35 babies born to surrogate mothers in ukraine have been left stranded because their parents are unable to collect them due to coronavirus restrictions. ukraine closed its borders after the coronavirus outbreak making it impossible for parents to claim their babies. a whistle—blower and virus expert has warned the united states faces its darkest winter in modern history if the country fails to improve its response to the coronavirus pandemic. dr rick bright told a congressional committee that a resurgence of the virus could cause unprecedented illness and deaths. in england, accident and emergency visits have fallen by more than half since the pandemic started. there are concerns that tens of thousands of seriously ill people are not seeking help because of fears that they might catch the coronavirus in hospital, or be a burden on the health service. now on bbc news, hardtalk.
welcome to hardtalk. i'm stephen sackur. the global coronavirus pandemic has changed pretty much everything for almost everybody. it is, of course, a public health emergency, but it also is having massive economic social and cultural impacts. this very building usually houses our hardtalk studio. now, that is currently out of commission. but thanks to the wonders of modern technology, the show can go on, and my guest today is the much—acclaimed british actor brian cox, who is currently in the smash hit hbo tv drama succession. now, he is living in self—isolation in upstate new york, but i'm happy to say he is able to talk to me.
brian cox in new york state, welcome to hardtalk. welcome. thank you, stephen. well, thank you for inviting us into your home, so to speak, via your laptop. yeah. you have been living in brooklyn, now you're in a cabin in new york state. new york state, of course, is at the epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic in the us. what has life been like for you? well, i haven't — because i'm a diabetic, i haven't been engaging in anything apart from — the person who has been doing wonders is my wife. she's been fantastic. she's done the shopping and done all of that and she's very meticulous about gloves and masks and bacterial wipes. i mean, she does the whole bit. and ijust sit here kind
of like some kind of sacred cow. laughs. a sacred bull, i guess! a sacred bull — i beg your pardon, yeah! laughs. and you're laughing about it but it is stressful, isn't it? oh, yeah, it's very stressful! we have our two boys with us and they're beginning to get the cabin fever. i'm not too bad — i'm quite reclusive. i spend a lot of time, you know, flitting between here and london, and so i'm quite good at being reclusive, i'm quite good at doing — in fact, i think my wife is blessed that i'm actually doing nothing for the first time, except with stuff like this. life's never been busier, which is the irony of it! but of course you, like everybody, looks beyond your own window and it is very striking at how the world is now watching what's happening unfold in new york city. we're talking, you know, thousands dead, 100,000 and more
who've been infected. how does that impact upon you? because you have, as you say, you've got a home in new york city, you've got homes elsewhere, you've got a home in london. does it feel like new york is really suffering right now? from what i can tell — i mean, i'm in contact with a few people and they are fairly sequestered and fairly sensible and not, you know, not going out. in the country, it's a little more different because in the country, there's a sort of — it seems to be a bit more relaxed. but i haven't, as i say, i'm really not, i've really — you know, because i've got certain responsibilities, i've really decided that i really have cut myself off, and... but i know in new york — it's tough what's going on in new york. but also, there is so much kind of media hysteria, you know. it's sometimes difficult to know what is the right thing and what is the wrong thing, you know?
i find that — and especially with the american media, it's such an onslaught. in fact, i've almost — i mean, i'm very happy to watch the bbc, because it seems to be very sensible, and just, i get a little confused watching the other channels because i think, "what's going on? " it's a little bit over the top, if you can get my meaning. ido! and when we talk confusion, it has to be said there seems to be have some confusion in the mind of the american president, donald trump, who, for a long time, was saying that the lockdown should not last long, that americans needed and wanted to get back to work and keep the economy open. and there is this dilemma for not just him, but for all governments and leaders, is to get the balance right between the lockdown and the effort to really overcome this virus but not destroy the economy. do you think, from your vantage point in the us, that the americans have gotten it right right now? well, there's still a lot of confusion. i mean, there's a lot of stuff, you know, like, kushner isn't
going down particularly well. i was listening to an american general who was in charge of — who was in charge of the katrina situation, and he believes there's a lot of kind of hanky—panky going on with who's getting contracts to do what. and so there's an element where you feel, "0h, it seems to be a little bit of you scratch my back, i'll scratch your back going on" and ifind that kind of despicable. really, i'm more concerned about the people, and i'm more concerned about the — just common sense of doing what you should do, which is not to have social contact, to maintain your discipline of staying within your boundaries, and that's the best way to deal with it. at the moment, there's a lot of headless chickens, you know? let me ask you what it is like as an actor with great experience who's lived through all sorts of different crises in a long career spanning almost six decades, what is it like to see
all of the theatres in new york city dark, all of the theatres in london dark and empty, no filming — effectively, no filming at all happening around the world on movies. your industry is in total deep freeze right now. absolutely. i mean, it's tragic, absolutely tragic. there doesn't seem to be any other way that we can avoid not closing theatres. i mean, it's an awful situation. hopefully it's not going to last, but it is something that we have to deal with for the moment. interestingly enough, i'm actually involved in — there's a lot of people doing kind of independent virtual — well, i'm actually about to do a virtual film with three female directors in the uk. and there's a couple of us — one actorfrom la, there's an actor from denmark, wonderful claes bang, there's myself —
and we are doing this rather sweet, funny film about — called the agoraphobic society which is quite amusing. but there's a lot impeding on people and people — like, i keep thinking about the edinburgh fringe, you know, which is such a huge loss, a huge loss, and people like that william burdett—coutts who has so much invested up there. so, i really, my heart goes out to a lot of the theatre producers who are really, really having a tough time. one thing that is not going to happen, and many people around the world will be sad to ponder, is that succession, series three was due to going into preproduction, and that is not happening. what is going to happen to series three? we're just on hold. we will resume — as soon as it's safe to resume, we will resume, because, you know, the show is very popular and season three is there — they've got it, the guys have actually got it all written now, the guys and gals, and that's great. so it's ready to go but, of course, we have to get our various people from around the globe and also how we are — what the location is, and also, interestingly enough,
is do we acknowledge covid—i9 in the next series? so there's a lot of ifs and buts. but i do think we will be going on. i don't think that succession is, you know — i think succession will be happening, you know, but i think probably not until — i would have said safely august, september — i mean, yeah, july, august maybe. believe me, i'm going to come back to succession, but i want to flip the conversation a little bit and be more reflective as to you and your past. because as you say, you are now hunkered down, you are a diabetic, you're over 70, so you're in a high—risk category when it comes to coronavirus — sorry to mention it, but it's true — so this is a tough time for you. but it strikes me that in your life, you have known plenty of tough times, not least in your childhood and your youth. do you think that has well prepared you for a time like this?
i — you know, that's a great question, stephen. actually, i think in many ways it has, you know? i feel that the way that i've been very, very lucky in my profession because it's the one thing that my profession does not depend on is security. so we are always in a permanent state of insecurity, so — and there is nothing more insecure than our present time. so, in a way, it falls into character quite easily. where did you get your passion and drive for acting from, do you think? ‘cause you were — you know, many people will not know that you came from a family which suffered a lot in your childhood — your dad died of cancer when you were just eight, your mum had very serious mental illness and she couldn't really look after you, so siblings did much of that. and yet, despite leaving school early, not having good exam results, you were, it seems, absolutely determined to sort of get into acting and to make it.
where did that come from? well, it came — really, it came from my dad, you know, because i did have a blissful childhood up until i was — till my father passed away and my mother had these series of nervous breakdowns — and as a result, she had to have electric shock treatment, which was horrible. anyway, i — before that, i had a relatively pleasant childhood, and of course, one of the great celebrations for scots is hogmanay. so as a little boy, i was always able to stay up late and watch people sing, get drunk. you know, my mother used to make — bake steak pie at 4:00 in the morning her dressing gown. it was a kind of a weird kind of extraordinary time. and then my dad and my sister may — my sister may, they used to put me on the coal
bunker, which was my first stage, which was in a window recess with curtains, you know? and i used to perform at the age of 2.5. i used to perform jolson songs. i would do aljolson imitations, which would be a little politically incorrect today. laughs. so that was... and we always had a house full of people, you know? food and people coming in and out. and that was when i got that sense of performance. and the thing that happened to people, that you could see something light up in them and they would be very — even at that very young age, it stayed with me, and it kind of sort of marked me as far as my profession was concerned. and what is very striking is that you did come from, you know, pretty tough, poor, working class roots and after drama school and some, you know, fits and starts, you made it, both in stage, all the way to the national theatre and in movies, all the way to hollywood, and you were a working
class actor success story, and it seems to me now there are probably fewer of those stories than there were in the 19605 and ‘705. don't get me started, stephen! it's my pet hate! the whole business of how we educate our young in relationship to the arts and how little we care and spend on our young. you know, when i think of the ‘60s, which was a period of an extraordinary, extraordinary social mobility, when a lad like me when a lad like me who had a grant — i was paid for by the scottish education authority — i went to a drama school, i even had expenses paid. i mean, i actually did quite well, and even from — and i was rewarded for trying to do something — and that wasn'tjust me, that was the climate of the time. the ‘60s was like that. and it was that period which one has seen slow, bit by bit eradicated and put to one side,
and, you know? and i mean, i'm not going to dish anybody, you know, i mean, you know, fare dues to places like eton and harrow, and they've got these wonderful theatre establishments and they've, you know, spent the money and they've done it, but i do think — somebody like me, it's almost impossible now, you know? i mean, and especially now, we're going to have to reflect the now that goes on, and the now that's going on at the moment, our people are the working class people, are the nurses, are the lorry drivers, are the carers in homes. these are the people that we now have to begin to start reflecting in a way. and, you know, that's — behoves us to do so. it is fascinating, your take on your own industry, and how it fits to your wider society because it would be fair
to say that you have been a lifelong socialist? i have, yes. and it's fascinating that you chose consciously in the ‘80s and since the ‘80s to spend a lot of your time in the home of free—market capitalism and rugged individualism, the united states. why? earning a living. it's earning a living. it is disappointing history because you look at what has happened and what was possible. i did the campaign for the labour party in 1997 and i thought we were onto something that we could really shift the paradigm once and for all, and we didn't. it was also at the same time that i thought, hugger it, i have to earn a living because it is the same old, same old. we can't get out of the groove. we can't break the shackles of this feudalism. now, america has problems — huge, huge, huge problems. it is very much oriented to wealth class, which is extremely unpleasant.
i was on bill maher‘s show the other day and they were talking about socialism and they still regard socialism as ‘reds under the beds‘ and you are going, waita minute, hang on — that is not what socialism is about. socialism is about suffrage and welfare, welfare for all, and i still believe in that, even though, you know, as my brother would say, i have earned a crust or two. the passion and the belief is coming through loud and clear, but i am also mindful — i‘ve just made myself a few notes about the hollywood movies — the projects you have been involved in over the years. there was the the famous doing of hannibal lecter, the original, in manhunter, bourne identity, x—men, braveheart, all of these massive blockbuster projects, which, if we‘re honest about it, a lot of it is about making megabucks for the big hollywood studios, so, and here you are, the scottish socialist. in fairness to that, i have also done as much independent
films as i have done blockbuster films and the blockbuster films did allow me — it was not huge sums, but it did allow me to function more in the independent market and i‘ve always felt about the independent market. i have done — i think my list of independent films is almost as great as my list of studio movies. and let me ask you, just on the question of where the movie industry is and the culture — martin scorsese, i think at the end of last year, wrote a powerful piece about his concern that the movie business and the art form, more particularly, was being polluted by the sort of superhero comic book novel, which has become such a successful formula, that in his view, and i‘m quoting him, "they are not really movies, they are like theme parks. they‘re killing creativity. they are steadily eliminating artistic risk from this art form." do you feel the same way?
i‘m a little bit more temperate than he is, but i do feel the same way. what i love now, what i think the key thing now is television. you look at television and you realise that television really has gone so way ahead of the cinema. the cinema has become very, very archaic in its thinking and its being and its — of course it is run towards figures, and now it has to be rethought because all the best — as roberts burns said — the best—laid schemes of mice and men have gone well after gly of recent times. so, i think that the cinema is very in the past. television is something else. the long form, the writing is exceptional. 0ur writers on succession are all, in their own rights, brilliant writers. let me dig in to succession a little bit with you, brian, because it‘s been
such a worldwide hit. for those who have not seen it, you play this ruthless, bullying media mogul, logan roy, who some people see as a sort of symbolic rupert murdoch style figure. but your performance is ferocious. you say and you‘ve said when talking about it that you actually feel some sympathy for logan roy. you say that you empathise with him. i‘m wondering what it is about this ruthless bully that you like? well, there is this — we are seeing wonderful things at the moment, don‘t get me wrong. i think that there are such amazing acts of courage and bravery going on, it is humbling what‘s happening out there, but at the same time, you know, we hold the mirror up to nature. that‘s ourjob. that is what actors do. shakespeare said it and that is what we do. the mirror up to nature shows nature and all of its flaws and we are very
much in the middle of a kind of evolution where we have not quite evolved enough. we are quite disappointing in many ways. the human experiment is quite disappointing because of the avarice and the greed and all the stuff that goes with it and we see it every day, every time the american president opens his mouth, it isjust... let me stop you because that is such a depressing reflection. succession is expressing the spirits of our ties. i‘m old enough to have enjoyed west wing, for example, when it came out and there was such hope in that because the whole staff, the presidentialfigure in west wing was basically a good guy. but, stephen, it is not all about. it is about reflecting the time and we are in a very confused time. people like logan roy, he is a self—made man, this is the thing him and i have in common — we‘re self—made.
he has power and avarice and he is a nihilist, very much a nihilist, logan. and also cannot express — he loves his children and i asked jesse armstrong that question, iasked him, "does he love his children?" and he said, "yes, he certainly loves his children," but he has a funny way of expressing it. and i don‘t want to play the psychiatrist with you but it strikes me, you are a self—made man, logan royjust the same. you have had four kids and those kids have been brought up in a very different environment from yourself. are you saying to me that you, like logan roy, fear that your kids have been brought up in an environment where they‘ve been made spoilt and soft? do you think that‘s the experience of the modern child of a successful parent? i think that is a...there is the possibility of that. they are still in it young and forming themselves as personalities. we are here in this very enclosed
environment now with my two youngest boys, my 18—year—old and my 15—year—old, and actually they are going to extraordinary times. just hormonally, they are going through difficult times as kids and trying to make sense of a world that does not seem to make any sense at the moment! you know, it makes less sense now than it has ever done, so it is very hard to know what do they do — do they practice faith? do they practice meditation? do they follow some spiritual idea? how do they be who they are? how can they be who they are and be with themselves? and that is tough. and we...ourjob as artists and as playwrights and as actors and people of the theatre and people on television is to try and reflect the world as it is. you know, we don‘t makejudgements. we just say this is the world. it is ludicrous. i think the world is ludicrous. years ago, when i did titus andronicus, which was a play of shakespeare‘s that everybody dismissed as being an impossible
play, but then you realise in titus andronicus, all the great ideas of shakespeare‘s plays — all of them are in that play. and it is about the breakdown of structure. it is about rome finally imploding on itself and all the horribleness that comes out of it. now, that was written in 1593, or ‘92, and that shows a world which is still in a state of flux and that‘s what the drama does. that is what we reflect. that is ourjob. a final thought then. that continues to be yourjob and i can tell from your interview you are determined to make sure you keep going once this coronavirus is over, there is logan roy to revisit, you have done everything from titus andronicus to lear in the past, you just did lyndon johnson on broadway. are you as determined as ever to find these huge parts that say
so much about the times we live in? imean, for example, you said during the lyndonjohnson show, which is very physically demanding, you said, "i took it on because it was a challenge and, at my age, i wanted to see if the old muscles are still working." seems like they are! they are. but there is also the other side of it. i‘d just done this thing for the bbc in scotland, which is a character i did — you probably never saw it, but i think it was on bbc4 — called bob servant, an extreme eccentric, and he comes from my home town and that is a whole different thing. it‘s quite comedic, it‘s funny and i‘m doing this thing about, "stay in the house and wash your hands" and all of that. it‘s a public broadcast. that is the work. that is what we do. that is the greatjoy of what we do, the difference. we can‘t take sides. we have to empathise,
never sympathise — empathise and just show this the world. this is as it is, like it or not. brian cox, it has been a real pleasure talking to you on hardtalk. thank you very much indeed. delighted to talk to you, stephen. like i say, i am a great admirer. i have been watching your interviews now for the last three or four years and admired them enormously. well, that‘s a really lovely way to finish! thank you so much! i do appreciate that. hello. well, it‘s fairly chilly out there at the moment, but nowhere near as cold as the last couple of nights. last night in northern ireland, it was down to —6 degrees celsius, the coldest may night there in nearly a0 years. this morning, most major towns and cities will be generally above zero, but it is cold air that‘s sitting on top of us
at the moment. you can see the pale blue colours there. the really cold air‘s to the north of us, but we‘re certainly in that chilly air mass. we‘ll have to wait before the warmer air from the southern climes arrives, and that‘s not going to happen for a few more days. so, the forecast for friday morning, well, early hours of the morning shows some clear weather, but also patchy cloud. temperatures in norwich close to freezing. that does mean a ground frost outside of town, but more generally speaking, we‘re talking around 4—6 degrees. so, a bright start to the day. i wouldn‘t go as far as saying it‘s going to be a sunny day on friday, but it is going to be a bright one. there‘ll be some scattered clouds, and actually in the north of the country at times, it will cloud over and there will be a little bit of fleeting rain. now, temperatures are just starting to rise a little bit now. in fact, we‘re expecting around 17 degrees in the south of the country and around 13 degrees for our northern towns and cities. and friday and towards the weekend, we‘ll start to see high pressure building in from the south. this is actually going to help to introduce some
slightly warmer air from the southern climes, so day—by—day those temperatures will be creeping up just that little bit. saturday‘s actually going to be very similar to friday, so sunny spells across the uk and some spots of rain in the very far north of scotland, in the northern isles and the northern highlands. so, temperatures around 17 degrees again in london, but perhaps rising a little bit across the north of england there, 16 for yorkshire, 1a for glasgow and edinburgh. and then saturday night into sunday, we are going to see a change in western scotland and northern ireland. in fact, southwesterly winds will blow in cloud, moisture and a fair bit of rain, so it could be quite wet here second half of the weekend. around 15 degrees expected in the lowlands and in belfast, but to the south of that in london, those milder southwesterlies, temperatures will get up to around 20 degrees. and indeed, you can see those temperatures climbing as we head into next week. in fact, next week, the indication is that temperatures could hit the mid—20s, so again it‘s going to feel more likejune. that‘s it from me. bye— bye.
this is bbc news. i‘m david eades — a warm welcome to all of you in the uk and around the world. our main stories. the babies born to surrogate mothers but stranded due to the lockdown. we have a special report from ukraine. these are the 35 babies born here in ukraine, their parents all round the world. aid workers in yemen say there‘s been a dramatic rise in the number of people dying with coronavirus—like symptoms. england‘s teaching unions meet government scientists — to try and find a way out of the schools reopening stalemate. excitement mounts in new south wales as the state‘s pubs prepare to reopen after weeks of australian lockdown.