David Morrissey

Presented by Professor Frank Sanderson

Honorable Pro-Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting David Morrissey for the award of an Honorary Fellowship of Liverpool John Moores University.  

When you watch a David Morrissey performance, you don't see the actor, you certainly don't see David Morrissey, what you do see is the character, completely invested and completely transformed into whatever the part requires. 

This observation is from director John Madden who has worked with David Morrissey on a number of projects. It was never more true than when David played Gordon Brown "with industrial strength dourness" in The Deal, which chronicled the famous meeting between Gordon Brown and Tony Blair.  

Someone said recently, "I can remember who played Tony Blair. It's just... Gordon Brown was so like Gordon Brown, I don't remember thinking of him as an actor."

When Gordon's former press secretary Charlie Whelan saw this brilliant piece of casting, he actually thought it was Gordon Brown - and David duly won a Royal Television Society award for the performance.  

David was born the youngest of four children in Liverpool's Kensington district in 1964. His mother Joan, brothers Paul and Tony, and sister Karen are here today. David had a happy childhood, moving to Knotty Ash when he was eight, but didn't much relish his schoolwork. When he was 11, a schoolteacher, Miss Keller, encouraged him to play the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, which he greatly enjoyed.     

Then seeing Ken Loach's film Kes convinced him that he wanted to become an actor. He joined the Everyman Youth Theatre and learned to act in the company of the likes of Pete Postlethwaite, Julie Walters and Bernard Hill, with further inspiration coming from playwrights Alan Bleasdale and Willy Russell. He actually became a Board member of the Everyman Theatre when he was 14, attending meetings alongside councillors and business people. 

Contemporaries at the Everyman always thought that David was the most likely to succeed - and his big break came at the age of 16 when he starred in Willy Russell's TV series One Summer, a story of two Liverpool scallies escaping to North Wales. 

Now with a profile and his Equity card, a future beckoned for David playing Liverpudlian characters, but he wanted more than this and encouraged by Jimmy Hazledine, went to RADA instead. He wasn't that keen on London at the time but he did enjoy the diversity of RADA, which was multi-class, multi-racial and multi-national.

Following completion of his studies, he was with the Royal Shakespeare Company for two years, then at the National Theatre. Along the way, he also worked at several other venues, including Cheek By Jowl and Manchester Royal Exchange.  

Over the last 20 years, he has worked constantly and had numerous memorable roles in TV and Films which have served to underline his status as one of the UK's brightest and best acting talents.    

He starred in the BAFTA nominated TV series State of Play, and also in the award-winning Blackpool and Viva Blackpool as the infamous Ripley Holden. And a new television drama series, Cape Wrath, starring David as Danny Brogan, started last week on Channel 4.  He has appeared with distinction in many films, including Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Some Voices, the Rolling Stones biopic Stoned, Hilary and Jackie, and The Reaping.  

Later this year he can be seen in The Waterhorse. Conscious of and frustrated by the fact that acting involves him in only a small part of the process of film production, he has become a director, enjoying notable success with the TV dramas Passer-By and Sweet Revenge

With his wife, novelist Esther Freud, Carl Clifton and his businessman brother Paul, he has formed the Liverpool-based production company, Tubedale Films, and they have teamed up with North West Vision to stimulate a step change in the development and production of film features on Merseyside. Their co-productions have included the award winning film L' Homme du Train and the Swedish film Offside, which was partly filmed in Liverpool. 

A new production, The Pool, directed by David, is due to begin filming in September on location around Liverpool, including this Cathedral. 

He and Esther live in North London with their young children: Albie, Anna, and 3-year old Gene. 

Albie and Anna, who are here with their mother to share in this occasion, will have a growing awareness of their father being an award winning actor, but they have been in no doubt about which football team he supports ever since Liverpool won the Champions League Final in Istanbul in 2005. He actually had tickets for the game but couldn't go because he was filming with Sharon Stone at the time, so he watched it on TV. He recalls that when Liverpool scored the equaliser, he screamed so loudly that Esther thought someone had been murdered in the street.  

Despite his London residence and his increasing international recognition, his heart is in his home city and he comes back regularly for business and pleasure. He is proud that Liverpool is European Capital of Culture next year, and advises any visitors not to miss the Tate Gallery, and the Walker Art Gallery, which holds one of the greatest fine art collections in Europe and where incidentally, work by David's father-in-law Lucian Freud is on display.  

David Morrissey is an actor's actor, widely respected and admired by his peers. His superb acting has led to him being compared by Variety magazine to James Stewart at his best. And Bill Nighy once stated that the only time he'd ever believed in an awards ceremony was when David Morrissey won one.  

At this particular awards ceremony, we are delighted to honour Liverpool's David Morrissey for his outstanding and ongoing work as an actor and director.  

Thus I have pleasure in presenting David Morrissey, this most distinguished son of our City, for admission to our highest honour of Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.