The Serpentine Perspective: A bit of Jason Isaacs Appreciation

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The 2000s are a golden era for 18th century obsessives willing to sit through questionable historical drama, like yours truly. One such film came out just before Liverpool’s best export became the saving grace of one of Slytherin’s worst humans: The Patriot. And, to be completely honest, he’s the saving grace of that film too (he makes such a good villain). But before we dive into our discussion of another period in time when the American Colonies were a powder keg giving off sparks (sorry, not sorry), I want to talk about Lucius Malfoy for a bit. After all, you’re probably used to us two trashing the characters portrayals in the films, so it’s only fair that I’ll talk about one of a handful of characters whose film version is an improvement on Rowlings’ original (the others are Bellatrix Lestrange and Molly Weasley, but that’s a story for another time). 

I’ve never met Mr Isaacs, but he strikes me as being a funny and good humoured man. The opposite of our favourite bad father, who has been named in the San Francisco Chronicles as one of the Sexiest Fictional Characters ever (with Isaacs named as such on the equivalent list for real folks). He’s so good at The Glare that he has been typecast for a bunch of his career, although he has some very good stuff outside of that box (one such role would be Clark Devlin in The Tuxedo, which is the subject of Rory’s post). I guess, objectively, The Patriot is not the best film he’s been in, or even his best performance (that’s obviously Schindler’s list) but can I let that get in the way of long wigs and coats with tails? You know your answer. 

I know it sounds like I wrote this, but I did not. It’s just someone with the same bad sense of humour as me.

So here we are, with Colonel William Tavington, also known as The Butcher.

A nickname that belonged to the Duke of Cumberland around the time of his birth in 1743. The people of South Carolina and the Tories after Culloden were dealing with, arguably, two very similar men. Or monsters, depending on your point of view. You coudl say his uniform is red with the blood of the Americans he killed since it hardly has any green. He’s the colonel of the Green Dragoons, why on earth does he look like Mr Wickham at the beginning of Pride and Prejudice? Why do you think the British Legion was nicknamed Green Dragoons for crying out loud? 

The real-life “The Patriot” Butcher, Sir Banastre Tarleton, in the uniform of the British Legion (Reynolds, held at the National Gallery, a stunning piece of work)

I often wonder what it was like to shoot those two characters back to back. Was it like one of them was playing the other and Isaac’s real self was having a holiday in his subconscious or something? I can’t be the only person who thinks they are the same personality, just one given power and the other being little more than someone else’s minion. You can probably find on Google the iconic scene at the farm, which is the turning point of the film. That’s peak psychopathic villain (especially contrasted with one of his subordinates who was nearly crying at the whole thing). Absolute zero human emotion, fully cold-blooded, he’d have made a robot seem like an emotional wreck. It’s this mixture of dashing looks and superb acting that was able to rescue an otherwise pathetic villain and turn him into an iconic Lucius Malfoy.

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