Our Podcast Producer Thom Hetherington pays tribute to the acclaimed stage and screen actor, who has sadly passed away at the age of 70 this weekend.
Bollocks. It isn’t the most profound word in the English language, it isn’t the most sophisticated, and it certainly isn’t the best word to start an obituary with. But bear with me. I start this article with profanity not as a means of flippant disrespect but as the very opposite. Swearing is commonplace in film nowadays; it’s hard to find true examples of offensive language being actually that. But Tim Pigott-Smith was an actor who could easily twist his snarled lip around the most mundane of sentences and make them crackle with malice. Nowhere is this more true than in the climax of James McTeigue’s V for Vendetta when Pigott-Smith’s Mr Creedy sneers out the aforementioned single word with more quiet, powerful, effortless malice than most actors could muster in a whole career. It’s one of many incredible scenes in an entire film chock full of dynamite performances from which Pigott-Smith emerges as the standout. He makes Hugo Weaving’s masked assassin look like a pussycat. And it’s a scene that encapsulates his career as a whole both on screen and on stage. He was able to muster up characters, moods and invoke feelings from the most infinitesimal words and gestures. From the high drama of Shakespeare to the crazed colours of the Wachowskis’ Jupiter Ascending and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, there was no world in which a Pigott-Smith character was out of place.
Tim Pigott-Smith was one of the most captivating and accomplished actors in a generation that included many greats, none of whom bested him. He oozed a charming menace, a polished sophistication and a smile that could flip into something far more sinister at the drop of a hat. He lit up Quantum of Solace with a dry, bookish charm and made impact amongst the stellar casts of many TV shows including The Hour, Strike Back and North & South. He proved an unbeatable straight man to Rowan Atkinson’s buffoonery in Johnny English, and could regularly be found keeping his head whilst all those around him lost their’s (see also Alice in Wonderland). His performance as the titular character in King Charles III garnered him outstanding reviews as well as Tony and Olivier Award nominations. It seems oddly appropriate with that in mind to say that he was truly one of Britain’s finest actors, and that he will be missed.