The Incomparable Rufus Sewell

Victoria here. I have been watching a new series based on Ken Follett’s novel Pillars of the Earth.  It is on cable channel StarZ on Friday nights.  Here is the trailer. Sewell stars as Tom Builder, a master builder of the cathedral at the center of the book. Read more about Follett and the novel here.
Here is a review of the series and here is another. It is a gritty view of the green and pleasant hills of England, definitely more of the “dark satanic mills” * view, though it takes place long before there were industrial mills.
*playing on the words by Blake used in Jerusalem.
But I digress. The point of this blog piece is to celebrate the delicious talents of Rufus Sewell, an actor who has a distinguished career and versatility that must confound his rivals as one of England’s greatest actors.
I first encountered Mr. Sewell when I saw him as the tutor Septimus in Tom Stoppard’s play Arcadia. What a brilliant play and what a brilliant actor. I was in London and really can’t say I knew anything more about it than I liked Stoppard.  Later, I found I loved Rufus as well as Tom. And I’ve seen the play two other times, including at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre.

George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans) wrote the brilliant novel Middlemarch in the 1870’s. It was a BBC miniseries in 1994, with Sewell starring as Will Ladislaw, the young love interest of the heroine toward the end of the novel.  Whether the two of them have a happy ending is more or less left to the reader’s imagination.
Who could resist happiness with this vision at her side?

Sewell played Seth Starkadder in Cold Comfort Farm, the wonderful 1995 film made from the Stella Gibbons novel of the same name, published in 1932. It is hilarious and a special treat for British movie fans, if you love the Merchant Ivory films and their like. Poor Rufus, he doesn’t like the “pretty face” type of roles, but he is SO good at them.

Another of his Beautiful People roles was as Marco Venier in Dangerous Beauty, 1998, the story of a Venetian courtesan and poetess. I could just sit here and enjoy uploading pictures of the handsome actor.  But that would belie his versatility and the depth of his acting ability.  Nevertheless, I can’t resist.                      
Sewell has done many Shakespeare roles, such as Fortinbras in Hamlet and Petruchio in Taming of the Shrew, below in modern dress.
  His television roles include an appearance as Alexander Hamilton in John Adams, here shown with the title character played by Paul Giametti. Rather a spcialist in costume roles, Rufus has also played Charles II in a BBC miniseries.

In the excellent film Amazing Grace about the end of the British slave trade, he played Thomas Clarkson, an ally of Wilberforce.
But he has also played a number of villains. In The Illusionist, he was the Crown Prince.
And in 2001’s A Knight’s Tale, Sewell was the evil count Adhemar (below with the late Heath Ledger on the left). I wanted the Count to win!! Or for Heath to wash and comb his hair.
Rufus Sewell was born October 29, 1967. There are many bios on the web, if you want the details of his education and personal life.  For me, it’s good enough to know he is out there being a great actor and trying new things. 
Last television season, he starred in  Eleventh Hour, a CBS series which ran for 18 episodes. The show had a loyal audience but apparently not enough to be renewed, so it has passed into DVD-dom and probably syndication some day. Sewell was Jacob Hood, a brilliant biophysicist who solved crime questions. He had a protector assigned by the FBI, Rachel Young.  I have to admit the scripts were not very compelling — being neither verifiable in science nor outright science-fiction. 
The acting was superb and the concept interesting, but it missed out in having unbelievable stories.  What a pity. 
In the meantime, I’ll have to be content seeing Sewell as Tom Builder. Rufus is also working on several new films.  See the list of info on the Internet Movie Database here.
Keep up the good work, Rufus, upholding the traditions of Kean, Olivier, Gielgud and so many other great British actors.

7 thoughts on “The Incomparable Rufus Sewell”

  1. I adore Rufus Sewell and have done so ever since I saw Middlemarch in the 1990's. I didn't see Aracadia but I did see him in Rock and Roll in London, another Stoppard play. He's also in Helen of Troy. I wish I had Starz but since I don't I'll have to wait until it comes out on DVD.

  2. I've never met you, Victoria, but we are kindred spirits. Rufus is my very favorite actor. I've bookmarked your blog because I love London and will be visiting in less than 2 months (not that I'm counting the days or anything …)

  3. Gorgeous looks, prodigious talent! My daughter and son-in-law saw him one night at a music pub in/near Islington. Apparently, one of his siblings is a musician and his/her group was playing.

    I saw him in Arcadia, too! Love love love that romantic play by Tom Stoppard. Saw the play in NYC, too, with Billy Crudup in the role. Crudup (and isn't that the worst name for an actor, ever?) was good, but Rufus was so much better, in my opinion.

    Anyone know who Rufus is dating these days?

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