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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Patrick Daly

Jason Isaacs' terror-filled teenage years being terrorised and beaten by fascists

British star Jason Isaacs is back on the silver screen with his latest film Mrs Harris Goes to Paris.

The 59-year-old has an impressive filmography, having featured in the Harry Potter series as the sinister Lucius Malfoy and also playing Captain Hook in 2003’s Peter Pan.

His latest flick, Mrs Harris Goes To Paris, lands at cinemas on Friday (September 30).

Based on the book novel written by Paul Gallico, it is about a widowed cleaning lady in London who in the 1950s falls madly in love with a couture Dior dress, and decides that she must have one of her own.

But while Isaacs has become one of Britain’s most recognisable actors, he weathered a tough upbringing that forced his parents out of the country.

When did Jason Isaacs face antisemitism?

Jason Isaacs faced antisemitism when his family relocated to London (Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)

Jason Isaacs was born in Liverpool in 1963 to Jewish parents.

When he was 11, his jeweller father relocated the family to London where his parents and their four sons were targeted by fascist activists.

As a Jewish teenager in London, Isaacs endured antisemitism by members and supporters of the British far-right extremist organisation the National Front.

Eventually, his parents decided to get away from it all and upped sticks to emigrate to Israel.

In 2011, he used an interview with The Independent to open up on his early experience of London — a city where he still lives with his wife, filmmaker Emma Hewitt, and their two daughters.

"There were constantly people beating us up or smashing windows,” he told the newspaper.

“If you were ever, say, on a Jewish holiday, identifiably Jewish, there was lots of violence around.

“But particularly when I was 16, in 1979, the National Front were really taking hold, there were leaflets at school, and Sieg Heiling and people goose-stepping down the road and coming after us.”

Antisemitism preparation for acting career

Jason Isaacs starring as Lucius Malfoy in Harry Potter (UGC)

The Sex Education star has gone on record saying that the tough environment he grew up in helped prepare him for playing the villains and unsavoury characters he has so often been cast as.

Speaking to the Telegraph in 2007, he said: “There is a streak of cruelty in me that comes from having a quite combative background. There were four boys in the house and we were pretty unkind to each other.

“I've been bullied a lot, sometimes by my brothers, sometimes at school.

"It wasn't a great thing to be a Jewish teenager when the National Front were passing leaflets around the school."

Is Mrs Harris Goes to Paris based on a true story?

Mrs Harris Goes To Paris is about a woman who falls for a Dior dress (Getty)

While Mrs Harris is certainly a fictional character created by author Paul Gallico, he did include people who existed in his novel.

Christian Dior (played by Phillippe Bertin) was a real person — and some of the other characters are based on real life as well, with Madame Colbert a combination of two of Dior’s muses, according to the film's director, Anthony Fabian.

It is the first time the story has been made for the big screen, having had TV adaptations in the past.

Filming took place at the end of 2020, beginning in the Hungarian capital of Budapest and then moved to London and Paris.

English actress Lesley Manville plays the main character, while Lambert Wilson — best known for his portrayal of The Merovingian in The Matrix series — also features, along with Isaacs.


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