Grandfather of cremation inspiration for Downey's Doolittle
Hollywood star Robert Downey Jnr has revealed his inspiration for attempting a Welsh accent in playing Dr Doolittle in the latest big screen remake was in fact eccentric 19th century doctor and archdruid William Price, seen as the grandfather of cremation in the UK.
Price was one of the most flamboyant and eccentric characters in Welsh history – an archdruid known for carrying a staff engraved with figures and letters, wearing a fox-fur hat, emerald green clothing and growing his beard long.
The surgeon’s most controversial act, however, was the cremating of his young son – christened Iesu Grist (‘Jesus Christ Price’) – following his sudden death at the age of six. The cremation, which took place on a Llantrisant hilltop, saw Price rescued by police from a mob of angry locals.
He was then arrested for the illegal disposal of a corpse, only to be cleared of the child’s murder after a post-mortem concluded he had died of natural causes. Price went to trial, and the court case helped prepare the way for the first official cremation in 1885, and the eventual passing into law of the 1902 Cremation Act.
Downey said he didn’t want to do another English accent for Dr Doolittle – famously portrayed in an upper class manner by Rex Harrison in the 1967 film – and was instead inspired by the “weird Welshman who believed we could communicate with nature and all that stuff”.
He admitted he leaned heavily on a dialect coach, who then called in a Welsh coach, on set for the film which was partly shot around Menai Bridge in Anglesey in 2018.
Doolittle opened in UK cinemas last month.
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