Derek Jacobi’s 20 Best Moments from ‘The Riddle’

Tuesday February 21st 2012


After witnessing the majesty of his performance in Charles Dickens’ England, I doubt I was alone in trawling Derek Jacobi’s IMDb entry in search of further triumphs. In fact, I know I wasn’t because at least six people took to Twitter to tell me about The Riddle, in which Jacobi is indelibly credited as:

[Note that Jacobi's IMDb profile photo is in fact him in his Charles Dickens garb.]

Made in 2007 — two years before Charles Dickens’s England – The Riddle was the second film from writer-director Brendan Foley, whose subsequent credits include three episodes of children’s cartoon Shelldon and something called Legend of the Bog.

It had a somewhat unusual UK premiere in September 2007 when the Mail on Sunday bought the film’s DVD rights and issued 2.6 million promotional copies, making The Riddle one of the most widely distributed British indie movies ever in the process. Here’s a trailer for the campaign, with a particularly awkward sign off from Jacobi’s co-star Vinnie Jones at the end:

In the film, Jacobi plays both Charles Dickens and ‘an eccentric beach-combing tramp’, who teams up with an investigative reporter (Jones) to solve the murder of an East End landlady. The film also features Jason Flemyng, Mel Smith and Oscar winner Vanessa Redgrave. I’m not shitting you.

It all seemed too good to be true, but lo and behold I had my inaugural viewing of The Riddle last weekend I’m pleased to report that it’s completely and utterly fucking bonkers. Jacobi is working at full steam as both the tramp and Dickens (his dedication to the project matched only by Vanessa Redgrave’s complete lack of interest) and at certain moments you can definitely see him honing the talent for looking distracted that he would use to such great effect in Charles Dickens’s England. So without further ado, here are Jacobi’s 20 best moments from The Riddle. Savour them:

The icing on the cake? This illuminating quote from a 2007 Mail on Sunday interview with Vinnie:

“Derek Jacobi? He plays this beautiful tramp in the film and he plays Dickens too, because he comes to me in a dream. He honestly reckons he can win a Bafta for his performance.”