Jim Broadbent: “I was a bad lad at school in Reading”
PUBLISHED: 13:07 09 September 2020 | UPDATED: 16:57 10 September 2020
Credit: WENN Rights Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo
The Oscar-winning actor is one of the nicest people you could ever wish to meet, but there was a time when he was something of a rebel
“It wasn’t the school – it was me,” Jim confessed. “I was at Leighton Park School because my family were Quakers and thought they were doing their best for me by sending me to what was – and still is – an excellent school.
“The trouble was that it coincided with that rebellious time that most, if not all, boys go through.”
Jim was born to Roy, a furniture maker, and Dee, a sculptress, and he says he had the best start in life. “I was quite happy as a kid because Lincolnshire was not a bad place to grow up, at least we were never short of vegetables,” he said.
“But the real joy was that both my mum and dad were very keen amateur drama players and started the Lindsey Rural Players. I was on stage myself when I was just four, taking part in a production of A Doll’s House. I don’t remember that much about it but nobody complained as far as I knew.
“After the war, the group took over an old methodist chapel and turned it into a small theatre. My dad did a lot of the conversion work, but sadly he died not long after it was finished.
“I am honorary president of the group and the theatre is called the Broadbent Theatre, not named after me but after my dad, which is a nice memorial to him and his work.
“They picked an excellent school for me in sending me to board at Leighton Park. It was created for Quakers in the last 19th Century and set in what seemed to me to be a huge and lovely park.
“Coming from Lincolnshire it was ideal for me really because I was used to open countryside and Leighton Park certainly had that. I don’t think I could have coped with going to a school in the middle of a city at that stage in my life.
“The school was quite strict but probably no more than I was used to at home, but for some reason, I did rebel. Perhaps it was homesickness or just growing up, but I was a bad lad for a while.
“Academically I was doing alright, but I did tend to talk back at the teachers and was often in trouble for that – quite rightly.
“I was caught drinking and that was the end of it. I was expelled and as a result I didn’t get to take my A levels, for which I was studying. It was all out of character.
“The school did their best but I was going through a strange phase. I wasn’t like that before and I don’t think I could ever be described as a rebel during my life since then.
“I don’t look back and regret things very much because you cannot change what was, only what might be, but I think I could have enjoyed Leighton Park more and probably would have been successful with my exams because they did make a big effort for me.
“I have some good memories of being at Leighton Park and from what I gather there have been many successful pupils who have emerged from there and gone on to great things.”
Jim Broadbent did, of course, go on to great things. He is often spotted in the street these days but because he tends to keep a low profile many people are not quite sure if they have spotted the Oscar winner and the star of so many movies, or someone who just looks like that bloke who played Roy Slater in Only Fools And Horses.
“I was offered the part of Del Boy but I didn’t feel that it was quite right for me,” said Jim.
“I was probably too tall for a start and the Jack the Lad character was not quite my style. As it turned out, David Jason was perfect and he played Del Boy far better than I could have done. I was happy as Roy Slater. Only Fools and Horses was a great series and I was thrilled to be a part of it.
“For me it was an honour to have been part of one of the most successful comedy shows in television history and it was a sheer delight to be part of it and work alongside David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst; a fantastic experience and a lot of fun.
“Whenever I went back it was like visiting the family again. There was always a great atmosphere.”
He has received many accolades but the greatest moment so far must be Jim’s Oscar award win for Best Supporting Actor in the film Iris in 2001. “That was pretty unbelievable, quite overwhelming really,” he said.
“There you are with all these really famous and talented people, and suddenly you find yourself on the stage, totally embarrassed and looking at them as they applaud you. Then you have to say something. It is one of those mad moments in life that you cannot quite believe is happening to you and afterwards you still cannot believe it happened.”
But happen it did and Jim has the Oscar safely tucked away to prove it, along with his Golden Globe and his BAFTA Awards.
He said: “Maybe I am the only former Leighton Park pupil to win an Oscar, so some credit must go to the school – they did their best for me.
“I have never been interested in being famous for the sake of it,” said Jim. “I am just grateful that it all worked out and that I’m an actor.”
He certainly is. To Hollywood he is a celebrated Oscar winner, to television viewers he will always be Roy Slater, the bent copper, but Jim Broadbent just sees himself as an actor trying his best to do his job.