A Man of Many Talents
Sep 11, 2012 | 1872 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jonathan Miller hates being called a Renaissance Man. (“It’s a vulgar journalistic term used by people who don’t understand what it is to be a cultivated person and who have no understanding of what the Renaissance was.”) The term “jack-of-all-trades” suggests the work of a dilettante. So let’s just say that the British legend has excelled in a wildly broad range of endeavors over a mind-bendingly extended period of time.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Miller was a star medical student who then launched a wildly successful career as a comedic impresario (his revue Beyond the Fringe is credited as an inspiration for Monty Python and Saturday Night Live). He became a stalwart of the New York performance scene, and then, returning to London, hosted and produced enormously popular programs for the BBC. As his fame grew, he continued his fascination with science, occasionally taking positions in hospitals and research centers and writing and producing TV programs on science and medicine. In the 1990s, he became one of the world’s most famous proponents for atheism (although he hates the term: “It seems so self evidently true to me that there is no God that giving that conviction a special title somehow dignifies what it denies.”)

Miller’s TV programs and books on the human body (he dissected a cadaver for the BBC) made him a household name. And, despite a lack of formal training, he was for a long period of time one of the world’s most sought-after theater and opera  directors, creating groundbreaking theater and opera productions of Rigoletto and The Mikado and directing Laurence Olivier, among many others. There’s plenty more Jonathan stories, of course, which you can discover in this documentary. Produced by BBC’s wonderfully on-the-edge series ARENA—the recipient of Telluride’s Special Medallion in 1999—it features Miller’s classmate Oliver Sacks and friends and fans such as Eric Idle and Kevin Spacey.

Jonathan Miller

U.K., 2012, 90m

Director: David Thompson
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