a late-career renaissance that has included standout work in films such as Braveheart (1995), Rushmore (1998), Super Troopers (2001), L.I.E. (2001), Adaptation (2002), The Bourne Identity (2002), Troy (2004), Match Point (2005), Running with Scissors (2006), Zodiac (2007) and Churchill (2017); on TV series like Frasier (2002) and Deadwood(2006); and as Hermann Göring in the limited series Nuremberg (2001), which was the highest-rated basic cable miniseries ever up to that point, and for which he won an Emmy. “I’ve played a lot of so-called ‘bad guys,'” he acknowledges with a chuckle. “Of course, my belief is that nobody’s fundamentally bad.”
2016 brought the call from Succession creator Jesse Armstrong and EP/pilot director Adam McKay that took things to an entirely new level — one which even Cox never have allowed himself to dream possible. “I knew that as I got older I’d actually come into my own skin more and I’d be less troubled about things,” he volunteers. “And I’m not bothered; I’m delighted. I’m enjoying every minute of my accolades. I’m enjoying it all.” But, he adds with the perspective that comes with experience, “It’s here today, gone tomorrow. I can’t hold on to it. It’s not the be all and end all.”
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Thomas Brodie Sangster