Another Strong Year
It’s been a special 2016 on stage and screen for British actor Mark Strong, turning 53 today. A veteran of British TV (Prime Suspect, Low Winter Sun) and 20+ years of celebrated supporting work in movies (Syriana, Oliver Twist, Sunshine, RocknRolla, Body of Lies, The Young Victoria, Sherlock Holmes, Kick-Ass, Green Lantern, Zero Dark Thirty, The Imitation Game), he triumphed on Broadway (earning a Best Actor Tony® nomination) in the Tony®-winning revival of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge and stepped into lead movie roles in The Brothers Grimsby and Approaching the Unknown. Eight years ago, he told The Independent that as a child he wanted to be handsome French actor Alain Delon, his style icon was David Bowie and his real-life villain was “arrogance, bullying, intolerance, aggression,” which are ironically characteristics he nails with dead-on precision when playing of several of his more sinister screen portrayals. For the full list of My Secret Life influences he revealed to interviewer Charlotte Philby in 2008 at the time of RocknRolla’s release, click here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/my-secret-life-mark-strong-actor-age-45-926736.html. But, he sees himself as an amiable bloke and team player just getting on with the job, which is the feeling you get when watching his portrayal of Steve, a fan equally obsessed with the hard-luck fortunes of Arsenal Football (a British soccer franchise) as buddy Paul (Colin Firth), in the wryly observant film version of Nick Hornby’s memoir Fever Pitch (1997). As much as it is a tale of the push-pull of romance vs. sports fandom (Firth’s romance with schoolteacher colleague Ruth Gemmell is tested mightily by the Arsenal fanaticism that infects all aspects of his daily life), it’s also about how the push-pull of pals who have each other’s back – as expert actors Firth and Strong as well as their characters do – have to give way to the greater need of growing up – and not screwing up when the great fit of a romantic relationship is in your grasp. It takes a winning team (after a roller-coaster season Arsenal finally wins the long-sought league championship) to tidy up (hopefully) the fraying ends of Hornby’s funny, shaggy study of lives in search of a lift. Strong and Firth have remained Arsenal nuts (as Strong recounts about an instance of their “going mental” over a certain match here: http://www.bigissue.com/features/interviews/4858/mark-strong-colin-firth-and-i-went-mental-when-arsenal-won-the-league), friends and frequent screen teammates (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Before I Go to Sleep, Kingsman: The Secret Service). With at least four more screen projects featuring today’s birthday honoree in the works, including a 2017 Kingsman sequel, our moviegoing options will continue growing Stronger. Meanwhile, kick things off with the wry and rarely seen Fever Pitch on Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray, featuring a fantastic Audio Commentary by the TT team of Chelsea devotee Nick Redman and self-professed Chelsea girl Julie Kirgo.