Kate is an actress who's interested me ever since an interview with the Bluebells in Record Mirror in early 1983 in which one of them expressed an interest in "Bill Oddie's daughter" to which the aghast hack responded with "Kate Hardie ? She's only 13! ". I was intrigued to know what sort of girl could elicit such an indiscretion from the Scottish songstrel and it also reminded me of an encounter I had on a bus going into Rochdale in 1980 with an old lady who claimed to be Bill Oddie's mother. It was possible that I had actually seen this girl in the flesh. When I finally glimpsed her two years later in the under-rated crime drama Travelling Man she wasn't someone I recognised but was definitely worth investigating. The Bluebells interview is still intriguing because I can't work out what would have put Kate in the public eye before her first film ( hardly a blockbuster ) later that year.
Kate was born in 1969 to the birdwatching Goodie and his first wife Jean Hart in Hampstead London and may never have set foot in Rochdale. She had an eventful time at 14 acquiring her first film role without any experience or parental permission and shacking up with a boy ( what were Social Services doing ?). As we'll see Kate was active throughout the eighties and nineties but hasn't had a film role for over 10 years now. In part this is due to her pursuing ambitions to be a writer and director ( without conspicuous success so far ) but she also has a reputation for being difficult on set and for retrospectively bad mouthing her directors. There's also a well-documented history of mental health issues in the Oddie family which may be a factor.
Kate has been married to a photographer and has one son. She has also had relationships with actors Dorian Healy and David Thewlis. She's not a conventional beauty with a completely natural trout pout but gorgeous brown eyes make her attractive.
Kate is herself an active blogger and you can read her usually lively thoughts at www.stillgrumpymshardie.blogspot.co.uk but beware her erratic approach to punctuation.
You will note that this isn't a very well-illustrated post since many of Kate's film roles have been very small and therefore it's hard to find a still to use. If anyone can help please get in touch.
1. Runners (1983)
2. Revolution (1985)
Kate's next two films saw her caught up in a bigger story, namely the fate of the British film industry. In the mid-80s, with cinema audiences shredded by the home video boom and with a laissez-faire government quite content to see film go the way of cotton and steel, the industry was widely reported to be receiving the last rites and dependent on two big films from Goldcrest Films ( the only British player ) released in the first half of 1986 for its very survival.
The first was this one, an epic set during the American War of Independence directed by Hugh Hudson ( of Chariots Of Fire fame ) and starring Al Pacino. It was a notorious box office disaster which blighted both men's careers - in Hudson's case permanently. The two collaborated on a director's cut version released on DVD in 2009 - Hudson blamed a premature release caused by Goldcrest's financial difficulties for is failure - which added a Pacino voiceover and changed the ending and that's the version I've seen. It might also have removed Kate from the film ; although she's credited towards the bottom of the cast list as "Carrie" I didn't spot her.
I don't like recycling received wisdom and have enjoyed other films that the critics savaged but they were dead right here. This is over-long, incoherent , episodic, miscast and emotionally sterile. The basic story concerns Tom Dobb ( Pacino ) a widowed, illiterate fur trader who, with his remaining son Ned ( Sid Owen then Dexter Fletcher ) sails unwittingly into fervid New York on the eve of revolution and can't escape being dragged into the war for the next few years to protect the hotheaded Ned. Along the way they keep bumping into Daisy ( Natassia Kinski ) a rebel patriot from an Anglophile family.
There's little more in the way of plot than that ; the film proceeds as a series of disconnected episodes which range from uninteresting to downright embarrassing. The battle scenes are under-manned and unconvincing and take place all too obviously in England. There's very little historical context to what's going on, a fault that the added voiceover does nothing to correct. It seems more like an inadequate sticking plaster attempting to cover for the extreme paucity of the dialogue and often seems to be sending out a different message to the action. The American army sergeants are shown to be as callous as their British counterparts and eventually fail to honour their promises to Dobb so there's no motivation whatsoever for his hokey homage to Uncle Sam at the end of the film.
Much of the criticism was aimed at Pacino for his indeterminate accent and he sat out the rest of the eighties. It's not great and wrecks his biggest emotional scene with Owen by making it unintelligible , but compared to some of the film's other failings it's a relatively minor issue. Maybe it's just relief that this was made before the urge to bawl his way through a film took hold of him but I think his performance is quite acceptable given how awful the script is. His isn't even the worst accent ; Donald Sutherland's attempt at a Northern English accent is even worse than the Irish one in The Eagle Has Landed and makes his main villain a comic figure.
The relationship between Dobb and Daisy must be the least convincing screen romance in cinematic history from the moment it's kindled in a truly ludicrous scene where she wanders onto a battlefield and finds Tom and Ned having a kip in its midst to its abrupt termination in the revised version ( still probably an improvement on the original ). Kinski is astonishingly bad in a film chock full of terrible acting ; only Richard O Brien's way over the top pantomime turn as an English officer is worse . The father/son relationship isn't much better realised with neither Owen nor Fletcher impressing. Annie Lennox , continuing her unhappy relationship with the cinema ( see the 1984 review in the Suzanna Hamilton post ) gets her cameo over with in the first ten minutes as a rabble rouser and is actually one of the better performers.
3. Mona Lisa ( 1986 )
The predictions of doom for the British film industry were rather exaggerated in hindsight though fairly accurate for Goldcrest itself . At the time, the sinking of Revolution led to an extraordinary media overkill surrounding the release of Goldcrest's next picture a couple of months later. The massive over-hype for Absolute Beginners probably did more than harm than good to a decidedly mediocre film which couldn't begin to bear the weight of hope and expectation with which it was sadddled. However there was a British success story just around the corner , not involving Goldcrest though, and Kate was a ( small ) part of it.
The film, director Neil Jordan's third, is a contemporary crime thriller with an unlikely romance driving the action. George ( Bob Hoskins ) is an old school villain, just released from prison after a long stint and expecting a pay-out for keeping shtum from his associate "Dinny" Mortwell ( Michael Caine ). What he receives is a job chauffeuring a prostitute Simone ( Cathy Tyson ) and collecting evidence of her liaisons for blackmail purposes. George begins to fall for Simone and accepts a task from her to find another young prostitute Cathy ( Kate ) who has gone AWOL.
The film was a major success with Hoskins receiving an Oscar nomination and the stardom that should have been his after The Long Good Friday. Likewise Jordan was set up for a prosperous directing career just as Revolution shut the door in Hudson's face.
It's an important milestone in the line of British crime thrillers. George is a relic , his code of honour hopelessly out of place in the nightmarish new world driven by drugs , sex and social climbing with random violence likely to break out at any moment . In turn the film has started to age - a sympathetic character like George wouldn't be allowed to be a homophobe without challenge now and the psychopathic pimp Anderson wouldn't be played by a black guy ( Clarke Peters ) - but it's still very enjoyable.
Hoskins is superb as George. It's difficult to believe an ex-con would be quite so naive about the world outside but Hoskins pulls it off and the one-sided romance draws you in completely. You can feel George's pain as the truth dawns. Michael Caine is also at his best playing an utterly despicable character whose false matey-ness makes him even worse. Tyson won a lot of plaudits for an assured film debut and probably deserved a few more chances than she got before having to settle for a solid career on British TV. Robbie Coltrane injects some droll humour as George's pal Thomas and even the dreaded Sammi Davis isn't too bad as a pitiful whore.
Kate memorably first appears being sodomised with a rubber glove by a dirty old man. The scene isn't particularly graphic and Kate later accused Jordan of not fully explaining its nature to her. Her performance is good but there's not enough back story to the character to make you care much about her which is just as well as her fate is left completely in the air.
4. Cry Freedom ( 1987)
Kate re-appeared the following year in Sir Richard Attenborough's big budget factual drama about Steve Biko, South Africa's second most famous freedom fighter.
Steve Biko was a former student activist whose Black Consciousness Movement inspired the Soweto uprising brutally put down by security forces in 1976. The following year he was arrested and died after a month in captivity in beyond-suspicious circumstances. His death significantly ratcheted up international pressure on the apartheid regime due to the efforts of his white journalist friend Donald Woods in publicising his case.
This is the story Attenborough was bringing to the screen with Kevin Kline as Woods and Denzel Washington, in his breakthrough role, as Biko. With Woods and his wife as principal consultants on the film Attenborough tried to be as scrupulously accurate as possible except where it was necessary to protect the identity of Biko associates still living in South Africa.
This meticulous attention to strict accuracy does lead to some major problems. One is that the film is seriously over-cast with more speaking parts than any other film that I can readily recall ; every time Woods has an encounter with the state police it's someone different and it becomes confusing. Similarly everyone who aided Woods's flight to Lesotho in any way gets their five minutes without any real explanation of who they are. Some compositing of the minor characters would have made it easier to follow.
It also leads to the refusal to depict what actually happened during Biko's spell in the clink. One minute he's being arrested, the next he's comatose on the floor of a cell. To anyone not previously acquainted with the facts this must seem a very strange directorial decision
particularly when the Soweto massacre ( itself placed at a very odd point in the narrative ) is rendered quite graphically
Added to these problems the film is over-long particularly after Biko's death when he has to keep re -appearing in not very illuminating flashbacks lest we forget who it's all about. At times the film has a very cut and paste feel to it. It's also, despite the obvious dangers
that the characters court, curiously lacking in tension. The whole last third of the film concerns Woods's high risk escape from the country disguised as a priest but it's never exciting.
On the plus side it's not as preachy as I expected , the white case not being entirely unheard or put in the mouths of cartoon villains.
The cast is interesting with Brit telly stalwarts like Penelope Wilton and Kevin McNally rubbing shoulders with the Hollywood names. I didn't find either of the latter very convincing. Kline brings a conceited smugness to his portrayal of Woods that probably wasn't intentional or warranted while Washington gives Biko a goofy college boy quality that doesn't square with my idea of the man ( or surviving footage ). He got an Oscar nomination as best supporting actor but wouldn't have got my vote. The best performance is actually John Thaw ( in a rare post-Sweeney film role ) as the odious , hypocritical police minister Kruger who should have had more scenes.
Kate plays Woods's eldest daughter Jane but she isn't given that much to do beyond looking soulfully at her dad as he makes his big decisions. Tantalisingly there are one or two shots where she's in a white bikini but taken from at least a couple of miles away.
5. Melancholia ( 1989 )
Kate returned to film, after a short stint as a young nurse in Casualty, to play a small role in this Anglo-German political/pyschological drama. It has nothing to do with the recent Lars von Trier film of the same title.
This film stars Jeroen Krabbe as Peter Keller , a radical German activist in the heady days of 1968 but now a bored art critic based in London, facing up to middle age with an unfinished book and a growing drink problem. In the early part of the film he receives two offers, a holiday let in Italy so that he can finish the book, arranged by old flame Catherine ( Susannah York ) and a commission from old associate Manfred ( Ulrich Wildgruber ) to assassinate a Chilean torturer who is due to visit Britain.
This is a fairly obscure film but actually very good. Despite the trappings of its time, the VHS cassettes , antique telephones and Kate's Nick Kamen hairstyle , it feels very contemporary. Some of the intricacies of the plot were lost on me because two key scenes where Peter and Manfred hook up are in German without subtitles but it didn't prevent my enjoyment. It's thoughtful without being ponderous and delivers one or two surprises including one of the more ingeniously planned screen murders.
The cast is excellent. Krabbe shows what he can do when not playing hammy villains in Hollywood with a sturdy central performance , outwardly urbane and impassive but inwardly desperate to keep the embers of his youthful self glowing. Wildgruber is seedily good as the manipulative Manfred who knows which buttons to press and Jane Gurnett ( herself to go on to Casualty as a Tory-supporting nurse ) is chillingly perfect as the widowed torture victim living only for revenge. One other cast member of note is comedian John Sparkes in a small straight role as an art exhibitor who looks and sounds like George Osborne.
Kate has a small but important role as Catherine's daughter Rachel whose animal rights activism helps Peter decide which way to jump. She's as good as anyone else in this very under-rated movie.
6. Conspiracy (1989)
7. The Krays ( 1990 )
This was Kate's first fully adult film role and probably her best known as the film does get shown regularly on ITV.
This biopic of London's infamous criminal clan had been trailed for most of the preceding decade, having first been mentioned by the Kemp brothers in interviews going back to 1982. By the time it actually came out Spandau Ballet were down the dumper so expectations weren't exactly high for a film starring a couple of has-been pop stars in the title roles.
The film traces the lives of the twins ( Gary Kemp plays Ronnie, Martin is Reg ) from their rough and ready upbringing in the rubble-strewn East End to the two murders which eventually saw them banged up for life. Like , I suspect, many people from up North ( although Morrissey's an obvious apostate ) I've always failed to understand the enduring fascination Londoners seem to have with these two violent thugs who got exactly what they deserved and their wilfully blind mother . Thankfully the film doesn't shy away from the violence and eschews any fatuous scenes of old ladies being helped across the road. Ronnie is portrayed as the unpredictable psychopath he was and Reg as his only relatively calmer neanderthal sidekick with perhaps an even greater love of violence. Violet their mother isn't shown to be overtly complicit but, as played by Billie Whitelaw, you feel she must have had some inkling what was going on.
The general reception for the film in 1990 was positive - "better than expected" was the usual comment. Both Kemps were able to move on to other acting work though it shouldn't really have been a surprise that they were competent as both had been to the Anna Scher stage school. The film is good on period detail although the East End streets look a little under-populated. My main criticism of the film is that it is a bit episodic and thin on narrative - you don't get much sense of who the brothers are fighting or why Cornell and McVite were singled out for the ultimate sanction.
Other performances worth mentioning are those of Tom Bell, splendidly seedy as Jack The Hat and Susan Fleetwood as scary Aunt Rose who's more frightening than either of the boys. And then there's Stephen Berkoff as George Cornell who must still be finding bits of the set in his cavities even now ; I'm struggling to think of any other OTT performance that outdoes it.
Kate plays Reg's mentally fragile wife Frances and is excellent, the sympathetic female character the film needs. The scene where she's pleading fruitlessly with Reg to stop pulverising two guys just for looking at her is very powerful. As an example of an abusive relationship without violence ( at least not to each other ) it's salutary and her ultimate action is entirely understandable.
8. A Small Dance ( 1991 )
9. Under The Sun ( 1992 )
10. Jack And Sarah ( 1995 )
When this one popped up on the list of Kate's films I was quite surprised as I had seen it in the cinema when it first came out ( a frighteningly long time ago ) and didn't remember her being in it at all. She plays Pamela, the sister of the first Sarah and therefore aunt of the second. She is completely wasted playing a superfluous character, required to do nothing more than look doleful in a handful of early scenes and she looks plump and dowdy. No wonder I'd forgotten her.
Jack ( Richard E Grant ) is a well-heeled London lawyer moving into an unfinished house with heavily pregnant wife Sarah ( Saffron Burrows ) to a dire mid-nineties soundtrack of Simply Red, Omar and the Lighthouse Family. When she dies after giving birth to a girl he goes off on a drunken bender with a tramp William ( Ian McKellen ) who's been living in his skip. Once he's been persuaded by his parents ( Judi Dench and Graham Crowden ) and mother-in-law ( Eileen Atkins ) to accept responsibility for baby Sarah he rejects their advice and appoints an inexperienced American waitress Amy ( Samantha Mathis ) to be nanny.
Though outwardly dissimilar , the influence of Four Weddings And A Funeral hangs heavily over this film. There's the same attempt at blending comedy with tragedy, a plummy-voiced leading man and an American actress to hook the Yanks ( they didn't bite ) . It's likeable enough but no classic. You could drive a coach and horses through some of the holes in the script. How come Jack's descent into drunken depression has no effect on his job ? What exactly causes Sarah's death ? What is William's back story ? The lack of information on this latter point renders his redemption particularly implausible. And if I'm not mistaken there's a classic continuity goof when a full table of diners at Amy's restaurant vanishes into thin air.
Some of these gaps could have been filled by sacrificing the lame comedy of the first half hour which seems to be primarily there to give Burrows a decent amount of screen time and which unfortunately allows Grant to treat us to his Withnail histrionics once again.
You might gather from that that I'm not his biggest fan which is true and was the case before he tried to steal my taxi outside Manchester Town Hall a few years ago ( it was pre-booked so he didn't succeed ). He's actually OK in this once Sarah's gone and it is the performances that save this film. Mathis's character isn't particularly well-written but she's so charming it doesn't matter and makes the hokey, obvious ending unexpectedly affecting. The thespian firepower of McKellen and Dench is well-deployed particularly the latter in an admirably unflattering role. The same is true of Cherie Lunghi as Grant's hard-faced boss. The only bum note is Laurent Grevill brought in as Amy's former boss/lover because it's an Anglo-French venture but an unnecessary pouting bystander in the overall scheme of things.
11. Croupier ( 1998 )
Owen plays Jack Manfred a struggling writer persuaded by his father ( Nicholas Ball ) to return to the world of casinos. He gets a job as a croupier in a London casino to the disapproval of his girlfriend Marian ( Gina McKee ) and soon gets involved with fellow dealer Bella ( Kate ) and all manner of shady goings on. He also gets involved with a punter Jani ( Alex Kingston ) who comes up with a dangerous proposition.
This is a very aggravating film which always disappoints just as it's threatening to get interesting. There are two major problems. One is the concept that Jack is writing a book about his experiences so you have much of the action explained by Owen's third person voiceover with plenty of laboured gambling metaphors. This rapidly becomes very irritating. The other problem is that none of the plot strands seem to be resolved; even the death of a major character is left hanging in the air.
Owen gives his usual plank-ish performance. McKee struggles to make sense of an unconvincing character and Ball is as dislikeable as ever. The pluses are Kingston ( briefly nude at one point ) and Alexander Morton as the straight casino boss. Although second-billed, Kate isn't actually in it that much and her character doesn't make a lot of sense either. She is briefly topless but looks rather dowdy for most of the film.
12. Heart ( 1999 )
13. The Announcement ( 2000 )
14. Die Helden ( 2000 )
15. I Am Dina ( 2002 )
If this one really does mark the end of Kate's film career it wasn't a bad pick for a swansong.
It's a Norwegian melodrama with a largely home grown cast. Dina is a young girl in nineteenth century rural Norway who inadvertently causes the death of her mother in a terrible accident ( one of the most horrendous screen deaths I've ever seen ). Shut out by her grieving father ( Bjorn Floberg ) the adult Dina ( Maria Bonnevie ) grows up to be a woman of violent passions , haunted by her mother's ghost and unable to shake off her association with loss and death. Just your typical Scandinavian feelgood movie really.
It's not all doom and gloom though. There are humorous moments usually at the expense of Gerard Depardieu as the husband who finds he's bitten off more than he can chew with Dina. Women viewers no doubt cheer as Dina regularly worsts almost every male assailant in a fight and takes command in both bedroom and board room. It's not unfair to the men ; even the most unpleasant character, Dina's resentful stepson Niels ( Mads Mikkelson ) an embezzler and rapist is allowed some humanity. The cinematography is superb although admittedly it would take a genius to make a mess of Norway's scenic qualities.
I have the odd quibble. Sometimes it's hard to make out the dialogue with the Norwegian accents and it's a bit too long. Dina's affair with a Russian anarchist ( Christopher Eccleston ) is the least interesting of her relationships but dominates the latter part of the film.
As Dina , Maria Bonnevie is stunningly beautiful especially in the nude scenes ; her breasts are stupendous. She also makes light work of the physical demands of the role. I'd hesitate to call her a fantastic actress because she relies too much on a wide-eyed fixed stare which becomes wearing over two hours. The supporting performances are all good particularly Depardieu as the pathetic beta male and Floberg as the father whose heart has turned to ice.
Kate has a small-ish role as Stena the wet nurse ( though I suspect it isn't her breast in the feeding shot ) and, subsequently , nanny to Dina's son. She has one good scene giving her a triumph over Niels in a stormy encounter.
Kate's never going to be a major star now but as she's still a working actress on TV there's no real reason why we won't get to add another film here.