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Best celebrity memoirs to buy this Christmas 2021, from Brian Cox to Will Smith

O

h, the celebrity memoir. The chance to commit your best anecdotes to legend, show how many starry pals you have, share your hard-won wisdom, or settle some scores? Sometimes, happily, it can be all those things at once.

We’ve delved into the crop of this years offerings to find out which is the gossipiest – and which ones aren’t bothering with. This wildly enjoyable survey of Brian Cox’s six decades on stage and on screen takes us from his early life growing up in a Dundee tenement, working as a sort of odd-job kid at the local rep theatre (fulfilling useful tasks like retrieving and re-styling Lynn Redgrave’s wig after the actress had accidentally thrown in into her dressing room bin post-performance) through his storied theatre career and various attempts at cracking Hollywood to his late-career renaissance as the Roy family’s expletive-loving patriarch Logan in Succession. Much like his famous alter ego, you get the impression that the straight talking Cox does not suffer fools, or indeed method actors, gladly. (“Perhaps he realised how silly it all was,” he spikily notes of Daniel Day Lewis’s retirement). Johnny Depp and action star Steven Seagal get even shorter shrift, but Cox does write warmly and perceptively on the collaborators he most admires, from Spike Lee (“simply one of the best directors I’ve ever worked with”) to Succession showrunner Jesse Armstrong. His stream of delicious anecdotes is relentless: from Glenda Jackson’s icy reaction to a director telling her she “does a funny thing with her head” when performing to his great friend Alan Rickman taking Cox to task for speaking too slowly (His response? “Alan, do you realise how long it took you to say that?”). Buy it here

In a nutshell: An endearingly unguarded and indiscreet gallop through an actor’s life, full of sneaky potshots at pretentious celebs

Biggest name drop: A strange encounter with Princess Margaret or a run-in with a pre-fame David Bowie on a TV set (a “skinny kid and not a particularly good actor”)

Best anecdote: His wedding morning, when his Othello cast mates proceed to get so plastered that Michael Gambon gets stuck in some double doors and no one bar Cox can function during the subsequent matinee performance.

Who to buy it for: Your nosiest, showbiz goss-loving friend

We’re used to seeing him star in blockbusters and play the joker on Instagram, but Will Smith delivers some shocking and surprising revelations about his childhood, relationships and career in his 412-page mega-memoir. Sex, jealousy, a marriage in crisis and visit to a tantric sex therapist, all feature – though this isn’t a juicy tell-all account of his open marriage with Jada Pinkett Smith. It’s a sensitive story of his complicated relationship with his father; feeling like a “coward” as a young adult, and battling with guilt, fear and even suicidal thoughts at one point. He discusses dealing with racism growing up as a middle-class kid in Philadelphia and straddling two worlds: the “black world” at home and […]

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