No ending in sight
Broadbent continues in diversified acting career
Jim Broadbent maintains a diversified acting portfolio. He played Professor Horace Slughorn in some of the Harry Potter blockbusters and Bridget Jones’s dad in the series of comedies, including
Bridget Jones’s Baby last fall. On the independent front, he has immersed himself in more modest films such as The Lady in the Van
and The Damn United. Add The Sense of an Ending to that list. Based on the acclaimed Julian Barnes novel, the movie version is directed by Ritesh Batra from a screenplay by playwright Nick Payne.
In the slow-build drama, Broadbent portrays Tony Webster. He’s a crusty shopkeeper who appears resigned to his ordinary existence after giving up the potential life of a poet years earlier. Things change when he discovers key past events may not have occurred as he recalls them.
Co-starring are Charlotte Rampling, Michelle Dockery, Harriet Walter, Joe Alwyn and Emily Mortimer. But it is Broadbent who leads the way through the narrative.
Dialogue helped the Oscar-honoured actor develop his portrayal:
“It’s such good dialogue,” says Broadent, 67. “It did a lot of the work for me in telling me how to play it.”
As did finding out what drives his character. “In this case, it wasn’t really difficult,” he says. “I’m exactly the same age and I have a similar sort of (English) cultural background. I knew him and understood him, and I really empathized with him.
“He does have a bit of that (English) reserve, but of course he’s hiding a lot of other things,” Broadbent says. “At least he has a journey and learns something.”
As for working with Batra on the director’s second film, he’s “sharp and bright, so he seemed to find a natural progression for the story.”
Broadbent went to art school before switching to drama school, “but I knew right away I wasn’t very interested or very good at art school so it was an easy decision to give it up,” he says.
“I think I’m satisfied without being too self-satisfied,” he says. “So I don’t think there is anything that I would change.
“I’m an instinctive sort of actor,” Broadbent says. “I don’t do any preparation or have a definitive approach or routine. I take it as it comes on the day.
“It’s always a priority to look out for a good script,” he says. “Then I take a look at the part, and the personnel involved, but I can be quite picky about it when I do.”
On returning as Mr. Gruber in the upcoming Paddington sequel, he says, “I don’t mind repeating a character I’ve already established. But I don’t like doing the same thing over again.”
Charlotte Rampling, left, and Jim Broadbent from The Sense of an Ending, a film based on the novel by Julian Barnes.