The 10th of October 2016 marks the 70th birthday of a very interesting, yet often overlooked actor. Showing no signs of slowing down as he enters his eighth decade, Charles Dance is one of Britain’s most accomplished performers.
Beginning his career in the 70s, Dance quickly became the "thinking woman’s sex symbol" (a title he hated) with romantic leading roles. In 1981 he played a Bond villain and not long after was considered as the next evolution of 007, though lost out to Timothy Dalton. Dance confesses that he’s glad he missed out on Bond, not sure he could have handled the attention being the world’s most famous spy gathers. But it wasn’t until 1984's ‘The Jewel in the Crown’ that he became a household name - at least in the UK. The dashing Guy Perron and his adventures in India confirmed Dance as a solid leading man, and resulted in him playing both Helen Mirren’s (‘Pascali’s Island’) and Meryl Streep’s (‘Plenty’) love interests. Hollywood began to take notice, but his ability to play the scary British villain to great effect soon had him typecast. He clearly took a lot of pleasure in roles such as Sardo Numspa (‘The Golden Child’ with Eddie Murphy) and Benedict in ‘Last Action Hero’ against Arnold Schwarzenegger.
He was eventually to get as close as he ever would to playing James Bond in 1989 when he was cast as Ian Fleming in the biopic ‘Goldeneye’. Briefly returning to his romantic roots with the title character in ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ and opposite Sigourney Weaver in ‘Alien 3’, the self-confessed “role-whore” was then relegated to occasional B-movies and British crime dramas, almost always playing a noble English gentleman of means and class (just don’t mention ‘Ali G’).
A writer too, Dance took some time in 2004 to direct Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith in the critically acclaimed ‘Ladies in Lavender’. This sleeper indie film had some serious talent attached to it, but at the time didn’t gather a lot of attention, and so Dance continued to take whatever roles he could get. At about this time, Dance left his wife of 34 years and began leaving a trail of (much younger) broken hearts in his wake. In 2012 his then-partner gave birth to a daughter. Dance was 65.
In the UK, he was still a well-known name, though perhaps due more to the latest lady on his arm rather than his work. Internationally, he remained consigned to the B-list. That is, until D.B. Weiss and David Benioff envisioned him as the Lannister patriarch for this decade’s biggest TV show, ‘Game of Thrones’.
Showing no signs of slowing down as he enters his eighth decade, Charles Dance is one of Britain’s most accomplished performers.
Weiss and Benioff considered no one else when casting the role, basing their faith on Dance’s performance opposite Gillian Anderson in ‘Bleak House’ as the brooding Mr Tulkinghorn. As a result, Charles Dance’s name again became an important one. Always considered a consummate professional, and other actors admit to being quite intimidated by his skill, he was gathered back into the Hollywood fold. Leading roles in indie films were always part of his bread and butter, and while those offers increased, so did supporting roles in some big box office movies. Crossing paths again with Benedict Cumberbatch in ‘The Imitation Game’ and also with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold,’ he has made an appearance in the rebooted ‘Ghostbusters’ this year, and finally managed to work with Emilia Clarke in ‘Me Before You’. These days, Dance can just about grab a role any time he wants to.
With the upcoming fifth ‘Underworld' film out soon, and several more projects in the pipeline, we can expect to see even more of the dashing Mr Dance. And goddamn, can the man fill out a suit.