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THE GHOST OF RICHARD HARRIS (2022,IRS)

I have a feeling that today we throw around adjectives like icon, legend and the like. This scattering led to the fact that the importance of those true icons and legends was diminished, and one of them is certainly the Irish actor and singer Richard Harris. A man who was followed throughout his life by the adjective Hellraiser, i.e. a guy who had problems and who constantly got into some dislocated situations, which he himself contributed to. Harris himself fueled his public image as a bad boy, a wild drunk and brawler whose bacchanalies were followed closely by the tabloids.

Harris is also a true relic of his time. If by any chance he was at the height of his fame today, this Irishman born in 1930 and died in 2002 would have been “cancelled” a long time ago and his behavior would have caused public outrage. I can resist the first drink, but not the second, is just one of countless iconic Harris statements whose spirit is captured and understood by his sons, Jared, Damian and Jamie, in Adrian Sibley’s award-winning documentary. And they all agree that Richard was not a godly father when they were children and that they saw him in rare moments after he sent them off to boarding schools.

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But through this film, all of them seem to be trying to figure out who Richard Harris really was. Was he really the wild, frenzied drunkard whose rampages were enjoyed by the tabloids, or was it just one of his self-created characters to mask his true self? Did he act like that precisely because of that public image and because of the audience, which always expected him to do something stupid when he appeared, so in the end he himself believed that he was that character? Was it actually the best role of the great actor Richard Harris, who was also known to younger generations thanks to his roles in “Unforgiven”, “Gladiator” and “Harry Potter”?

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Although it is not a classic biographical documentary, we also get some details from his life and how he became an actor through a play of fate. In Ireland, young Harris hoped to be a professional rugby player, but a serious illness took him down another path, and he remembers how, after arriving in England in the 1950s, like all other Irish people, he was looked upon as an inferior species, a peasant destined for some manual work. He also recalls escapades and drinking with the rest of the crew from his generation, such as Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole, but also how such behavior was met with approval at the time and only strengthened his status as a star and a macho guy always ready for a good fight.

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We drink because we love it and we enjoyed getting drunk, says Harris in one of the interviews, but because of this public image, it was often forgotten that he is a top actor. Just look at Lindsay Anderson’s “This Sporting Life” from the early sixties or Jim Sheridan’s wonderful “The Field” from 1990. What kind of roles and what kind of films are they. The fact is that during the 1970s and 1980s Harris really acted in everything and anything, he even had a relatively successful singing career, but he was a man of incredible charisma, energy and talent who largely self-destructed with rampant alcoholism and drugs, and this documentary brings great insight into his personality and life.

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