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Actor Brian Cox: I went into survival mode after my father’s death

The Hollywood star spoke on Desert Island Discs.

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Brian Cox on Desert Island Discs (BBC Radio 4/Amanda Benson/PA)

Brian Cox on Desert Island Discs (BBC Radio 4/Amanda Benson/PA)

Brian Cox on Desert Island Discs (BBC Radio 4/Amanda Benson/PA)

Actor Brian Cox has said he went into “survival mode” following the death of his father from pancreatic cancer.

The star of HBO’s Succession, 73, was eight when his mill worker father died, three weeks after being diagnosed with the disease.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, the Scottish actor told how his mother suffered a breakdown and the family were left in debt.

Good Omens premiere – London
Brian Cox (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Cox said: “We were left with debts and my mum had a breakdown. It all just went belly up. It was horrific.

“I just went into survival mode. That’s what has sustained me throughout my life and with this present (coronavirus) crisis, I am currently in survival mode.”

The Dundee-born star said his life-long coping mechanism was to keep in touch with his younger self.

He told Desert Island Discs host Lauren Laverne: “You keep in touch with yourself. You keep in touch with your inner person. You keep in touch with that wee boy.

“I teach drama and I always say to my students, ‘Always carry a picture of yourself as a child because that’s who you are’.

“Never forget it. That wee person is who you are – that person of wonder, that person of amazement, that person of joy, is who you are.

“The rest is just propaganda you have had to deal with.”

The actor, whose film roles include Manhunter, The Bourne Identity and Troy, said he always carried a photo of himself as a young boy, sat atop a high chair with a “gorgeous smile”.

“It’s a fantastic reminder and it keeps you straight,” he said.

Brian Cox and Lauren Laverne on Desert Island Discs (BBC Radio 4/Amanda Benson/PA)

Cox, the youngest of five siblings, also discussed his family’s financial struggles following the death of his father.

“I have always had issues about money because we didn’t have any,” he continued.

“When my mum came out of hospital finally and she got a small job, she mainly lived off the widow’s pension.

“The pension would come on a Friday and sometimes on a Thursday night, not always but sometimes, we wouldn’t have any food.

“I would go across to the local fish and chip shop and I would get batter bits from the back of the pan, and that would be our tea for Thursday night.

“It sounds cliched but it’s true. It instils in you a sense of value of stuff. I am a bit cautious. I can be a bit parsimonious at times.”

The Hunter Foundation dinner � An Evening with Sir David Attenborough
Actor Brian Cox stars in Succession (Jane Barlow/PA)

Cox won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Succession’s central ageing media magnate Logan Roy, and said people often requested he deliver Roy’s four-letter catchphrase.

He said the most bizarre example of this had occurred during a meeting of the Me Too movement in the US.

“It was at a Me Too meeting with Ronan Farrow and it was very serious,” he said.

“I was invited by the actress Rosanna Arquette. She was having this book launch so I went along.

“As it ended I suddenly found myself surrounded by a lot of ladies.

“Not all of them, I don’t want to exaggerate, but maybe one, maybe two, did ask me the inevitable – could they video me telling them to eff off?

“And I said,’Is that really appropriate at a Me Too meeting’. But I think that is also to do with the confusion we live in at the moment.

“It’s also what the series is about. People, they love the naked ambition of somebody like Logan but at the same time they go, ‘Oh, we love to hate him’.

“But actually, they love to love him as well. It is kind of complex.”

Cox said he was similar to Roy in the sense that both of them “flirted with misanthropy”.

He said he did not expect to see his sister, who lives in a care home in Aberfeldy in Scotland, on her upcoming 90th birthday due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“My sister has now gone into a care home near Aberfeldy so hopefully she is going to be fine,” he said.

“Her 90th is coming up any day. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to get back for it because of the restrictions. But it’s God’s country. It’s beautiful. There is nowhere like it. It’s just incredible.”

For his discs, he chose Johnny Cash’s cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, The Beatles’ Get Back and Joni Mitchell’s 2000 re-recording of Both Sides, Now.

Hear the full interview on BBC Sounds and BBC Radio 4 on Sunday at 11.15am.

PA