Hellraisers: A Graphic Biography, By Robert Sellers and JAKe
Soused and out in Paris and Corsica
Sunday 25 September 2011
It's a match made in Hollywood heaven: Robert Sellers – who has biographised everyone from Sting to Tom Cruise – has retooled his 2008 book Hellraisers: The Life and Inebriated Times of Burton, Harris, O'Toole and Reed, with the animating assistance of the artist JAKe.
As a longtime graphic designer for Lucasfilm, JAKe is steeped in movie-making insight of his own: his Star Wars and Indiana Jones character portraits are globally familiar.
While the details of the four actors' lives are widely known – the boozing, the benders, the blackouts, the babes – this graphic depiction of Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Peter O'Toole and Oliver Reed offers a fresh take on their shenanigans. The approach borrows from A Christmas Carol, as a drinker named Martin is visited by the actors, one by one. "I'll tell you who I am," says apparition number one, setting the scene with a familiar soundbite: "I'm Richard Burton and God put me on this earth to raise sheer hell."
Hellraisers comes to expressive life under JAKe's pen: while adhering to Sellers' text, he makes his own mark, from spot-on portraits-cum-caricatures and striking images, to downright cartoonish depictions when things take distinctly silly turns. (For example: Burton and Elizabeth Taylor's second marriage in Botswana.)
Thus, in Burton's grim Pontrhydyfen childhood, skulls and coffins glow spookily in Welsh mines. And when Burton reflects on his inability to appreciate his lavish lifestyle with Taylor ("Accompanying us on our world cruises would be a retinue of yapping, incontinent dogs ... It was the most expensive bloody floating dog kennel in the world") JAKe draws a familiar-yet-different board game named Monotony. Harris chases a priest from his bedside with a Tom-and-Jerry outcome, and Harry Potter's Knight bus and Diagon Alley pop up in a most surreal fashion; O'Toole swaggers into the scene on a camel; and the illustrator has cheeky fun depicting Reed as ringmaster of his own mad, bad circus.
Hellraisers is an enjoyable, crazy ride though the mint decades of British and American stage and screen. Plenty of familiar faces popping up – Bogie and Bacall, Russell Crowe, Peter Sellers, Marlon Brando, Sean Connery, Michael Caine, Albert Finney, Lenny Bruce, Omar Sharif and both Audrey and Katharine Hepburn – all brought to unerring life by the telling shape of eyebrows, noses or lips.
Overall, though, Martin gets a bit of a mixed message; one of excessive drinking but few regrets: "Ah Jesus," as O'Toole says to Harris, "but I did enjoy the days when one went for a beer at one's local in Paris and woke up in Corsica."
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Caitlyn Jenner car crash: Driver who died in collision sued by surviving passengers for $18.5m
- 2 Pictures show young Palestinian girl biting Israeli soldier trying to detain boy during West Bank protests
- 3 Watch the Supermoon live: How to see the brightest Moon of the year tonight
- 4 Hulk Hogan wants to be Donald Trump's running mate in the US Presidential election
- 5 Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
Game of Thrones season 6: Jon Snow theorists believe Ned Stark's son may have a twin sister
Edinburgh Fringe 2015: Monty Python-inspired Australian Sam Simmons wins comedy award with 'very silly' show
Game of Thrones season 6: Director promises most exciting premiere yet 'starts off with a bang'
Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Online toy marathon to launch new film
Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet: Technician quits after social media row with actor's fans
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
Stock up on canned food for stock market crash, warns former Gordon Brown adviser
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics