From White Mischief to Bill & Ted, Joss Ackland was an actor of rare poise, range and pathos
Joss Ackland consistently secured acting roles both on stage and screen due to his refined demeanor, innate confidence, and traditional English theater background. He frequently portrayed figures of authority and those connected to established positions, but later in his career, the roles he was offered in the '90s and '00s comedically mocked and satirized these types, which reportedly upset him.
As I was maturing, my interactions with him were scarce, and mostly limited to the sound of his velvety, sweet voice that reminded me of melted butterscotch. I heard him frequently on TV commercials, where his accent was refined and suggestive. It was similar to that of a bishop or news anchor who takes pleasure in indulging in some fine wine or a good cigar.
Ackland's most impressive acting was seen in Michael Radford's intense and unsettling 1987 film about the "Happy Valley" clique, White Mischief. This movie, which dates back to the 80s era under the rule of Thatcher, definitely merits a resurrection. Ackland's performance in the film earned him a Bafa nomination. The film showcased the beguiling beauty of Charles Dance and Greta Scacchi, while Hugh Grant had a minor role. Ackland played a supporting role in the film, and although he may have been overshadowed by the captivating, younger co-stars, he delivered an emotionally powerful performance.
This blog talks about Sir Jock Delves Broughton and his social group of British aristocrats who lived in Kenya during World War II. They were wealthy and lived off farming, with plenty of free time to indulge in drugs, alcohol, and extramarital affairs. However, their disregard for the ongoing war efforts of their home country added a layer of decadence to their hedonistic lifestyle. Sir Jock was married to Diana, a much younger and beautiful woman who had been allowed to engage in affairs. She was currently involved in a passionate relationship with Josslyn Hay, Earl of Erroll, who was portrayed by Dance.
In the blog, it is mentioned that Jock, portrayed by Ackland, is a disgraceful character who has been betrayed and humiliated by his wife. Although he tries to hide his emotions, he is filled with anger, resulting in a violent confrontation with Diana, which is both intense and surprising. Ackland was completely convincing in his role as a respected member of society who is ashamed of causing a scene and resents his spouse for putting him in that position. He played the character flawlessly.
Ackland was a versatile actor who could portray characters of various social statuses. He had a significant yet minor role in the 1971 British crime movie, Villain, where Richard Burton played a mobster resembling the Kray twins. Ackland played a criminal who acted subserviently alongside TP McKenna's high-class gangster character. He belonged to the group of elite British actors who were well-spoken and trained in classical acting, providing great depth and style to films like this.
The followers of Ackland are big fans of his wild look in the British horror pulp movie, The House that Dripped Blood from 1970. The movie is made up of several stories and Ackland acted in one alongside Peter Cushing. In this story, Ackland portrays a character who is obsessed with an exhibit in a wax museum and this leads to a disturbing end.
Ackland courageously accepted some film roles that may not have been of the highest quality, as he humbly recognized. He portrayed Matisse in the disturbing Surviving Picasso film directed by James Ivory, alongside talented actor Anthony Hopkins. Ackland also appeared in two movies with Demi Moore, despite reportedly not holding her acting skills in high regard.
He had a talent for impersonating foreign accents with clever humor and enjoyment. He convincingly portrayed the character of the Soviet ambassador in John McTernan’s The Hunt for Red October, which starred Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin in 1990. Interestingly, he also played a different Russian character in Kathryn Bigelow's K19: The Widowmaker, this time as the Soviet defense minister.
Joss Ackland portrayed a corrupt South African politician named Arlen Rudd in Lethal Weapon 2. He gained fame among younger viewers for his unique portrayal of Chuck De Nomolos, a former teacher who turned into a future terrorist, in Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey. Chuck De Nomolos holds a grudge against the film's two relaxed protagonists.
Ackland was a talented English actor who excelled in theater and television and also had success in the film industry. He gave an outstanding performance as Sir Jock Delves Broughton, shining a light on the hypocrisy and misery within Britain's privileged upper society.