“I always look for the weak parts in any character I’m asked to play. I try to find out what he’s frightened of to justify what he covers up. There’s always a seed there. The trick is to find it.”
Denholm Elliott, accomplished actor and veteran of over 70 films, stars as the eccentric Elliot Templeton in Columbia Pictures’ “The Razor’s Edge”
For Elliott the actor, Elliot the character, an elegant, foppish American who tried (and failed) to introduce Larry Darrell to Paris society, was not an easy role to flesh out. “Maugham never actually got around to describing Elliot Templeton properly in the book. He just showed you a facade. I suspect the character was never adequately revealed in the book because he was very much like Maugham,” Elliott proposes.”With 40-odd years as a character actor, I find it best to build a character and give it background even if it’s not in the script,” says Elliott.
“The image of Elliot Templeton I have is that he had decided very early on what the framework of his life was going to be: he would only mix with the very grand people in order to give himself an equally grand sense of importance and security. On the other hand, he was very kind and knowledgeable about history and literature.
“Elliot Templeton is really a lonely old man surrounded by his beautiful works of art- a man with a rather hollow life. People often seek out others seemingly
more fortunate than themselves in order to elevate their own station in life,” comments Elliott. For Elliott, it was almost coincidence that he happened to be cast in “The Razor’s Edge.” He recalls, “Oddly enough, I had just read the novel before they offered me the film. Actually, it was the film’s lighting cameraman, Peter Hannan, who suggested to John Byrum and Bill Murray that I should play Elliot Templeton.”
Director Byrum concurs, “Peter had worked with Denholm many times, so we trusted his judgment. Seeing Denholm in Shirley Russell’s wonderful costume on his first day was truly a revelation. He was born to play this part-he was Elliot Templeton.”
One of the things Elliott enjoys most about acting is the opportunity to travel, and it is a certain wanderlust, he feels, that has helped shape his career. “I love to
travel and for this reason I have always made a point of looking for work outside my home waters of British theatre and television. One of the reasons I was attracted to ‘The Razor’s Edge’ was that it’s an American film and, on a business level, it’s important to me that the film is going to be seen in the States.” Elliott, who has made a career thus far comprised several notable character and supporting roles, comments, “I’m often given parts which aren’t as big as they are colorful, but people remember them. When it’s a minor or supporting role, you learn to make the most of what you’re given, so I’ve learned how to make two lines seem like ‘Hamlet!’ I try not to waste any time I have on screen and when I get a big part like Elliot Templeton, I use every second.”
Source: Columbia Pictures Press Release (1984)