The Dragon is incredibly proud of ODs continuing to reach for the sun and who, in doing so, have become hugely successful in a wide range of fields. From making a piece of history like Francesca Wilcox (OD 2013) to winning the Grand National like Sam Waley-Cohen (OD 1995), capturing snow leopards on camera like Dan O’Neil (OD 2005), and playing for England like Maia Bouchier (OD 2012), the diversity of our Dragons is testimony to the character and ambition encouraged at the School, demonstrating the breadth of opportunity a Dragon Education provides. Read on for the fourth feature in our Diversity of Dragons series …
The Drive Required to Do Well
and the Resources to Persist
When I was asked to write about what I’ve been up to since attending, I thought I’d cheat (I hasten to add I did not learn to do this at the Dragon) and have a look at previous Diversity of Dragons entries. I was pleased to see Michael Dent (OD 2002), a Dragon contemporary, among the authors. He (very modestly) mentioned how his list of ‘failures’— which aren’t really failures at all, but learning experiences — was longer than his list of ‘success’ stories. Very reassuring for any actor who must audition perhaps twenty times for every job gained!
Members of my OD year group now number authors, entrepreneurs, magazine editors, painters, sportspeople, Japanologists, doctors, magicians, lecturers, antiquarian booksellers, sports tech startup founders, and the list goes on and on … quite a variety; and a variety no doubt fostered by the breadth of studies and interests we were able to pursue while successfully failing to dodge blue slips!
The other unifying feature of this list is the drive required to ‘do well’ in them — whatever that may mean to the individual concerned. In my experience, many Dragons leave with a kind of light-hearted confidence, a self-deprecating determination, that whatever challenges life throws up (and at times it seems positively sea-sick), they will have the resources to persist.
If persistence were a muscle, most actors would look like the Rock. Acting is a vocation that demands single-mindedness and hard work, at unusual hours, over weekends, in challenging conditions, perhaps jet-lagged, with short turnarounds; everything tends to fall into place at the very last minute. Perhaps counterintuitively, you are one of the smaller cogs in the filmmaking wheel, and often one of the last to be slotted into place. Flexibility and resilience are key, and it can be challenging to plan your life around. You have to accept not having control all the time, despite how glamorous it may appear.
Talking of glamour, I should find out in the next few days if I’m going to the Great Barrier Reef to film for a month: cross your fingers for me! I have also performed on stage in Hull for an audience of 6 people.
I recently finished filming the second season of Julian Fellowes’ TV show The Gilded Age in New York. I play the Duke of Buckingham, a less objectionable version of Sonny, the 9th Duke of Marlborough. It has been such a joy working with a talented international cast, including Christine Baranski, Carrie Coon, Morgan Spector and Cynthia Nixon leading a host of Tony award-winning actors. I hope it goes for at least another season. Whether it does or not is, as usual, in the lap of the gods. Did I mention you have to accept a lack of control?! Filming in the summer has been a pleasant change. For the last several years I seemed to find myself on the side of snowy Eastern European mountains in winter with frostbiting regularity, in the Christmas Prince series of films on Netflix, or The Ledge (where I play a total psychopath attempting to attack a woman whilst dangling 3000 metres above sea level). My work is nothing if not varied.
While I’m not learning lines or preparing for auditions or screen work, I fill my time with other things. Self-starting is another skill I learnt at the Dragon, whether in Bun Break, inventing a new game with friends (sadly Cherry Bomb Wars never really took off), or while taking advantage of the many intra- and extra-curricular activities we were exposed to. I’m currently learning Norwegian — my love of languages has persisted since French with Ma Čapek, and a dabble in Japanese at the Dragon that I eventually took to A-level. I’m training for a 100 mile cycle ride and my first duathlon later this year.
Congratulations Ben, we all have our fingers crossed for your filming down under!
Let us know what you’ve been up to since your Dragon Days, we’d love to share your story.
Header Image: Ben playing Adrian Warburton, a Teddies alumnus, WW2 fighter ace in Malta | Photo Credit: Paul Mackay
Gallery Below: ‘Ben with Rupert Everett, Director Swati Bhise, and Nathaniel Parker on set of The Warrior Queen of Jhansi in Morocco’, ‘In Now You See Me 2, alongside one of the numerous cardboard cutouts (Credit: Jon M Chu) which can now be found in my mother’s dining room intimidating guests’