Feature: Michael York ready to swing again

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter  |  April 30, 2003 at 6:52 PM
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LOS ANGELES, April 30 (UPI) -- There is talk, but nothing certain yet, of a fourth "Austin Powers" movie -- but Michael York is game for another go as Powers' boss, Basil Exposition.

Britain's Daily Record reported last week that writer-director Mike Myers "is serious about getting" Jennifer Lopez to join the cast of what the paper said would be the randy, time-traveling super spy's final go-around on the big screen. The paper said the project will be called "For Your Thighs Only."

In an interview with United Press International, York said he didn't know whether Myers was really planning another "Powers" movie.

"I keep hearing rumors that there might be another one," said York. "It's a nice rumor to have around and it makes a lot of sense. We'll have to call Mike. He's the font of it all."

The "Austin Powers" role has been York's highest-profile gig in a career during which he has appeared in more than five dozen feature films -- including Franco Zeffirelli's "Romeo and Juliet," "Cabaret," "The Three Musketeers" and "Murder on the Orient Express." He has starred on TV in "Knot's Landing," and the miniseries "Space" and "Jesus of Nazareth."

The 61-year-old classically trained actor said people constantly wonder why he would "descend" into the burlesque of Myers' creation.

"I say wait a minute -- Shakespeare had a bawdier imagination than Austin Powers," said York.

And anyway, he said, his training actually attracts him to all sorts of roles -- not just the highbrow.

"British actors didn't carve themselves pigeonholes," he said. "Maybe it's the repertory training we get -- or we used to have -- when we were young actors in Britain. It sort of gets into your system. I think it's very good for you."

York's apprenticeship in the theater actually took place in the swinging '60s, and he sort of misses that scene.

"It was a fantastic time," he said.

Does he still have the clothes?

"I do," he said. "Although I wish I'd kept the velvet suits. For a man, it's the coolest thing you can own. But I still have some of those wide ties. I'm still waiting for them to come back."

York recently had a vivid reminder of those times, when he watched the DVD version of the classic TV miniseries "The Forsyte Saga" -- in which he had his first significant professional role, as Jolyon 'Jolly' Forsyte. When he received the DVD package, York said he assured his wife he would just sort of fast forward through the discs to reacquaint himself with the show.

"We sat there glued, like the early audience," he said. "It's so long ago that I'd forgot what had happened. It is sort of odd to see one's younger self."

York is also an in-demand -- and Grammy nominated -- "books-on-tape" voiceover artist. His most recent project is a CD reading of "Enoch Arden," a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, set to music composed by Richard Strauss. Set in a coastal English town, it's the story of a sailor who is lost at sea and comes back to find that his wife has married his best friend.

"He decides not to interfere and dies of a broken heart," said York. "It's moving and passionate."

The poem was adapted for the screen in a 1915 movie starring Alfred Paget and Lillian Gish. A similar story formed the basis for the 2000 Tom Hanks movie "Cast Away."

York said he and pianist John Bell Young have been invited to perform the piece in concert this summer at a number of venues, including Farring Ford, Tennyson's home in south of England.

Meantime, York expects he'll get a call from Myers if Austin Powers gets another case.

"They can't have it without Basil," said York. "Who's going to explain what's going on?"

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