There are some people in life that you can’t help but find inspirational. It doesn’t matter where they are from, or where you meet them, or if you’ve never actually met them before. Sometimes people seem inspirational because they are doing something that you think is amazing, or they stand out in some way, or have taught you something about life, or about humanity. Or maybe they give stellar performances in your favourite films. Either way, there are some people that have charisma and heart. They make us want to be better people, to go for our dreams and make us belief that it can be done. There are some people you pay attention to, not because they’re the loudest and brightest crayon in the box, but because they do it quietly and beautifully.
1. Helena Bonham Carter.
She always gives incredible performances and I love that she has been in big hollywood blockbusters but also quieter and more understated things. For me, she is one of those actresses that has it – charisma, offbeat quirkiness, a little bit of weirdness. She nailed Bellatrix Lestrange in Harry Potter and also did a very freaky Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd. She’s usually well casted and brings a lot of British quirkiness to things.
2. Johnny Depp.
For much the same reason as Helena Bonham Carter – he’s a brilliant actor. It started with Edward Scissorhands, and most films he’s done have been interesting, often just on the basis of his performance. With Pirates of the Caribbean, I don’t think it would have been half as interesting without his impression of a piratical Keith Richards. Also, I love his collaborations with Tim Burton – always a winning combination.
3. Audrey Hepburn
There is nobody quite like Audrey. She had such an innate grace and real charisma. I also find her work with Unicef later in her life very inspirational.
4. Frida Kahlo
I managed to catch an exhibition of her work at some point in London, and I loved it. She wasn’t afraid to expose the difficult and confrontational aspects of women’s existence. I’m fascinated by her life and her attitude, her strength and courage, in the face of emotional and physical pain. It seemed that she was passionate and this came out in her art and her ethos about life. ‘I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.’ – Frida Kahlo.
5. Natalie Goldberg
Natalie Goldberg has taught me a lot through her books on writing and life. She makes me realise that writing is hard work and you need to be prepared to go through big ups and downs, as with anything else. It is not glamorous or mystical to be a writer, but it is also one of the most rewarding things to be if you truly love it. I love her style of writing and the way she approaches the writing craft, because she is also into Taoist Meditation, so a lot of her philosophies on life and writing make you feel the need to go deeper and be open with yourself. I think being open leads to better writing.
6. Beth Ditto
Ditto is a brilliant punk musician but she’s also inspirational to me because she doesn’t care what people think of her being a fat lady. She is positive and has fun with fashion and music and emanates this feminist riot grrrl punk vibe that makes you feel that you can do anything. Her collaborations with Evans were a brilliant success, and I’m sad that Evans has suddenly gone all frumpy again.
7. Neil Gaiman
I only discovered his writing by accident when I did some browsing in a bookshop one day, and picked up Neverwhere. His writing is right up my street – gothic and a walk on the dark side but with some very British black humour. He wrote Stardust (which is worth a read as its darker than the film) and Coraline. He has some interesting things to say about writing too.
8. Guillermo del Toro
The director of Pan’s Labyrinth, The Devils Backbone, Cronos and The Orphanage. Famous for creepy Spanish films, basically, but there is definitely something about his films – they are weird and twisted yet compelling and far creepier than any Hollywood fare. I love Pan’s Labyrinth in particular, it is such a strange film but one of my favourites. He also directed Hellboy and Hellboy 2 – both brilliant and funny.
9. Hayao Miyazaki
Director of Howl’s Moving Castle, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, etc. All his stuff wows me, every time, because yes, its animation, but beautiful, charming and touching. It’s not the ‘disney’ animation that we’ve been used to, even though there is nothing wrong with Disney! I saw Arriety recently and it was another brilliant film.
10. Jean Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro
The best pairing in French Cinema – they did The City of Lost Children and Delicatessen together. Jeunet also directed Amelie, A Very Long Engagement and Micmacs – all brilliant films. Never be put off by something being in another language, because you’re missing out if you are…
These are just the tip of the iceberg really – so many people have inspired me. So many authors and people I’ve met and people on screen and behind the scenes. Who inspires you?
Life is a winking light in the darkness. – Hayao Miyazaki