Introduced by Stephen Colbert as Succession’s “patriarch we love to hate,” Brian Cox proved actually pretty lovable as he regaled his host with stories of his own father and mother. Speaking of his recent, bracingly honest autobiography Putting The Rabbit In The Hat, in which the 75-year-old acting legend shares the story of his life along with some unsparing evaluations of his fellow actors, Cox revealed that his own father was essentially the anti-Logan Roy.
“My dad was a very, very good, pious man,” Cox said of his late father, Chick, who died at 51, when Cox was eight. Calling his post-WWII Scottish childhood one marked by “mistakes made in goodness,” Cox also recalled how, after his first TV appearance in 1965, his mother Molly actually went door-to-door in their home town of Dundee, gathering signatures to force the BBC to give her boy some more airtime. “No, I think we can make some movement for you,” is how Cox fondly remembers his mom’s very mom-like efforts on his behalf.
Colbert pulled out an early headshot from those days, accurately calling the 23-year-old Cox a “smokeshow.” And while Cox demurred at the compliment, Colbert is not wrong, with the smoldering, ruddy-faced young Cox bringing some Oliver Reed/Albert Finney-style bad boy heat. Crediting Finney’s role in 1960s working class drama Saturday Night And Sunday Morning for teaching a young Scottish would-be actor that a career in the pictures was possible, Cox certainly has built up his own impressively long and varied resumé since. (As evidence, might we suggest checking out his 1980 episode of anthology series Hammer House Of Horror, where his ex-convict is trapped in a homemade zoo by former concentration camp guard Peter Cushing. Check streaming for availability. You’re welcome.)
Asked by Colbert for a few other memorably weird occurrences from his legendary stage and screen career, Cox was happy to share. There was the time when, as King Lear, a dramatic crown-toss went astray, slicing open the forehead of a nice lady in the front row. And the time when, playing the notoriously peg-legged Captain Ahab to a packed house, he was forced to improvise an exit after his carefully gimmicked fake leg fell off right at center stage. Showing that his disdain for certain actors he’s worked with also extends to the poor sods who get paid to write about his performances, Cox mocked the Times reviewer who praised the thematic brilliance of Cox’s Ahab continuing on with his whale-hunting mania despite his artificial leg falling off. “Bollocks,” Cox said, waving his hands at the overreaching silliness of pop culture critics everywhere.