Talking Shakespeare with Albert Finney

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They met at the Old Vic (Youtube screenshot)

Actor Albert Finney is dead. Writer David Kirby on Facebook shared this memory, of a long-ago meeting in London:

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In 1976, I saw Ian McKellen and Judi Dench in Macbeth at the Young Vic. When it was over, I felt as though I’d been electrocuted. I rose in a daze and turned to the man in the row behind me. It was Albert Finney, who died Thursday at the age of 82. He looked much as he did in this photo, impossibly handsome and seemingly unaware of it. He also appeared as stunned by what he had just seen as I was. I told him my name and held out my hand, and as he took it, he inclined his head toward me politely and said, ”Mr. Kirby.”

I don’t recall a word of our conversation, but I do remember that his voice flowed like warm syrup. People shuffled past us as we talked, but nobody made anything of him. We were just a couple of guys talking about Shakespeare. The articles that have appeared since his death say that he didn’t care that much about celebrity (he refused to attend the Oscars and turned down a knighthood), and he certainly came across that way to me. What a night: seeing McKellen and Dench throw themselves around the stage was a life changer already, and then I’d talked to Albert Finney the way you do when you run into somebody at the grocery store. “Macbeth shall sleep no more,” says the would-be king in Act 2, Scene 2, and that night I walked the streets of London for hours.


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