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As Luck Would Have It [Paperback]

Derek Jacobi
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 July 2014

Star of stage, screen and television, and one of only two people to be awarded two Knighthoods, Sir Derek Jacobi is one of Britain’s most distinguished actors.

‘If you want to be an actor, don’t. If you need to be an actor, do.’

The world of theatre could not have been further from Derek’s childhood: an only child, born in Leytonstone, London. With his father a department store manager and his mother a secretary, his was very much a working class background. But nonetheless Derek always knew he was going to be an actor, and he remembers clearly the first time he was in costume – draping himself in his mother’s glorious wedding veil as he paraded up and down the Essex Road with his friends.

A few short years later, at the age of seven, Derek made his acting debut, playing both lead roles in a local library production of The Prince and the Swineherd. By the age of 18 Derek was playing Hamlet (his most famed role) at the Edinburgh festival. He won a scholarship to Cambridge, where he studied and acted alongside other future acting greats including Ian McKellen. His talent was quickly recognised and in 1963 he was invited to become one of the first members of Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre.

Often admired for his willingness to grapple with even the most dislikeable of characters, Derek Jacobi has worked continuously throughout his career, starring in roles ranging from the lead in I, Claudius to Hitler in Inside the Third Reich and Francis Bacon in the controversial Love Is The Devil. But it is his numerous Shakespearean roles that have gained him worldwide recognition.

This book is, however, much more than a career record. Funny, warm and honest, Jacobi brings us his insider’s view on the world of acting. From a simple childhood in the East End to the height of fame on stage and screen, Derek recalls his journey in full: from the beginnings of his childhood dreams to the legendary productions, the renowned stars and the intimate off-stage moments.



Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (3 July 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 000745886X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007458868
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,283,690 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

‘An absolute delight of feel-good reading’ Sunday Express

About the Author

Born in Leytonstone, London in 1938, Derek Jacobi always wanted to be an actor. At the age of six, Derek made his acting debut, playing both lead roles in a local library production of The Prince and the Swineherd. He won a scholarship to Cambridge, where he studied and acted alongside other future greats including Ian McKellen. His talent was quickly recognised and in 1963 he was invited to become one of the founder members of Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre. Olivier’s protégé, Derek later, in turn, became mentor to Kenneth Branagh.

Derek Jacobi has worked nonstop throughout his career, starring in roles including the lead in I, Claudius, the monk detective Cadfael, Hitler in Inside The Third Reich and Francis Bacon in the controversial Love Is The Devil. But it is his numerous Shakespearean roles that have gained him worldwide recognition. He is the only actor, apart from Sir Laurence Olivier, to have the honour of holding two knighthoods, Danish and English.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Sir Derek Jacobi is one of Britain's greatest actors and therefore it was with immense pleasure that I heard a few months ago that he was publishing his autobiography in view of the rich and impressive career he has had so far (and hopefully this will continue for many years to come!). And Sir Derek the man emerges from this book very much like his acting portrayals: honest, truthful and moreover, wonderfully human.

The course of his life, from his childhood to the present, is pretty comprehensive and we get a nice balance of his experiences from both his personal and professional life, along with numerous interesting and amusing anecdotes. For those following the history of British theatre, this is a treasure trove of information regarding his time with the Marlowe Society at Cambridge, the Birmingham Rep, the National Theatre, the Old Vic/Prospect Theatre Company and of course, his highly successful tenure at the Royal Shakespeare Company in the early 1980s and after. Sadly, all this isn't indexed and one has to navigate via the chapter titles which of course is more than possible but not so convenient.

As mentioned by other reviewers though, a lack of proofreading and factual errors sometimes mar one's enjoyment of this otherwise very lovely book. As this is a collaborative effort between Sir Derek and Garry O'Connor (or to be more precise, the inside cover states that this is an 'as told to' book...it would have perhaps been better to explicitly state this on the front cover, or even in HarperCollins' press release/book description), it is rather difficult to know who (along with the proofreaders) is responsible for this.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ariel spiriting gently 10 Sep 2014
By J. Scott-mandeville VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Derek Jacobi has always been a favourite of mine and I loved his Hamlet (at the Old Vic) and fell off my seat laughing at his rendition of Benedict and his witty exchanges with Sinead Cusack as Beatrice in "Much Ado About Nothing". I adored his Claudius with the whole nation and lately enjoyed his portrayal of Alan in "Last Tango in Halifax". His gentle persona shines through this new autobiography as it has done through all his stage and TV performances.

Charming and unpretentious, in this book Jacobi has given his readers a tantalising glimpse of his life, focussing mainly on his career as an actor. He name-drops with aplomb, from "Sir" (Sir Laurence Olivier) to Ian McKellen and the book tends to read like a Who's Who of British theatre since the 1950s, but as Derek has spent his life in this world, the theatrical personalities are vital and essential threads of Jacobi's rich tapestry. There is an endearing candour in his writing - he doesn't pretend to be a great writer, telling his story in short, straightforward chapters without labouring points or boring his readers with tedious detail. An only child in a close-knit family, Jacobi makes no bones about his gay propensities, and delights in sly touches of humour and sometimes bold language and reference, but without a touch of malice. Jacobi's benign character shines through the pages as an Ariel "doing his spiriting gently".

Anyone interested in British theatre over the last half-century will enjoy this autobiography, and the refreshing lightness of touch which is Derek Jacobi's signature. A lovely book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Author in search of an editor 4 Jan 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
What has happened to our once great publishing houses? This autobiography by one of our finest and best loved actors is published by Harper Collins, a firm that I would have expected to produce better than this shoddy, cynical piece of work. The "Afterword and Acknowledgements" indicate that the book had been in preparation for seven years and that Garry O'Connor, its ghostwriter, had interviewed dozens of people during that period, presumably with the intention of producing a full biography. Did the publishers become impatient? Did someone at Harpers think it would be a great idea to cash in quickly on the success of Last Tango in Halifax? Who knows. But I strongly suspect the book is based entirely on an unedited transcription of tape recorded reminiscences by Jacobi, rushed into print without care or attention. No proof reading, no index, no fact checking, no second or third draft, no appendix listing his theatre, TV and film credits. Well, here's one member of the reading public who cares very much about omissions and errors, and who is becoming tired of books that reveal too clearly that some publishers are not doing their job properly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nothing more than okay 31 Jan 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Jacobi is a brilliant actor, and i could watch him forever. But he's really only an okay writer. He's articulate and clear, but ultimately I didn't feel engaged.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant enough - but factual errors 7 Oct 2013
Format:Hardcover
This was a pleasant quick read and Derek Jacobi emerges as a nice man (as you probably do from autobiography). But I was left with some serious doubts about the book.

First, it really does need an index. Surely part of the pleasure of theatrical memoirs is to be able to look up what the author says about his various contemporaries.

Secondly, there seems a worrying level of factual error. At least in the areas of Jacobi's life I'm familiar with. On just the first page of his account of student life at Cambridge, he begins by describing St. John's (his college) as the "third on the left down King's Parade after King's, Clare's and Trinity". Well... that would make it the fourth on the left, "Clare's" College is spelt "Clare" College, and neither Clare nor Trinity is actually on King's Parade (and nor is St John's for that matter). Immediately afterwards he mentions the beautiful St John's College chapel built by the college founder Lady Margaret Beaufort. But it wasn't - it's a nineteenth century building more than 400 years later than Beaufort. And Beaufort was John of Gaunt's great grand-daughter not, as the book would have it, his daughter.

On the same page Magdalene Bridge is spelt Magdalen Bridge, which is in Oxford. And a few pages earlier he tells us about his college admissions interview with a Fellow called Harry Hinsley who he describes, on several occasions, as The Master. But Hinsley wasn't Master of the College until twenty years later.

On one level this is of course nit-picking. But it did make me wonder about the rest of book. I'm not very familiar with the theatrical world, so how far could I trust what I was reading elsewhere? Perhaps it doesn't matter too much in a cosy memoir such as this, but if these "as told to" books aren't adequately copy-edited and fact-checked they can come across as shoddy, produced on the cheap efforts that reflect very poorly on the author. Derek Jacobi deserves better.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
One of my favourite actor's
Published 2 months ago by Gemma
5.0 out of 5 stars As Luck Would Have it
Being the same age as Derek most of his early childhood recollection reflected my own and it was a treat to go back down memory lane. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Jacqueline Vernon
3.0 out of 5 stars Shallow but entertaining memoir
Jacobi is one of the finest classical actors in the world - even if his very famous portrayal of Hamlet in the 1979 BBC production now seems pretty hammy - and considering this and... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Reviewer from Ireland
3.0 out of 5 stars Not my kind of Book
Did not enjoy it at all. He comes over as some very full of himself and very vain. I think he is an excellent actor
Published 5 months ago by pamela a davenport
2.0 out of 5 stars A diverting anecdotage
Jacobi’s memoir is episofic, occasionally amusing and unevenly edited. Many anecdotes jostle for position to no great effect. Read more
Published 6 months ago by barbicandy
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
I enjoyed this book and learnt many things i didn't know about,so very interesting.Would recommend to have a read defo.
Published 7 months ago by Joby
4.0 out of 5 stars A good actor and book.
If you love theatre lots of little insights which I liked. Very amusing and a very good read,,would recommend it.
Published 8 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Derek Jacobi.
A lovely book - he comes across as being a very nice man. I bought the book after watching him in the TV series Last Tango in Halifax, and glad I did.
Published 8 months ago by M. Richardson
5.0 out of 5 stars "STAR RATER"
Hi, what can one say he is such a brilliant actor and writer he just ticks all the right boxes or should I say stars.
Published 9 months ago by mark pompa
2.0 out of 5 stars luck nearly had it
The only problem with knowing the person is that one knows the true stories. It was still a joy to read.
Published 9 months ago by furball
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