Bob Hoskins' ease at switching from cuddly to menacing has kept his career ticking along nicely for decades. Since 1980's The Long Good Friday launched him as a film star, the actor has worked with Steven Spielberg, Jean-Jacques Annaud, Oliver Stone and Atom Egoyan.
Hoskins has also lent his support to low-budget UK productions, such as Neil Jordan's Mona Lisa and Shane Meadows' debut feature TwentyFourSeven.
He is again supporting local talent with Ruby Blue, from writer-director Jan Dunn and producer Elaine Wickham of Medb Films, who won acclaim with their 2005 debut Gypo. Shot digitally on a $700,000 (£350,000) budget in Ramsgate on the south-east coast of England, Ruby Blue stars Hoskins as a pigeon-racing widower who falls for a Eurostar driver (played by French national treasure Josiane Balasko). Heady themes of ageing, transsexualism and paedophilia drew in Hoskins.
"The trouble with me is if I come up against a boundary, I want to push it," says Hoskins. "They sent me the script and I just thought it was very interesting. And then Jan and Elaine turned up on my doorstep and completely charmed me."
Ruby Blue, backed by Target Entertainment, Old Vic Productions, Screen South and the UK Film Council, opens theatrically in the UK on April 25.
In addition to acting, Hoskins also has his production company with veteran producer Norma Heyman. To date, Heyman-Hoskins Productions' only film has been the hit Mrs Henderson Presents - although Hoskins says they are developing several projects, including a biopic of US photographer Lee Miller.
But he is happy to take a back seat and follow his business partner's lead. "She alarms me sometimes," he says. "She phoned me up once and said, 'Bob, you've got to fly out and meet Marlon Brando.' She had this film where Marlon Brando plays himself. I was due to fly out and talk him out of his $5m fee but he died. I must say I was quite relieved, which is a terrible thing to say!"
Hoskins is still sent stacks of scripts and he does a vast amount of lucrative voiceover work, which allows him to be daring with his choices. Last year, he journeyed to Cinecitta Studios for Abel Ferrara's Go Go Tales. "Completely barmy," recalls Hoskins of the Bronx-born film-maker. "As soon as I got there, he said, 'I don't want you to play the role I offered ya, I want ya to play something else.'"
Hoskins also managed to squeeze in Nick Love's Outlaw and Neil Marshall's Doomsday last year, and has appeared in more films since the start of 2000 than he did in the 1970s and 1980s combined. Next is a reunion with Who Framed Roger Rabbit director Robert Zemeckis for his motion-capture adaptation of A Christmas Carol.
The 66-year-old actor says: "If something comes in that I fancy, I'll do it but I'm quite happy to be out of work. In fact, the older I get, the more I like it. But acting is still the only job in the world where the older you get, the more useful you get."
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