Along with Michael Caine and Terence Stamp, Tom Courtenay is a living link to British cinema’s 1960s glory years, when his performances in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner and Billy Liar were key to the success of the British new wave. Courtenay is also a master of the theatre, having originated the title role of Alan Ayckbourn’s The Norman Conquests in 1974, and another Norman, in The Dresser in 1980, which he reprised in the successful film adaptation a few years later which nabbed him an Oscar nomination.
More recently, the Rada-trained actor won awards opposite Charlotte Rampling in the wintry marriage drama 45 Years; reimagined Clive Dunn’s Lance Corporal Jones for the 2016 cinematic update of Dad’s Army; starred in 2018’s King of Thieves with Michael Caine, Jim Broadbent and Ray Winstone; and voiced Prince Philip in 2019 animation, The Queen’s Corgi. Now – aged 85 – he’s back in The Railway Children Return – a sequel to the 1970 original set during the second world war in Yorkshire, with Jenny Agutter returning to the role of Bobbie as an adult.
So an extraordinary career – even before he was diagnosed and recovered from prostate cancer in 2004. Not even that deterred him. “I know you shouldn’t talk about it,” Courtenay told the Guardian in 2018, “but I’ve done some of my best work since I was diagnosed. Then there was my new hip in 2007, my eyes in 2018 ...” Here’s hoping he’s feeling a bit better in 2022.
In 1963, Courtenay released the single, Mrs Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter. He is president of Hull City’s official supporters’ club and has honorary freedom of the city of Hull. Oh, and he’s a Sir, so we’ll find out whether we have to curtsey and address him as such when we meet him next Tuesday 5 July to pitch your questions. So stick ’em below by noon on Monday 4 July, and we’ll print his replies in Film & Music on Friday 15 July and online.