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.

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