From Robert Sean Leonard To Michael Sheen

First and foremost, if you’ve not checked out any of my previous Six Degrees posts, i’d urge you to do so. The basic premise of the game has been explained before but to quickly sum up, I take two actors and try to link them through film and TV appearances. It’s basically Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon, but without Kevin Bacon. Except for the times when it includes Kevin Bacon. Moving on…

Six Degrees Saturday is brought to you this week by the geeky, fandom frazzled brain of my eldest Child Unit, Skye. She is obsessed with both House and Good Omens, among other things, so she offered up this little beauty.

OK, she sent it to the wrong Twitter account (Al Vimh is also me, of course, but still…) but i’ll let her off, she’s a good kid and bakes a fine cupcake. That’s not strictly relevant, i’m just hoping she’ll see this and do some more baking this weekend.

Anyway, as requested i’ve managed to dredge up assorted links and trivia from the canyons of my mind to connect two of Skye’s favourite actors. I then researched and wrote up, as usual. To make it a little more interesting(1) I decided to try and make the connection using only shows and movies from her favourite fandoms. So, Robert Sean Leonard to Michael Sheen, here we go.

Poorly photoshopped image of Robert Sean Leonard and Michael Sheen together
This is what happens when I try to do photoshop. I’m sorry.

First stop, House. Skye’s been hooked on this show for a while now and after much cajoling, she forced me and her mother to watch too. Now the whole house is hooked. Well, Callum (our youngest) isn’t all that into it, but I think that’s less to do with the show and more to do with his sister’s obsession. I mean, I always loved Friends but MY sister’s insistence on watching it to death when we were younger very nearly put me off.

So, we begin with House, starring Robert Sean Leonard as Wilson, oncologist and long-suffering best friend of the eponymous Dr Gregory House, who is in turn played by the multi-talented Hugh Laurie. The relationship between Wilson and House is incredibly touching, deeply dysfunctional and always utterly hilarious. The chemistry between the two actors is undeniable and over the time of filming they have become firm friends, something which thrilled Skye to bits, as she spends an awful lot of time telling me that Laurie and Leonard are the absolute best of men and also that Wilson and House belong together forever, much in love and riding a tandem bicycle through a lovely meadow. Something like that, anyway.

I have been a fan of Hugh Laurie for as long as I can remember. I grew up on A Bit Of Fry And Laurie and have such deep affection for both Mr Laurie and Mr Fry, I truly feel they are two of the all time great comedic talents. That love seems to have rubbed off on Skye also, as she watched and re-watched all of A Bit Of Fry & Laurie on Netflix time and again, before finally ordering the complete DVD box-set. It now sits on a shelf in her room, between House and Dead Poet’s Society, gathering dust because it’s still on Netflix and who gets up to put discs in when you can stream?

Fry and Laurie have provided me with many years of laughter and also my next link, the great man himself, Stephen Fry.

Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie
“Fancy a splash of Double Entendre, sir?”

I have read everything that Stephen Fry has written and probably watched everything he’s ever starred in. I think he’s a brilliant man with a brilliant mind and he’s on my fantasy dinner party list(2), although that would pretty much just be him, Stone Cold Steve Austin, me and Kevin Smith eating fish and chips and working our way through a bottle of Springbank whiskey. I’m a simple man.

To get to my next link, I need to talk about another great love that I share with Skye, the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. To be more specific, we’re both absolutely nutty about Sherlock Holmes. I’ve always adored detective stories (I still want to do my Columbo podcast…) and there’s arguably no greater detective than the deerstalker sporting master of deduction. Skye is equally enamoured with Mr Holmes and that love has spread across multiple adaptations. She is currently reading through the complete works, she is utterly besotted with the BBC show and she’s also a big fan of both the 2009 film adaption and the 2011 sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows.

You’re wondering where the link is? I’m getting there. In Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows, we are introduced to the somehow ever more arrogant older Holmes, Mycroft, played to perfection by none other than Mr Stephen Fry. The interaction between Fry and Robert Downey Jr as the titular sleuth is fantastic and also the basis of the next link. From Stephen Fry to a man who made quite possibly the best Hollywood comeback of all time, Robert Downey Jr. Teeny-tiny, maybe-a-spoiler for Avengers: Endgame after the image.

Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man
“How the hell do I pee in this thing?”

I love him 3000. Robert Downey Jr has had his share of troubles but he’s come through them and cemented his place in the Hollywood Hall of Fame forever more. His portrayal of Tony Stark, the “genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist” who battles evil as Iron Man, is incredible. I once heard that Quentin Tarantino described Mickey Rourke as having being made to play the character of Marv in Sin City. Similarly, it sometimes seems that Robert Downey Jr was constructed in a Marvel Studios research and development lab somewhere in the desert, just so they could have the perfect man to play Stark and launch the highest grossing film franchise of all time.

Of course, it’s not fair to give all the credit to Robert Downey Jr, as the entire MCU is wall-to-wall talent, from the actors to the CGI geniuses to the scriptwriters, it’s a perfect combination of ingredients making up a hugely entertaining cake. Mixed metaphor aside, you get the point i’m trying to make, the MCU is amazing (and another of Skye’s obsessions) and that’s thanks to a whole lot of people who’ve worked damn hard to make it so. Take Benedict Cumberbatch, for example.

An otter and Benedict Cumberbatch
“…no, it’s a trick. They’re BOTH otters.”

In another piece of perfect casting, they picked renowned otter impersonator Benedict Cumberbatch to play Earth’s mystical defender, Dr Stephen Strange. I can genuinely only think of one other person that I think could do this role justice and he’s already playing Iron Man. Dr Strange is a character with a fantastic origin tale and some truly brilliant story arcs, so I was ecstatic when they announced that he would be coming to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I loved the first film and by the hoary hosts of hoggoth, I can’t wait for the sequel.

As brilliant as Cumberbatch is in the MCU, if I were somehow put in charge of the planet and forced by alien invaders to make each actor play just one role for the rest of their careers(3), I would have to recast Dr Strange to free him up to play Sherlock. Yes, in another of those strangely serendipitous moments which seem to pop up every time I write one of these posts, i’m linking Sherlock to Sherlock! I’ve already mentioned Skye’s love for the modernised BBC adaptation of Sherlock, which is also one of my very favourite series. It’s cleverly written and brilliantly cast, a real jewel in the BBC crown. Now if they’d just pull their damn fingers out and give us another season…

Moving on from Sherlock, the chances are you’re already well aware of Benedict Cumberbatch’s tremendous vocal range. From countless Youtube clips of his impersonations and accents, to his turn as Smaug in the Hobbit movies(4), he’s definitely the man to go to for voice work (unless you want someone who can properly pronounce “penguin”) and don’t just take my word for it. Ask Neil Gaiman.

Neil Gaiman
“Why do people keep calling me Tim Burton!?”

After seeing Benedict Cumberbatch read various letters from throughout history as part of a charity event, Gaiman said he could think of no-one he would rather have portray Satan in a series he was developing at the time. Cumberbatch has a tremendous presence and ability to convey a powerful performance through voice alone, without the benefit of facial expressions and body language which are normally such a vital part of acting.

The series which Neil Gaiman was developing would go on to become one of Skye’s favourite things of all time. You’ve most likely already guessed that the series in question is Good Omens, featuring the infinitely adorable Michael Sheen. Seriously he just seems the loveliest guy. I think i’ll add him to that fantasy dinner party list, just so I can give him a hug and we can share a plate of biscuits and a pot of tea.

As for Good Omens, I cannot praise it enough. If you’ve not seen it, I urge you to do so as it is quite possibly the best book-to-screen adaptation I have ever seen. As a lifelong Pratchett fan and huge admirer of Neil Gaiman’s work also, to see their fantastic co-authored fantasy brought to life so lovingly is an absolute pleasure. I cannot praise the series enough and Skye would clearly agree, as it’s Good Omens which made her a fan of Michael Sheen and led in part to this post.

So there you have it, daughter mine. From Robert Sean Leonard to Hugh Laurie, to Stephen Fry, to Robert Downey Jr, to Benedict Cumberbatch, to Michael Sheen. Did it in five steps and all of them fandoms of yours. Now go and tidy your room.

(1) I wanted to link through Skye’s favourite fandoms, of course, but also I just could not think of a shorter route. Turns out, there’s a one man link. Robert Sean Leonard was in Dead Poets Society, alongside Josh Charles, who went on to feature in Masters Of Sex with Michael Sheen. That’s no fun though, so we’ll go with my rambling, roundabout silliness.

(2) Interestingly enough, my wife knows someone who knows Stephen Fry’s aunt. I think. OK, now I come to write it down maybe it’s not all that interesting…

(3) It’s 3am, don’t judge me too harshly.

(4) I could have saved a link, here. Stephen Fry is also in the Hobbit movies as the Master of Lake-Town. That means I could go from Robert Sean Leonard to Hugh Laurie, to Stephen Fry, to Benedict Cumberbatch, to Michael Sheen. The problem is, that wouldn’t have given me yet another opportunity to gush over the MCU. No deal.

As always, thanks to IMDB for the actor and movie info linked in this article. Not that they know about it, but i’m sure they wouldn’t mind.

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  1. You could have skipped the Cumberbatch link too, Michael Sheen was in Wilde starring Stephen Fry as Oscar Wilde and Bright Young Things which was directed by Fry.

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