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(photo credit: From 'Mrs. Henderson Presents)
'I've got nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to be proud of, I'm just an ordinary bloke," says Bob Hoskins, 63, of his brief nude scene in his latest film, Mrs. Henderson Presents.
The film premiered in Israel recently as part of the British Film Festival, and Hoskins was in Tel Aviv last week as a guest of the British Council and Shani Films, which is distributing Mrs. Henderson. The movie, a period drama set in World War II based on a true story, stars Judi Dench as a wealthy widow who finds it liberating to produce a nude revue, beloved by the troops. Hoskins has the role of Vivian Van Damm, a Dutch Jew, who is her producing partner. In the movie, as the beauties who star in the revue are about to disrobe for the final dress (or, rather, undress) rehearsal, they demand that everyone in the theater, including Hoskins and the technicians, undress as well. Hoskins' character obliges them, with just a trace of panic and embarrassment.
"I remember going to see those shows at the Windmill Theater, after the war, with my parents," he says. "You had these beautiful naked people up onstage, and these kids running around in the audience. It had become a family show."
With a typically British dry sense of humor, Hoskins recalls his wife's reaction to his appearing in a film that involved many scenes with naked young actresses. "People asked my wife, 'Don't you mind him being surrounded by all these naked women?' and she said, 'No, because without his glasses, he can't see anything.'"
THIS IS not Hoskinsâ€š first visit to Israel - the non-Jewish actor, who is partly of Roma descent, was here in the Sixties as a kibbutz volunteer - but this is an especially busy trip and he's showing the strain. A week before, he flew from London - where he's appearing in the show, "As You Desire Me," with Kristin Scott Thomas - to Los Angeles, to attend that city's Mrs. Henderson premiere, and the frequent flying is taking its toll.
Still, Hoskins, the consummate professional, is jovial as he reminisces about his career and discusses how he prepares for roles. One of the greatest character actors of his generation, Hoskins has appeared in more than 70 films and is probably best known internationally for his role as the detective in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988), a movie that combined then-cutting edge animation technology and live actors. But he won critical raves for some of his hard-boiled cockney gangster roles, in such movies as The Long Good Friday (1980) and Mona Lisa (1986), for which he received an Oscar nomination.
"Rififi was my gangster influence," he says, referring to the 1955 French classic. "That was the [gangster] business for me."
He travels easily back and forth from the stage to the screen and from the world of independent film to big Hollywood productions, such as Son of the Mask and Maid in Manhattan.
"When I'm broke, and a big Hollywood film turns up, I'm your man," he says. The drawback to making these big-budget movies, says Hoskins, is that "Hollywood moves too slow. There's too much waiting around." Citing his "very low boredom threshold," he says he needs the stimulation of working in the indie film world, where the films are more artistically satisfying and the production moves at a faster clip.
The actor whose films had the greatest impact on him growing up was Montgomery Clift. But he really learned about acting, he says, not from movies or acting lessons, but from observing the women in his life. "Men are completely stupid at expressing emotion," he says, in a polished, entertaining speech that sounds as if he has recited it more than once. "Women are extraordinary. Women react to something emotionally properly...I realized if I could react with the emotional honesty of a woman, looking like the back of a bus like I do, that's going to be worth seeing. It's done me all right."