In it to­gether

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Movies - By GARY THOMP­SON

OS­CAR-win­ner Mark Ry­lance (pic) didn’t need to method-act his way into Dunkirk and his role as a civil­ian vol­un­teer who crosses the English Chan­nel in his own boat to res­cue stranded sol­diers.

Ry­lance could look to his own ex­tended family – the fire­fighter cousin, for in­stance, who rushed into the burn­ing Gren­fell Tower on June 14 to res­cue stranded res­i­dents.

And the ac­tor has al­ways im­mersed him­self in the stories of or­di­nary men who find strength and pur­pose in help­ing each other.

Ry­lance, on that note, was just in Penn­syl­va­nia – the town of Homestead this month – to mark the 125th an­niver1892 sary of a steel­worker up­ris­ing pit­ting strik­ing work­ers against armed Pinker­ton de­tec­tives. Ry­lance, for­mer direc­tor of the Globe The­atre in Lon­don, is turn­ing the clash into a play. Ear­lier this month, he was in Lon­don at the Bri­tish Film In­sti­tute for a screen­ing of Dunkirk and he in­vited his res­cue-worker cousin to at­tend. The film, he said, cap­tures the spirit of such peo­ple. “When peo­ple talk about the Sec­ond World War, they talk about col­lec­tive spirit, when the fric­tions of class broke down. You would see the king and queen come out to a bomb­ing site, and ev­ery­one was in it to­gether. We fought and we won be­cause we were in it to­gether. We didn’t sep­aand rate splin­ter, and Dunkirk is the most dra­matic ex­am­ple of that,” said Ry­lance, whose char­ac­ter is based on the thou­sands of civil­ian boat cap­tains who crossed the chan­nel to res­cue stranded Bri­tish troops.

“Men were saved by the small, hum­ble ac­tions of many in­di­vidugo­ing als over and join­ing with mi­land itary help­ing ev­ery­one else, at great risk to their own lives. My father was only six years old at the time, but he re­mem­bers the sense of unity, he re­mem­bers hear­ing that we got the men back, and he re­mem­bers the power of that col­lec­tive spirit.”

The coun­try felt it again, he said, when the Gren­fell Tower block caught fire, and “ev­ery­body be­came very aware of the civil­ian res­cue service. My cousin was among the fire­men who went into that tower, and rep­re­sents the kind of self­less brav­ery in­volved in go­ing into that build­ing to save peo­ple,” said Ry­lance, who noted the de­ci­sive ac­tions of first-re­spon­ders has put enor­mous pres­sure on politi­cians to re­verse cuts to such ser­vices.

For ev­ery re­cent act of ter­ror, he said, there is an­other ex­am­ple of com­mon folks re­spond­ing with un­com­mon courage.

“The brav­ery of civil­ians who stood up to those who were at­tack­ing peo­ple with knives in Lon­don. The po­lice­man who held off three of them with just a trun­cheon,” he said. “Be­cause this film is a res­cue story, it’s go­ing to touch that nerve. It’s a hot topic in Eng­land at the mo­ment.”

Ry­lance has long been re­garded as one of the world’s great stage ac­tors, but didn’t really find a defin­ing on-cam­era role un­til his star turn in BBC’s Wolf Hall. That led to his role as a Soviet agent in Steven Spiel­berg’s Bridge Of Spies and to an Os­car for Best Sup­port­ing Ac­tor.

Has life changed for him since the Academy Award?

“I think peo­ple can now sell my pic­ture for 60 quid. That means I have to sign more pic­tures,” he said, “but I cer­tainly don’t mind.”

He sees award shows as “a crafty way of drawing peo­ple’s at­ten­tion to films,” even if the awards them­selves are not al­ways prop­erly dis­trib­uted.

“I grew up watch­ing and em­u­lat­ing Robert Mitchum, who is one of my favourites. I don’t think he ever won an Os­car. I’m glad to have one, but if you take it too se­ri­ously, and you think you are a great ac­tor be­cause you have one, you’ve got the wrong idea.” – The Philadel­phia In­quirer/Tribune News Service

Photo: AFP

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