To vote no or not to vote no, that is the question... Although do celebrities really have the answer?

David Tennant is right — the public doesn't care about what famous people think

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Hats off to David Tennant. There are numerous reasons to pay tribute to the excellent actor, and in no particular order, a former Doctor Who and one of the finest Hamlets of his generation. But this time he has been impressive, breathtaking even, off stage rather than on.

The actor was asked in an interview for his thoughts on the Scottish referendum. He said that it would be wrong of him to comment as he left Scotland a long time ago. Then he declared that there is “nothing more odious than actors foisting their opinions around.”

He was, of course, aware that some of our most distinguished actors have done just that on the question of Scottish independence. Dame Judi Dench, Sir Patrick Stewart, Helena Bonham Carter and many others came out in favour of the No campaign in an open letter from public figures. Has anyone anywhere ever used the word ”odious” in even the vaguest proximity to Dame Judi before? Not even national treasures are safe from contempt by Tennant (right) for actors foisting their opinions around.

It’s a brave statement, coming from a man who on a very regular basis must have to meet and work with opinion-foisting actors. He may have to defend the use of that word “odious” over many a green-room coffee.

But he is not just brave, he is right. There is simply no logic that demands that an undecided voter in the Scottish independence referendum should be swayed by the views of Helena Bonham Carter or indeed Dame Judi Dench, not to mention Cliff Richard and Mick Jagger, who also signed the open letter. Star-struck adolescents or pre-pubescents might care what their heroes think. But should mature admirers of acting  talent endow those performers with political  expertise and insight?

And yet for some years now there has been no major national or international issue, be it independence for Scotland, the invasion of Iraq, fracking, homelessness or HS2, that is not accompanied by opinion-foisting actors. It is so frequent, so much a part of the national debate, that we have ceased even to remark on it, or notice its inherent absurdity.

 

It would help if the actors accompanied their opinions with a phrase or two explaining why their opinions have a special resonance, what specialist knowledge or experience they have. But they seldom do. A famous face is thought to be sufficient. We have accepted this faintly ludicrous situation for way too long. Charisma and great technique on stage and screen does not give any extra worth, or any worth at all, to a political opinion.

Tennant goes perhaps a little too far in his striking choice of language. Odious indicates something hateful, even evil. Actors expressing opinions on matters outside their professional competence are certainly not guilty of wickedness. But his sentiment is correct. The habit of actors foisting their opinions around is not odious. It is just a glorious irrelevance.

O’Toole’s death scene is so brilliant that we cut it

A piece in this paper a couple of days ago reported on the late Peter O’Toole’s last major film role, in the still-to-be-released Katherine of Alexandria. The director Michael Redwood said: “He does a death scene which we had to cut in the end. You can literally see the life drain out of one eye and then the other, which is a long one-and-a-half-minute shot of him lying on the ground. It’s a great shot because he is smiling just as he dies.” Had to cut?! But it sounds like an unforgettable piece of acting. The rest of the film must be pretty remarkable if such a scene could end up on the cutting-room floor.

Walk out but remember to leave your pint

The other week I defended the right of audience members to walk out if they so wished. On the Edinburgh Fringe, one punter has not just walked out of comedian Andrew Maxwell’s show, he emptied a pint of beer on the performer en route. That’s a gesture too far, I think... Meanwhile, reader Mike Abbotts alerts me to the case of the two women who walked out of David Baddiel’s show Fame, Not the Musical because it was not Fame the Musical.

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