August 24, 1957– Stephen Fry:
“You are who you are when nobody’s watching.”
Comic, successful novelist, film star, television and stage actor, doer of good works, atheist, Gay Rights activist, humanist, excellent friend to The Royals and persons famous and not, raconteur and wit, all are part of the dazzling resume of Stephen Fry.
“An original idea. That can’t be too hard. The library must be full of them.”
Perfectly cast, he played The Cheshire Cat in Tim Burton‘s Alice In Wonderland (2010), and he smartly portrays Mycroft Holmes in the Sherlock Holmes (2009/2011) films directed by the former Mr. Madonna, Guy Ritchie.
I thought he was most hysterical as King Charles I on BBC’s Blackadder (1983-89). Fry even managed to stay good personal friends with the other Charles, Prince Of Wales and his horsey second wife, even though his performance in Blackadder was a pointed parody of the prince.
“It is a cliché that most clichés are true, but then like most clichés, that cliché is untrue.”
I am a big P.G. Wodehouse booster, a fan starting in the early 1990s with the BBC series Jeeves And Wooster, based on the Wodehouse series of stories of Bertram Wooster, smartly played by Hugh Laurie, a well-intentioned, wealthy layabout with a habit of getting himself into trouble, and his brilliant valet, Jeeves, portrayed by Fry, who gets him out of trouble. This series is a true delight. You may have the pleasure of catching it currently on Hulu. The Husband and I were known to recreate scenes from the series for months after it aired.
He has done over 50 films since his debut in Chariots Of Fire (1981). Other favorite Fry performances: Oscar Wilde in Wilde (1997), a role he was destined to play, with Jude Law as his love interest, and two of my all-time favorite films Gosford Park (2001) and Cold Comfort Farm (1995).
“The short answer to that is ‘no’. The long answer is ‘fuck no’.”
I understand that the 6-foot 5-inch Fry also appears in something referred to as Peter Jackson‘s Hobbit series of films, which seems odd because I thought those movies were about little people. Please, don’t make me watch them, as much as I admire Fry.
He takes a small role in another favorite film, Bright Young Things (2003) which he also wrote and directed. Fry’s screenplay is based on Evelyn Waugh‘s 1930 novel Vile Bodies, a satirical social commentary about young and carefree London aristocrats and bohemians in the late 1920s through to the early 1940s.
I do dig Fry as a writer. I have very much enjoyed his books The Liar (1991), Making History (1997) and The Star’s Tennis Balls (2000). Just three of the ten volumes of novels, essay collections and memoirs he has published, to say nothing of his magazine articles and op-ed pieces.
“My first words, as I was being born, I looked up at my mother and said, ‘That’s the last time I’m going up one of those.'”
Fry, who suffers from bipolar-disorder, revealed he had tried to take his own life. He admitted he still struggles with loneliness and unhappiness. Vitaly Milonov, Putin’s second best friend and the thuggish architect of Russia’s vile anti-gay laws, launched an astonishing campaign against gay people and he accused Fry of being “sick” because of his attempt to commit suicide.
“I am gay. I am a Jew. My mother lost over a dozen of her family to Hitler’s anti-Semitism. In Russia, every time (and it is constantly) a gay teenager is forced into suicide, a lesbian ‘correctively’ raped, gay men and women beaten to death by neo-Nazi thugs while the Russian police stand idly by, the world is diminished and I for one, weep anew at seeing history repeat itself.”
I suppose that suffering from manic-depression, it helps to stay busy, because Fry never seems to stop. In the past decade he has presented Stephen Fry: Out There (2012), a BBC TV documentary where he explores attitudes of homosexuality and the lives of gay people in different parts of the globe. He had a role on the television series, 24: Die Another Day and he appeared on Broadway in the 2013-14 season as Malvolio in the Old Globe’s traditional stage production of Fry’s favorite playwright William Shakespeare‘s Twelfth Night. Fry received a Tony nomination for that performance.
“It is the useless things that make life worth living and that make life dangerous too: wine, love, art, beauty. Without them life is safe, but not worth bothering with.”
In one of my favorite Fry moments, in the 2016 season on HBO‘s Veep, probably the best show on television, ever, Julia Louis-Dreyfus‘ former POTUS Selena Meyer and her team travel to Georgia (the country, not the state) to oversee its first free election. At the official reception at the palace of Georgia’s President Murman Shalikashvili, Meyer’s diplomatic frenemy Minna Hakkinen (the delightfully blunt, Sally Phillips) advocates for opposition party leader Professor Nikolai Genidze, played hilariously by Fry. In a scenario that shadows real life, Meyer is offered a series of bribes to keep the Georgian President in power or fix the election for Fry’s character, who ends up horribly disfigured after an assassination attempt. Hilarity ensues.
Fry works steadily in film, television, radio, stage, audio-books (he is the voice for all seven Harry Potter books), video games, advertising, and even what they call “football” in Europe, as part owner of his local Norfolk team.
He has quite the active Twitter feed, where, of late, he has taken to mocking our current American president, always a fun avocation.
As the hilarious and very pointed host of the 2017 BAFTA Awards, Fry made sly digs at the POTUS referencing his tweets about Meryl Streep being “overrated” after she made a politically-driven speech at the Golden Globes. Fry called her:
“One of the greatest actresses of all time – only a blithering idiot would think otherwise!”
Fry also later made a joke about America’s relationship with Russia during and following the election. When presenting the first award of the night, he said:
“Let’s find out who the Russians have decided have won.”
His best friend is Hugh Laurie. They met while both were studying at Cambridge. It is where they first collaborated and they have continued to work together many times over the decades. He was best man at Laurie’s wedding and he is godfather to his children.
Fry famously drives a black TX4 London cab around London and Norfolk, where he has houses.
His sudden, unannounced, January 2015 wedding to cutie pie Elliott Spencer was all the news in Britain. Fry’s husband is 30 years his junior. The magazine gossip columns and scandal sheets went crazy.
“Elliott Spencer and I had our marriage vows witnessed by a mini Oscar Wilde. Because one should.”
Going all the way back to 2002, Fry has maintained a really nifty blog that I look at weekly: The Old Friary: Stephen Fry. It is one of my favorite reads and Fry remains one of my favorite people on our pretty spinning blue orb.
From the blog:
Trumpery, ˈtrʌmp(ə)ri, noun (pl. trumperies):
Practices or beliefs that are superficially or visually appealing but have little real value or worth. he exposed their ideals as trumpery. theatrical trumpery. [as modifier]: that trumpery hope which lets us dupe ourselves.
Adjective, showy but worthless: trumpery jewelry.
Delusive or shallow: that trumpery hope which lets us dupe ourselves.
In February 2018, Fry announced that he was in treatment for prostate cancer. He must be recovering nicely. He has eight films in the can or in pre-production.
“I think I have always linked smoking and sex. Maybe this is where I have been going wrong all my life.”