The Guardian | The Observer
13 Jul 2013
The actor on listening to Lloyd Cole, watching Man of Steel and reading Stoner by John Williams
John Simm is a British actor best known for playing Sam Tyler in Life on Mars and the Master in Doctor Who. He began performing as a teenager, singing and playing guitar alongside his musician father in northern working men’s clubs. He attended Drama Centre London where he studied the Stanislavski school of method acting. He received huge acclaim for his roles in Paul Abbott‘s State of Play and Jimmy McGovern’s The Lakes. He was recently to be seen in the first world war drama The Village and Sky’s surreal crime caper Mad Dogs. He is currently playing the priggish Gibbs in Jamie Lloyd’s theatrical production of Harold Pinter’s The Hothouse at Trafalgar Studios, London.
Lloyd Cole: Standards
I was about 13 when Lloyd Cole was big in the mid-80s and I was a massive fan, so I have been pleasantly surprised by his return. He has just released a fantastic album called Standards. It’s a blast from the past. I would hesitate to call it a return to form because he has never really been away. He’s got a full band and he sounds as vital and emotional as he did in the 80s.
I haven’t seen this yet but I am going very soon. Graham Linehan, who gave us Father Ted, has written a stage adaptation of the famous Ealing comedy. I regard him as a genius and I’m a huge fan of the original film. In fact, to get the languid style of Gibbs, I spent a long time watching and rewatching The Ladykillers and other Ealing comedies – they are perfect films, beautiful, funny and no fat on them. And I love the way the characters make walking, talking and smoking at the same time seem so arch but effortless.
Oliver Stone‘s Untold History of the United States
I was gonna pick Breaking Bad, but quite rightly everyone picks Breaking Bad. I will just say this: the quality of television drama now makes practically every movie you go and see feel like it’s a story on fast-forward. TV drama has become like the long form novel. Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the US is utterly engrossing, truly unmissable telly. He begins with the second world war and takes you all the way to the Bush-Gore election of 2000. Stone is accused of being paranoid and conspiratorially minded but this tells the story soberly and as it is. The sections on the Cuban missile crisis and Kennedy are particularly fascinating.
For the first time ever I am going to the Proms, which is something I have been meaning to do for years. I am already going to see Beethoven’s Ninth at the Albert Hall, but I am particularly looking forward to the Proms, especially because Nigel Kennedy will be playing and I am a big admirer of his. He’s a genius if I am honest. I am not that bothered about being there on the last night for all the Union Jacks etc, I just want to go to see some brilliant classical music, because classical music really does benefit from being heard live. It really is so much more powerful.
I went to see this with my boy. We were really looking forward to it. He is a massive comic fan and so am I and we absolutely loved it. Superman has always been my favourite superhero and this film really does him justice. As a visual spectacle it is amazing; we spent quite a bit of the film turning round to each other with our mouths open in amazement.
Stoner by John Williams
I pretty much always have two books on the go. I have to mention Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck. It’s the sequel to Cannery Row. It’s just brilliant. The other book, which I think I read about this in the Observer and, bought it on the Monday and finished it on the Thursday. It’s incredible, remarkable; I simply cannot praise it enough and I have not been able to stop thinking about it since I finished it. It was written in 1965 and concerns the life of a completely ordinary and undistinguished man, a university professor who no one much admires or even likes. But somehow it’s incredibly moving. I was genuinely upset when I realised I only had a few chapters to go. I tried to savour each paragraph, make it last longer. It’s a book everyone must read.