I’ve just watched my fave ep of Inspector Morse. It’s my fave due largely to it featuring my favourite villain, Hugo De Vries, played by the wonderful Ian McDiarmid:
I love this ep because it’s full on madness: set-ups, disguises, mis-direction, all under the control of De Vries. It’s like a classic Hitchcock where the hapless protagonist ends up not knowing who to believe, who to trust but even better because this time round the hero is crusty, mithering Morse. And, hey, if you’ve ever wondered what Danny Boyle was up to twenty-five years ago, this is it: directing Morse.
The end monologue that De Vries delivers to Morse is perfect and creepy and perfectly creepy. McDiarmid is riveting as the contempt for Morse drips off every syllable. How can you go wrong with lines like, “Why do policemen always go round in pairs, like low comedians?”
If you’re not a Morsey, you’ll probably be more familiar with McDiarmid in this role:
His Palpatine / Darth Sidious / Emperor is another perfect villain. What McDiarmid brings to the character is a deep sense of realism, of true gravitas, no mean feat when dealing with sci-fi. You could, in fact, identify completely with Palpatine and see the whole cycle of films from his point of view. Here’s a great man who only wants to unite a quarrelsome galaxy into a great order, if only the Jedi and rebel scum would just stop interfering.
I love that he first played the Emperor in Return Of The Jedi and then came back, sixteen years later to play a younger version of himself in The Phantom Menace:
McDiarmid was surprised when Lucas approached him 16 years after Return of the Jedi to reprise the role of Palpatine. In an interview, he stated, “When we were doing Return of the Jedi there was a rumor that George Lucas had nine films in his head, and he’d clearly just completed three of them.” McDiarmid added, “Someone said that, ‘Oh, I think what he might do next is go back in time, and show how Vader came to be.’ It never occurred to me in a million years that I would be involved in that, because I thought, ‘oh well, then he’ll get a much younger actor [to play Palpatine].’ That would be obvious.” However, “I was the right age, ironically, for the first prequel when it was made. … So I was in the very strange and rather wonderful paradox of playing myself when young at my own age, having played myself previously when 100-and-I-don’t-know-what.” (Source)
If you only know McDiarmid from Star Wars, I strongly recommend you hunt out his other work, he’s just been in Utopia and 37 Days and he’s done craploads of Shakespeare, obviously, maybe some that’s online.
Hugo deVries: You’re sweating, Morse. It’s most disagreeable.