The British actor, famous for his Dr House character, is now an author, composer and singer. A portrait.
For almost 10 years, the oh-so-British actor was Dr House, the most irresistible antihero in the world-most-watched TV show. Nowadays the 50-something wonderboy, also a L'Oreal spokeperson, writes, composes and sings. Portrait of a happy thespian.
He fumes, looks at himself in the mirror, fumes a bit more. His arms, long down to his knees, make it hard to find fitting suits. In the mirror, he looks like a kid grown too fast and dressed as a man. He turns around, muttering « ridiculous ». He moans again. Against shirts, too short (« it's like they're fit for 12 years old boys »), against trousers that he has to buy low-cut to fit his so-long legs and hide his socks. « I know it's not bad fashion. The Prince of Wales loves to show his socks. But I don't. » Hugh Laurie is a 6'3“ giant, stiff and thin like a British India Army colonel' stick. Every bit of him is too long. His neck, his hands, his feet that he hides in big crepe-soled, laced shoes. Perfect for hunting in Balmoral's forest. As for the rest, he looks exactly like House on TV : bushy eyebrows, this blue, almost sadistic look of a hunting lynx, bed hair like he was just woken up during an on-call night. « Don't mess with my hair, or the balding will show », he rages. There is no doubt about him being a real Brit : imperious outside, conservative inside. Leave him alone and on his own in a suit at the Savoy in London. Guess what he will do? Take a cup, heat it with hot tea, pour some milk, grab the Times and sit by the window to wade through the newspaper, watching the pouring rain as if it was the most erotic show in the world. In short, the eternal Brit as shown by Gainsborough, as well as Kipling : a bit far away, silent, gloomy.
Did the whimsical English turn crazy?
Did his atrabiliary, always angry and whimsical character rub off on him? Let's check. « What did fame change in your life? » The question is followed by an icy silence. He puts his cup down, turns back, pulls nervously on his sleeves to make them longer, gets up like a gentleman in front of a lady, sits back, thinks, rubs the back of his head, looks from under and quietly answers : « Fame? I became famous on Wednesday, June 22 in 2005. A 3 PM. It fell down on me suddenly and I have never been the same since then. » Silence. Is he crazy? Then he gives an enormous laugh, happy with the result, gets up again and limps the way that made him famous. He is, suddenly, the most exquisite, gentle, sexiest man in the world. « This is what made House famous : the explosive mix. He is like the English weather, sometimes sad, sometimes threatening, sometimes extremely soft. You never know who you will get. He is surprising. He can be usufferable and suddenly tender. He is a funny, creative, charming, rough, astonishing man, with a flaw. He is not happy. He suffers and it allows him to be rough without turning out as an old moron. House is a antihero, brilliant and sadistic. People love the mix between talent and wickedness. » Hugh Laurie immediatly fell in love with the part, this generous and genius man. Is he jealous of him? « I could, yes, given the attractiveness he shows to women. But I admire him too much to resent him; » Laurie became House after a simple casting. « I think they picked me because I come across as a natural cynic. I give this impression because I am very shy. Cynicism is an armor. » Along the seasons, writers started to write a part tailored for him. « They ended up thinking we were one. They were wrong. House is smart, I am dumb. House is nasty and I am a cream of a man. But mainly, I am me and he is himself. Otherwise, why act? Knowing that you are playing, that is the pleasure of acting. If we mix it up, then the enjoyement of halving, that acting offers, it goes away. »
Doctor House has left the building.
Laurie's youth is like an English garden. He was born in Oxford in 1959. His father was a doctor. « It's true that I briefly wanted to be a doctor, but then I chose to imitate him by becoming a rowing champ. English girls, they like muscles better than brain. » He studied in Cambridge where he met and briefly dated Emma Thompson, then met Stephen Fry, his best friend and accomplice. Together they played within the famous Cambridge Footlights theater club, which has been managed for a hundred years by the students of the University. Out of there came highlights of the British comedy, people like John Cleese from the Monty Pythons. After their studies, Thompson, Laurie and Fry acted in hilarious sketches for the British TV, made ads, voice overs, movies. Laurie has played with Thompson in Branagh's Peter's Friends, then in Ang Lee's Sense and Sensibility, before he was hired in 2004 for House, that made him rich and famous...
Did you really play in 177 House eps for 700 000 euros an ep? Hugh Laurie makes a face and evades. « The real important fact is that this part gave me self confidence. With this new confidence I was able to play music, an old dream for me. » Laurie started playing the piano at 6, « with an old broad who turned me away from learning. Which I was lucky for. I dreamed of playing jazz. I wanted to play this old folk song, Swanee River, and she had me make scales. » The big shock was hearing on the radio I can't quit you Baby, by Willie Dixon, when he was 11. « I was shaken up, he recalls. God knows why the good neat pupil I was fell in love with blues, when you had to listen to pop or punk at the time... »
Doctor House now has left the building, and Hugh Laurie is free to do what he wants. Like this hilarious L'Oreal ad, where he sells the virtues of VitaLift 5 : « See the results. In real life, I'm 95 years old, don't tell it to anyone. » He lives between Los Angeles, where he works, and London, where his family lives. « My wife, the one I married in 1989, and my three children. » He also finances an orphanage in Uganda.
After his first album in 2011 (Let Them Talk, Warner Music Entertainment), he released a second one, Didn't It Rain, in spring. He is touring worldwide. « I will never know if people love my music or Dr House's. This is my problem. » There is something Clint Eastwood-like in this peculiar man. « I love that, of course. I see Clint as a bit of a father. He would have educated me and showed me the goal. I love blues; this music from the cotton fields. Blues is soothing while telling terrible stories. » A strange thought comes to mind : would Laurie play the next James Bond? « I don't think so. First, I am bald. Second, I find that James does not have enough of a sense of humor. And finally, I am a sarcastic, realistic guy. Bond isn't. »
Original Article here: http://madame.lefigaro.fr/celebrites/hugh-laurie-gentleman-blues-091113-608278