Brian Cox slams ‘idiot’ directors for ‘not doing their homework’ and failing to inspire him: ‘I’ve been lucky, but I’ve worked with some real bozos’

Brian Cox slams ‘idiot’ directors for ‘not doing their homework’ and failing to inspire him: ‘I’ve been lucky, but I’ve worked with some real bozos’

Succession star Brian Cox has hit out at directors, calling many of them “idiots” and saying he has seldom gained much inspiration from them.

The Scottish actor, who played media empire chief Logan Roy in the award-winning HBO series Succession about a warring family, said even though he’s been lucky enough to work with some great directors, he has had to “bite the bullet” a lot.

Cox, 77, who is now starring in the new Amazon Prime series 007: Road To A Million, said: ‘I’ve been very lucky with directors, but I’ve also worked with some real bozos. And they couldn’t direct a certain thing into a top hat.

‘But it’s a real struggle sometimes. I as an actor am always look for the great note, the note that illuminates what I have to do, and I seldom get it.

‘I have to do it for myself, but I don’t want to be in that situation of doing it for myself. We want to be sort of inspired in some way. And there’s very little inspiration comes from a lot of directors. It makes it very hard.

‘I was in a situation recently where the director really was coming up with notes which were so unhelpful. 

‘So I had to go through the script and say “that means that, that means that, that doesn’t mean that what you’re suggesting that I should do, because you’re asking for an emotion and a feeling without actually understanding what the intention is, what the point is.” 

‘And a lot of directors do that. They don’t do their homework. They’re so busy seeing “oh, the whole picture” that they forget about the detail. All of it is in the detail and that includes the acting.’ 

He added: ‘I really want directors who can inspire that and sadly not a lot of them do. They forget about the acting, they forget about what that’s about, what the mystery of that is.’

Speaking in a new BBC Maestro series on acting, he added: ‘A lot of directors don’t understand the relationship between word and image. They understand image and they can go all the way down the road of image. But the words are sort of set aside. Or they’re literal and they don’t get the image right.’

Talking about the times he felt at odds with a director, Cox admitted: ‘You deal with it with great difficulty – a director who you’re not getting on with you have to just bite on the bullet. This happens a lot.

‘And you have to have a sense of self-preservation within that situation. “Diplomacy is always useful. It’s hard.

‘You have to learn the lesson and say “Oh, I see, I’m working with an idiot, but I’m not going to let it stop me getting to where I’m supposed to go”. And that happens a lot.’ 

Fame: The actor is a hugely successful stage and television actor and has soared to huge fame as media titan Logan Roy in smash hit series Succession

Opening up: Cox spoke about his experiences with directors in a new BBC Maestro series on acting (pictured)

But Cox also said he’d been fortunate enough to work under some great directors in his long career, hailing Spike Lee as possibly the best he’d encountered.

He added: ‘I’ve worked with some of the finest directors ever. They have been awe-inspiring. They had vision about what they were doing, and what the point of the piece that they were doing is.’ 

He praised “very eccentric” Wes Anderson, who he worked with on the comedy Rushmore and who won an Oscar for 2014’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, as having “a kind of really original sensibility.”

But even with Anderson, he didn’t agree with all the director’s methods.

He said: ‘The only problem I had with Wes was repeat lines, and I did say to him “if you do that all the time we lose the rhythm of the scene” – and the rhythm of the scene is very important. We have to know where we’re going, how I take on what he says, and he takes on what I say.

‘If you stop that rhythm every time, you’re actually making it more difficult for how we’re playing the scene. Because it’s stop, start, stop, start, stop, start, and that will always show.’ 

Speaking out: 'We want to be sort of inspired in some way. And there’s very little inspiration comes from a lot of directors. It makes it very hard,' he said

New role: The actor currently features in new Amazon Prime reality show 007: Road To A Million (pictured)

Cox hailed Malcolm X director Spike Lee, who became the youngest person ever to be given an Honorary Academy Award at the age of 58 in 2015.

He said: ‘Spike Lee is one of the best directors I’ve worked with, bar none. I did a film called 25th Hour with Spike. His knowledge of cinema is so astonishing.

‘He has a real brain side by side with an extraordinary instinct. He has this ability of putting you exactly where you should be. You know where to be physically, you know where to be mentally, you know where to be emotionally within the scene.

‘He’d done his homework, so that when he came with a note it was the right note. There was no argument. 

‘That’s the sign of a great director. There are certain directors that you know you can feel safe, and you can say ‘I’ll do anything because there is an integrity of work here’.

‘But yeah, I would advise anybody to try some directing.’ 

Find out more about Brian Cox’s BBC Maestro course on Acting at

Ross Kaniuk

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