Brian Cox torches Johnny Depp, Ed Norton, Michael Caine and more in new book

An older man with white hair
In his new book, veteran actor Brian Cox says what he really thinks about some of Hollywood’s biggest stars.
(Béatrice de Géa / For The Times)

Brian Cox minces no words in his new book when it comes to some of Hollywood’s revered actors.

The 75-year-old film and theater veteran torches the likes of Johnny Depp and Steven Seagal, as well as beloved stars Michael Caine, Jonathan Pryce and a “slightly sniffy” Gary Oldman, in his new memoir, “Putting the Rabbit in the Hat,” which was released Thursday in the U.K.

The Scottish actor, channeling his grizzled media magnate Logan Roy of “Succession,” has never been one to shy away from speaking his mind and does so with countless name-dropping anecdotes in the memoir.


He writes that Depp is “so overblown, so overrated,” Seagal is “as ludicrous in real life as he appears on screen” and that Edward Norton, with whom he starred in 2002’s “25th Hour,” is a “nice lad but a bit of a pain in the arse because he fancies himself as a writer-director.”

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Cox says he doesn’t regret passing on playing Governor Weatherby Swann in “Pirates of the Caribbean,” which he regarded as the “‘Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow’ show.”

Of Seagal, the martial artist with whom he co-starred in the 1996 police thriller “The Glimmer Man”: He “radiates a studied serenity, as though he’s on a higher plane to the rest of us, and while he’s certainly on a different plane, no doubt about that, it’s probably not a higher one.”

While he agrees that Caine is a legend, he rips into the two-time Oscar winner over his distaste of drunken actors — many of whom he readily names in the book.

“Michael Caine was no fan of the imbibing actor. I wouldn’t describe Michael as my favourite, but he’s Michael Caine. An institution. And being an institution will always beat having range,” Cox writes. “Caine was, and probably still is, very dismissive of the drunken-actor brigade, and one of his targets, of course, was Richard Harris, another famous drunk who became a friend.”


The forthright star also takes aim at rock star David Bowie (“not a particularly good actor”); “meretricious” director Quentin Tarantino, whom he’s never worked with; “silly” but “superb” Oscar-winning method actor Daniel Day-Lewis; and actor Michael Gambon, whom he mercilessly teases.

Their representatives did not immediately respond or were not immediately available Thursday for The Times’ requests for comment.

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“I’m expecting probably never to hear from some people again. But that’s the way it goes,” the candid star told the Big Issue, which also published several choice excerpts from Cox’s first book.

But it wasn’t all blood sacrifices in the tome. Cox also praises the late actor and “great friend Alan Rickman (“one of the sweetest, kindest, nicest and most incredibly smart men I’ve ever met”), and speaks kindly of co-stars Keanu Reaves and Morgan Freeman. He discusses greats Spencer Tracy, Peter O’Toole, Richard Burton and several theater actors he trod the boards with and also describes “Her” star Scarlett Johansson as “divine, funny, smart, wonderful” and “delightful.”

He says that director Spike Lee is “simply one of the best directors” he’s ever worked with and lauds Lee’s classic “Do the Right Thing” as a “flawless movie and absolutely timeless.”

“People associate him with African American subject matter, which is fine and fair enough, but they don’t realize that he’s a consummate cineaste,” Cox writes. “His knowledge of cinema is second to none. What’s more, I’ve never known a director to be so diplomatic.”

He also champions Lee for “very firmly” putting Norton in his place on the set of “25th Hour.”

“Putting the Rabbit in the Hat” will be available for U.S. readers on Jan. 18.