I’ve been hearing the self-help mantra of “just be yourself” all of my life. You know what? It hasn’t worked very well. We have plastic surgeons and latex makeup to transform us into other people. If I’m ever able to afford that I choose to change from a dumpy middle-aged American woman to the elegant and charming British actor Jeremy Brett (1933 – 1995.) Why? Glad you asked.
One: I Could Speak Normally
As a child, Brett stuttered and had an embarrassing speech impediment where all of his Rs sounded like Ws. Brett had surgery and worked very hard to overcome these problems. Brett would wind up being known in part for his incredibly powerful voice. I’ve stuttered on and off since childhood and would once and for all like to feel safe opening my mouth in public.
Two: I Could Roll My Rs in Public Without Being Stared At
Brett’s most influential teacher was Sir Laurence Olivier. Olivier demanded of his actors to “have the body of a god and the voice of a full orchestra.” Brett could roll his R’s with the best of them and yet, somehow, these rolling Rs came out naturally. He would not roll every R he encountered, but often did for words beginning with R. It takes a few listenings of any Sherlock Holmes episode to catch them all.
Three: Both Men and Women Would Love Me
Brett was bisexual, although he was married twice and voiced a preference for living with women. While attending Eton, he was known as “The Tart of Eton” – a nickname he hated. Occasionally he was campy in his performance (such as how he delivers the line, “Isn’t it GORGEOUS?” in The Sign of Four) but he kept a fine line between campy and outrageousness.
Four: I’d Have Unlimited Access to Chocolate
Brett’s mother was Elizabeth Edith “Bunny” Cadbury – a member of the same family that set up Cadbury chocolates. Even during World War II, Brett’s family was able to easily obtain chocolate (and gave a lot away) because of this connection. Although as an adult Brett did not seem fond of chocolate, I haven’t hit that state yet. Gimme chocolate.
Five: Cigarette Smoke Would No Longer Bother Me
I know I shouldn’t smoke and I have never smoked but man, I am curious. I currently do not smoke because my Mom has a CPAP machine in the house. I lived with a smoker for years but now can barely tolerate tobacco smoke. Brett called tobacco smoke his “incense” and even described smoking as his hobby. It was one reason why Brett was able to stay so thin throughout most of his life.
Six: Everyone Would Love My Photographs
Brett knew how to make a television set into a happy place for everyone. One of his tricks was to sneak photographs of the cast and crew and then post his photos on his dressing room door every week. Cast and crew greatly looked forward to this weekly reveal.
Seven: I Could Get Away with Wearing the Same Thing Day After Day
Although Brett was at one point a fashion model, he tended to wear the same clothes day after day. From 1988 onwards, he tended to wear a dark colored top, a flamboyant scarf and white trousers. Edward Hardwicke, who played the second Watson to Brett’s Holmes, noted in interviews that Brett wore this “uniform” because it was one less decision for him to make. This makes sense to me.
Eight: I’d Have Excellent Posture
I should have listened to my parents when they told me to sit up straight. Now I’m getting a curved spine. If I was Brett, I’d almost always have perfect posture.
Nine: I Would Know How to Open Champagne Bottles with a Fencing Sword
I’m going to reveal one of my secrets – I can’t use a cork opener without encountering huge problems. Brett never had problems with corks. During a backstage party after a performance of The Secret of Sherlock Holmes, he reportedly opened champagne bottles with a fencing sword – one of the props used in the play.
Ten: I’d Have a Large Heart
Brett suffered from cardiomyopathy, or an enlarged heart, since his Eton days. He would eventually die from his enlarged heart, more than 40 years after his original diagnosis. He spent a good chunk of his life living like the big-hearted man he was. He gave to charities, talked to his fans and would spontaneously pull stunts like paying the bill for everyone in a restaurant. In many ways, I wish I could be half that nice.