The British Academy of Film and Television Arts annual awards ceremony, where the leading lights of the industry gather together and give themselves a big collective pat on the back, takes place this weekend. The announcement of the various nominations has generated the requisite excitement and broadsheet column inches, but with The Artist and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy leading the pack on the big-screen front with almost two dozen nominations between them, there's not likely to be too many big surprises come Monday morning. When it comes to the “Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema” award, they'll be no surprises at all – John Hurt has already been chosen to receive that honour this year. Well done, John.
But I can't help but think that the slightly staid and sometimes predictable Bafta awards could perhaps do with a new category or two. For my part, I'd like to suggest an award for “Outstanding British Contribution to On-Screen Nudity”, just to shake things up a little. To set it apart from the other more established awards, the Academy could call it a “Muffta”.
Now, I know what you're going to say - “Jenny Agutter. Lifetime achievement award, job's a good 'un”. But by way of a rebuttal, I would say this: Miss Agutter's legendary status in the hearts and DVD collections of generations of British men revolves largely around a quartet of films: Nic Roeg's Walkabout in 1971, Logan's Run in 1976 (which reminds me, I really need to swing by Amazon and pick up a copy), Sidney Lumet's Equus in 1977 and lastly, American Werewolf in London in 1981.
But I can't help but think that the slightly staid and sometimes predictable Bafta awards could perhaps do with a new category or two. For my part, I'd like to suggest an award for “Outstanding British Contribution to On-Screen Nudity”
Since Werewolf, there have been no reported instances of Agutter-related on-screen nudity. So basically, if you're thirty - and you only went with your son's mother 'cos she's dirty - then you weren't even born when our Jen last disrobed for the cameras. Given that her latest screen role sees her resolutely clad head-to-toe in a nun's habit every Sunday night in the BBC's Call the Midwife, she's probably not in a hurry to commemorate her services to nudity before an audience of her peers. She's put it behind her, even if we haven't.
No, the first recipient of the award should be someone whose dedication to the unclothed aspect of her craft goes above and beyond the call of duty, somebody who has been to cinematic and televisual nudity what Jagger was to Richards, Lennon was to McCartney, what Morecambe was to Wise. Gentleman - and ladies - I offer for your consideration Miss Tara Fitzgerald.
Now, In order to fully pay tribute to Miss Fitzgerald's barenaked ladyness, I'm probably going to have to use a lot of different words to identify her pubic region and her bosoms. I aim to be as gentlemanly about this as possible, and I certainly don't want to end up sounding like a copy of Roger's Profanisaurus. Later on in the article I plan to shoehorn in the phrase “Nicole Kidman and her little twat”, but that will be almost immediately revealed as a jokey reference to Tom Cruise; hopefully that'll be as ribald as it gets.
Now, In order to fully pay tribute to Miss Fitzgerald's barenaked ladyness, I'm probably going to have to use a lot of different words to identify her pubic region and her bosoms. I aim to be as gentlemanly about this as possible, and I certainly don't want to end up sounding like a copy of Roger's Profanisaurus
However, any readers that are bashful, or are in anyway embarrassed about reading a sometimes frank description of female nudity may not wish to continue any further. In fact, for those of you of a particularly sensitive disposition, can I just say that you've stumbled onto the wrong website, and you'd probably be happier if you just fucked off right now? I didn't get Mr. Skin's grubby little fingerprints all over my internet search history just so you could give me grief about it.
Go ahead, I'll give you ten seconds or so before I start. Go on now, off you fuck..................
Right. Is everyone else sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin. This is the (selectively edited) story of Tara Fitzgerald, a quintessentially English - okay, strictly speaking, actually Irish-Italian - bearded rose....
Hear My Song (1991)
Miss Fitzgerald was only a few months out of drama school when she won the role of Nancy, Adrian Dunbar's romantic interest in a gentle comedy that he had both co-written and was to star in, the story of a Liverpool nightclub owner's attempts to persuade tenor Josef Locke to return from tax exile in Ireland to give a one night only performance. For a film steeped in fairly gratuitous Oirishness, it doesn't rack up the swearing quite like you'd expect, and could probably get away with being mostly benign family fare - which makes it all the more remarkable when debutante Fitzgerald launches herself out of bed and introduces the filmgoing public to her furry front bottom and dirty pillows a mere six minutes into the film's running time. This single “scene of sensuality” was enough to tip the scales as far as the morality police were concerned, and the film was R-rated for its US release.
Despite the early attention-grabbing entrance, Tara's own entrance doesn't come out to play at any other point during the film, and its brief few seconds of screen time certainly don't do anything to drive the plot forward. It's almost as though Dunbar & co - who took the finished film to Cannes looking for a distribution deal - thought that a little gratuitous nudity wouldn't hurt their pitch. The film was part-financed by Channel Four, who were about to commission a period drama where clothing would be entirely optional.....
The Camomile Lawn (TV 1992)
This Channel Four adaptation of Mary Wesley's semi-autobiographical novel was a hilariously oversexed affair, and with what television announcers now coyly refer to as “strong language and nudity from the very beginning”, it was custom-built to cause controversy and get the viewers tuning in week after week. Think of it as similar to the recent revival of Upstairs Downstairs, except Camomile Lawn came with overblown dialogue like “Shall I throw you down and fuck you? Right here and now?”, and the ever-present prospect of a Felicity Kendal sex scene. The central theme of sexual awakening was fertile ground for a young actress out to prove herself, and Miss Fitzgerald's adherence to a strict no clothes policy was admirably demonstrated on numerous occasions. The next time Channel Four could boast that many twats on screen at any one time, they'd be inflicting Big Brother on the nation.
In the two years that had passed since Tara's film debut, Sharon Stone had been propelled into the Hollywood stratosphere with a quick crossing and uncrossing of her legs in 1992's risible Basic Instinct, and suddenly, flashing your vertical smile at audiences was big business. Miss Fitzgerald, though, stayed true to her indie sensibilities with Sirens, where she played Estelle, the repressed wife of Hugh Grant's Anglican priest, who is dispatched by his bishop to give Sam Neill's bohemian artist character a moral MOT. Estelle, surrounded by mostly naked top-shelf blart like Elle Macpherson and Arrested Development's Portia de Rossi, finds herself succumbing to increasingly vivid sexual fantasies. Which I suppose, you know, could conceivably happen to a person in that situation.
The film didn't do stellar business at the box office, but coming as it did from a time before the internet made such - ahem - arthouse fare so readily available, I'd hazard a guess that it did a roaring trade at video rental shops up and down the country. Includes a scene where Estelle goes the Full Monty at a church service, with only a hymn book to distract from her furry bicycle stand and her nunga nungas. Outstanding, Red Team, outstanding. Get you a case of beer for that one.
The film didn't do stellar business at the box office, but coming as it did from a time before the internet made such - ahem - arthouse fare so readily available, I'd hazard a guess that it did a roaring trade at video rental shops up and down the country.
On the strength of Sirens alone, Miss Fitzgerald shouldn't have felt the need to renew her membership of the Tufty Club for a good couple of years at least, but that didn't stop Little Tara and the Fitzgerald Twins making cameo appearances in A Man of No Importance (1994), The Vacillations of Poppy Carew (1995), The Student Prince,Frenchman's Creek, Conquest (all 1998), In the Name of Love (1999), and Rancid Aluminium (2000).
Actually, that last one was an arse-only appearance. It's quite possible that Tara's velcro triangle stayed locked in its trailer during filming, refusing to lend any credibility to what was a truly fucking awful script. To place all this punanage in its proper context, Stanley Kubrick's final film Eyes Wide Shut had opened to general acclaim only four months earlier. Promoted as mainstream Hollywood's most penetrating exploration of eroticism and sexuality to date, the film starred Nicole Kidman and her little twat. In real life, they would divorce soon afterwards.
Dark Blue World (2001)
Although generally well-regarded by the very few who have seen it, this Czechoslovakian production suffered commercially from superficial plot similarities to the megabudget Pearl Harbour (two WW2 fighter pilots fall in love with the same woman), and also from the fact that it was, well, Czechoslovakian. Eschewing visual effects in favour of human drama, its meagre $5 million budget stretched to footage recycled from 1969's Battle of Britain and 1990's Memphis Belle, with a little digital manipulation thrown in to hide the joins. Given the sheer amount of raw footage of Tara Fitzgerald's charlies that must have been in existence at this point, it's likely the same technique could have been used to CGI her nude scenes, but - being a butt nekkid trouper of the highest order - Miss Fitzgerald stepped up and gladly did her part for the war effort.
I Capture the Castle (2003)
This film represented a turning point in Tara's poontastic screen career. The obligatory naked and wet scene was there (having become something of a Fitzgerald trademark), but it was hardly gratuitous (her character was communing with nature or some such) and frankly, her heart just didn't seem to be in it anymore. Another R-rating from the Motion Picture Association of America, but even they probably couldn't tell you why.
In a Dark Place (2006)
This film marks the last time (to date) that Tara would get 'em out in the service of high art. It's a retelling of Henry James' psychological ghost story The Turn of the Screw, which had already enjoyed its definitive cinematic treatment in the form of 1961's superlative The Innocents, starring Deborah Kerr as a repressed and paranoid governess who comes to believe that the two children in her care are possessed. If you're one of those people who thought that what Jack Clayton's genre-defining classic really needed was a big dose of lesbianism and some good old frottage, then In a Dark Place is the film for you.
For anyone who thinks that Miss Fitzgerald's pink bits deserved a better cinematic send-off that this execrable pile of old titwank (and just to be clear, I mean that in an entirely negative way), well then, you've got my vote, friend....