Jim Broadbent: 'It was an extraordinary project'

Jim Broadbent: 'It was an extraordinary project'
Jim Broadbent: 'It was an extraordinary project' (Image credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images)

Oscar-winning actor Jim Broadbent tells us why he’s excited to be back on TV... Jim has starred in some hugely successful films, including Iris, the story of novelist Iris Murdoch (for which he won an Oscar), Little Voice and Moulin Rouge, but he’s back on TV this week in C4’s new four-part drama, Any Human Heart, adapted from the novel by William Boyd. It chronicles the life of fictional writer Logan Mountstuart as he gets caught up in some of the 20th century’s biggest events, meeting figures such as Churchill and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor along the way and writing about them in his diary. Jim plays Logan in his later years, from the 1970s to the Nineties. What attracted you to Any Human Heart? ‘As soon as I got the script, I was hooked. It was clearly an extraordinary and very unusual project, particularly in this age of tight budgets and limited vision. It wasn’t formulaic in any way, and absolutely not the sort of drama we currently get on television - very different and original, and very refreshing." How would you describe Logan? "Logan is a wonderfully complex character. His life spans every decade of the 20th Century and as it’s so varied, it’s extremely difficult to describe, but that is the challenge of the series. One of the themes is that we are all victims of luck, both good and bad, and Logan goes with the flow. He ends up in extraordinary situations and meets extraordinary people, and in many ways he lives a number of different lives himself, all of which means that he’s in a unique position to chronicle a rather special view of the 20th Century." What do you like and dislike about Logan? "There’s a lot I like about him. He behaves badly and selfishly, but he can also be utterly magnanimous and selfless. He’s not a saint and he’s not a villain, he’s a rounded character, full of contradictions and that is what I like about him. He’s an open character, open to experience. For instance, when an ex-girlfriend is dying and wants to come and spend her last days with him, he’s completely open to that and he’s not in any way judgmental. He’s as at home with revolutionaries as he is with kings." Matthew Macfadyen (Spooks) and Sam Claflin (Pillars of the Earth) also play Logan at earlier stages of his life. How did it feel to all play the same character? "We started off thinking that we would have to try to match each other’s style in some way but, in the end, that seemed superfluous. The writing holds the characters together and audiences are very bright, they will quickly assimilate the idea of the three of us playing the one man. Consistency of style in costume, hair and make-up all help to keep the three of us on the same track." Did you find any of it particularly difficult to film? "I think when Logan’s at his very oldest, in his early 80s, the time spent in the make-up chair could have been quite demanding, but actually I didn’t mind it. There were some very emotional scenes, but because they were so well written, they fell into place quite easily." What did you particularly enjoy about making the series? "Lots of things. Because of the nature of it, it was like doing a series of short films. During different episodes, different characters would join and you’d film their story and their interaction with Logan for a few days, then they’d be done and some other brilliant actor would turn up and their story would unfold. It was good fun and each episode reflected another side of Logan. From an acting point of view, that was great because you’re not just playing the man in one situation, there’s a huge variation." Have you ever kept a diary like Logan? "I’ve never kept one, I haven’t got that sort of mind. It needs a discipline, apart from anything else, but it’s a wonderful thing to do if you can. Thank God that people do keep journals. It’s a great idea on Boyd’s part, the whole story of a man’s life. Logan actually realises that all the time he has been struggling with his elusive masterwork, he has actually been doing it all the time; it’s all in the journal he’s been writing and that it is actually the great piece of work he was always meant to write." *Any Human Heart premieres on Sunday, November 21 at 9pm on C4

Patrick McLennan

Patrick McLennan is a London-based journalist and documentary maker who has worked as a writer, sub-editor, digital editor and TV producer in the UK and New Zealand. His CV includes spells as a news producer at the BBC and TVNZ, as well as web editor for Time Inc UK. He has produced TV news and entertainment features on personalities as diverse as Nick Cave, Tom Hardy, Clive James, Jodie Marsh and Kevin Bacon and he co-produced and directed The Ponds, which has screened in UK cinemas, BBC Four and is currently available on Netflix. 

An entertainment writer with a diverse taste in TV and film, he lists Seinfeld, The Sopranos, The Chase, The Thick of It and Detectorists among his favourite shows, but steers well clear of most sci-fi.