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A Liverpudlian actor who shot to fame with two memorable turns as John Lennon in the early 1990s, Ian Hart went on to build an impressive career, with an unending list of film roles that showcased his talent and versatility. Hart's portrayals of the iconic Beatle in the heralded black-and-white character study short "The Hours and Times" (1991) and the engagingly speculative, music-infused drama "Backbeat" (1994) were roundly acclaimed. The wan, thinning haired, blue-eyed actor was well-disguised for the roles with wigs and contact lenses, making him a perfect physical match to the late musician, while allowing him to escape typecasting. Hart's fondness and talent for immersing himself fully in a role, and chameleonic ability to become someone entirely different in looks and manner made him a sought after character player who enjoyed a fruitful career.Unlike many English actors, Hart didn't take the usual Shakespearean route to his craft (he didn't study at RADA or LAMDA or work with the RSC), but instead honed a more naturalistic style that separated him from his European contemporaries. He began his work on TV at age 17, appearing in such BBC productions as "The Monocled Mutineer" and "The...
A Liverpudlian actor who shot to fame with two memorable turns as John Lennon in the early 1990s, Ian Hart went on to build an impressive career, with an unending list of film roles that showcased his talent and versatility. Hart's portrayals of the iconic Beatle in the heralded black-and-white character study short "The Hours and Times" (1991) and the engagingly speculative, music-infused drama "Backbeat" (1994) were roundly acclaimed. The wan, thinning haired, blue-eyed actor was well-disguised for the roles with wigs and contact lenses, making him a perfect physical match to the late musician, while allowing him to escape typecasting. Hart's fondness and talent for immersing himself fully in a role, and chameleonic ability to become someone entirely different in looks and manner made him a sought after character player who enjoyed a fruitful career.
Unlike many English actors, Hart didn't take the usual Shakespearean route to his craft (he didn't study at RADA or LAMDA or work with the RSC), but instead honed a more naturalistic style that separated him from his European contemporaries. He began his work on TV at age 17, appearing in such BBC productions as "The Monocled Mutineer" and "The Marksman," as well as "The Traveling Man" for Granada Television. After several years on stage with the Liverpool Playhouse, Hart made his feature film debut in 1986 with a small role in the Liverpool-set feature "No Surrender". The Lennon roles followed, and rather than let those pigeonhole and feasible break his career, he used their popularity as a springboard. Now Hart's name was known, and his subsequent performances would mark him as a fine actor rather than just a good Lennon impersonator. Hart was cast in a starring role by Ken Loach in the director's gripping Spanish Civil War-set drama "Land and Freedom" (1995), playing an unemployed young Englishman who joins the fight against Franco fascism. That same year he garnered praise and a best supporting actor honor at the Venice Film Festival for his turn as a brutal Protestant loyalist terrorizing 1975 Troubles-shaken Northern Ireland in the hard-hitting "Nothing Personal". 1995 proved a busy year for Hart, who also had the featured role of a war veteran brought to renewed life by the energy his Welsh townsfolk emanate in their attempt to increase the size of a local mound in the gentle comedy "The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down A Mountain" (1995) and parts in the smaller scale independents "Loved Up" and "Clockwork Mice".
Comfortable with and capable of essaying all sorts of parts, from troubled future legend to arrogant blowhard to beaten down Everyman, Hart followed up with a turn as the gentle, supportive lover of a gay father (Martin Donovan) fighting for custody of his child in 1996's moving "The Hollow Reed". He was additionally featured in that year's "Michael Collins", playing the key role of secretary to Liam Neeson's inspired revolutionary in Neil Jordan's epic biopic. Jordan then cast Hart alongside Stephen Rea and Fiona Lewis in the black comedy "The Butcher Boy" (1997). Hart also won 1997 roles as a 50s gangster alongside Harold Pinter in "Mojo" and an Irishman who moves to NYC to find success in the forgettable "Gold in the Streets". Not one to rest on his laurels, Hart appeared the following year in another round of films, this time working in US productions big and small, from ensemble roles in Amos Poe's New York-set "Frogs For Snakes" and Ted Demme's Boston-based "Monument Ave." to a starring role in the little-seen drama "Still Waters Burn" and even an appearance in the blockbuster thriller "Enemy of the State".
In 1999, Hart kept busy with a role in Michael Radford's anticipated but lacking drama "B. Monkey". More impressive was his turn as the elder half of a father-son detective team on the trail of a woman (Julianne Moore), reporting their findings to her former lover (Ralph Fiennes) in the celebrated drama "The End of the Affair" (1999), written and directed by Neil Jordan. US fans of the actor could catch him in several 2000 big screen appearances, including that of a man whose relationship suffers due to his problems with anger and alcohol in Michael Winterbottom's "Wonderland" and a more lighthearted role as a single Irishman seeking a beautiful American wife in Aileen Ritchie's comedy "The Closer You Get". Hart would also be featured on American small screens in 2000, when the Channel 4 historical miniseries "Longitude" aired on A&E. Keeping up his healthy pace, the actor starred in "Strictly Sinatra" (2001) playing a Scottish singer who hooks up with local gangsters for career enhancement. He co-starred in the British drama "Aberdeen" (2000; released in the USA in 2001) and the American comedy "Spring Forward" (which debuted at Sundance in 2000) and took a supporting role in "Best" (2000), a biopic starring John Lynch as legendary Manchester United football star George Best.
Hart teamed up with Stephen Frears to play the father of "Liam" (2000), a 7-year-old making his first Holy Communion in Depression-era Liverpool, and was transported to 1920s Ireland for the comedy "How Harry Became a Tree" (lensed 2000). Though the actor had been outspoken about his lack of esteem for the theater, Hart tread the boards when a project that piqued his interest came forth, like the 2001 revival of Harold Pinter's "The Homecoming". The actor starred alongside Ian Holm, portraying the character that Holm has originated in the premiere production. A role as a Professor of Dark Arts ("If you're not a kid, you're a wizard") in "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" (2001) brought the actor to what would likely be his widest audience to date, while projects like the 2002 thriller "Killing Me Softly" would see him again make the most of a supporting character role. Surely Hart's tireless work, proven talent, and limitless versatility would ensure him a full and promising acting career for years to come.
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Amy Taubin on Ian Hart in "Backbeat": "The mix of anger and yearning that his Lennon feels for the elusive Stu translates into real heat. Any competent actor can play contradictory feelings one after another--first mad, then sad--but being able to play them simultaneously is a rare gift. That plus his abandon during the musical numbers--he practically levitates from the stage--make Hart, at least, a candidate for the new British film-acting pantheon." --quoted in an April 24, 1994 Village Voice article.
"My life's changed in no way whatsoever. I don't go to parties and hang out with other actors." --Ian Hart in The New York Times, March 10, 1996.
"Ian has an intuitive approach to acting, almost the American approach, as opposed to what you see in classically-trained English stage actors." --Christopher Munch, director of "The Hours and Times," in The New York Times, March 10, 1996.
Ian Hart, who has been featured in several strongly political-themed films, on his worldview as opposed to that of his "Land and Freedom" director Kenneth Loach: "Ken's [politics] are set in stone. Whereas I think you have to kind of see the world for what it is. I still have a lot of faith in human beings." --quoted in Time Out New York, March 13-20, 1996.
Hart on why he has largely steered clear of lead parts: "The things I have been offered have not been the good parts. They require you to impose a character on the story. I'm not interested in imposing my personality on the character. I want to try to create another somebody, not be me. Acting is about making shit up. It's no more complex than that." --quoted in London's Evening Standard, February 1, 2000.
"The sort of thing I do tends to be half-written, fourth leads -- you've got to do a lot of work not to make shit look as bad as it is. A lot of directors don't direct, they're waiting for you to provide for them. It's 'What can you offer me?' And I can offer this, but it might not be right, I was hoping that you'd have an overview. And then, when it's not working and they feel threatened, they start exercising their authority, but that doesn't work at all with me. I'm more likely to carry on barking. I can do that all day, shouting doesn't bother me, but if you'd just had a fucking conversation with me I wouldn't be doing it." --Hart responding to allegations that he is difficult to work with, quoted in the British publication The Independent, August 25, 2000.
"You can look at a film script, and you might think it's not perfect, but at least the director is interesting. But with theatre, it's six months, no money. And there's got to be something there every night which you can mine. There may not be something there, in which case you've still got to get up on Wednesday and Saturday and do the matinees. I can learn something from a shit film. I'm not too sure what I can learn from doing a shit play for three months." --Hart on what keeps him away from the stage, quoted in The Independent, February 18, 2001.
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