The skyscraping successes and abysmal failures of Richard Harris’s enduring and motley career as movie star, pop singer, poet and political loudmouth, as emblemized by milestones and breakdowns across the razed landscape of his personal life.
Callan (Anthony Hopkins, 1994, etc.) maps Harris’s untamed roots in Northern Ireland, introducing a character more interested in rugby, girls and showboating than in school or his family’s mill business. Harris’s later addictions were varied and due not solely to drugs and drink, and, in fact, Callan interestingly presents a codependency between Harris and his acting career that resulted in staggering volatility and self-loathing. The relationships Harris forged with the myriad women in his life eventually imploded as each creative endeavor he undertook transformed him into Mr. Hyde, unable to balance craft with moderating elements designed to temper him. Engulfed by perfectionism, overindulgence and an unquenchable desire for adoration, he gnawed at and eviscerated the professional and personal relationships he made, leaving in his wake tortured women, awestruck reviews for his ability to surrender himself to roles, and a menacing off-screen persona charged by brio and swinging fists. As Harris’s official biographer, Callan became as much a part of the erratic life of the provocative trouper as he could, and he wasn’t spared rancor when Harris felt betrayed by Callan’s journalistic behavior. What’s written is a reflective biography of Richard Harris, from Kilkee to Hollywood, King Arthur to Albus Dumbledore, “gleaned from years of acquaintanceship and the best of his own memories.” Sadly, intimate details of Harris’s role as family man are absent, but Callan provides a thorough enough life’s history, unafraid to veer away from ribald theater tales that would certainly ramble into stale and obvious territory. Callan’s meticulous account focuses sharply on a plagued craftsman who acted passionately and carelessly to dismantle the very things he loved—and had worked to accomplish.
Through Callan’s astute composition, Harris transcends the anticipated gin-soaked reputation.