Ian Holm’s book, entitled “A Life,” is published by Bantam Press, Blakemore’s is called “Arguments with England” and is published by Faber and Faber.
Holm shot to fame with a series of acclaimed turns for director Peter Hall in the 1960’s, including his ’63 Richard III in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s legendary Wars of the Roses cycle and his ’65 Lenny in the original cast of Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming. Since then he’s carved out an impressive screen career, with high-profile turns in 1979’s “Alien,” 1981’s “Chariots of Fire,” 1994’s “The Madness of King George” and the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
Holm — with ghost-writer Steven Jacobi — is candid about the stars he has worked with. Laurence Olivier, his hero, is depicted as inspiring and a brilliant career strategist. Director Peter Brook is described as temperamental and inconsiderate of his actors’ feelings. Kenneth Branagh is “a powerhouse of ambition.” And, Holm is frank about the stage-fright that kept him away from the stage for years until enticed back by Pinter’s Moonlight and later — most daunting — King Lear at the National Theatre.
Australian-born Blakemore is one of the few stage directors to be equally feted in the West End and on Broadway. Recent hits have included Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen and the Tony Award-winning revival of Kiss Me, Kate. However, the book chronicles his life up to the age of 40 — his years at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art alongside Rosemary Harris and Joan Collins, and working with iconic figures such as Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh and John Osborne.
Blakemore and Holm cover some of the same personalities — Olivier, Hall and Brook among them — so the books comprise two vantage points of a similar period in the British theatre scene.