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Wednesday, 8 December, 1999, 17:14 GMT
Brian's blessed life
Blessed's trip to the Lost World fulfilled a childhood dream

By BBC News Online's Gareth Herincx

Actor Brian Blessed is a larger-than-life walking advert for Age Concern. Not because he's in any way infirm - he's just unstoppable.

Z Cars: Joseph Brady (Pc Jock Weir) with Brian Blessed as Pc 'Fancy' Smith
He oozes with enthusiam for life and all its challenges - whether it's acting, directing or exploring . "I've just been blessed with a colossal love of life and love of people. I give in to it and let it take me over.

"I sleep like a log and I can't wait to get up in the morning - whatever the weather.

"I feel this lifeforce all the time and it even catches me out at times and I find myself laughing at myself."

At 63, he's fitter than most men half his age and has no intention of slowing down. "I get a bit fed up with people making a pact with old age. It's not how old you are, but how you are old," he enthuses.

Brian Blessed in The Black Adder As King Richard in 1983's The Black Adder
His acting career has kept him in the public eye for nearly 40 years.

After shooting to fame in the ground-breaking BBC police drama Z Cars in 1960s, he's gone on to star in landmark series such as I Claudius and cult comedy The Black Adder.

On stage he performed in Andrew Lloyd Webber's hit musical Cats and has thrilled cinemagoers in dozens of films. His roles include Lord Locksley in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Prince Vultan in Flash Gordon.

This year, he has achieved cult status thanks to his role as Boss Nass - leader of the Gungans in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. He also provided the voice of the villian in one of 1999's other high-profile movies - Disney's Tarzan.

"I'm getting bigger and bigger in my old age, which I'm loving," he says.

Blessed on his quest for 'The Lost World'
But adventure is Blessed's other big passion. Already a veteran of three assaults on Everest, he has also climbed Mount Kilamanjaro, became the oldest man to reach the magnetic North Pole on foot.

He has also just written a book about his most recent endeavour - reaching and exploring the mysterious plateau of Mount Roraima.

Immortalised in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World, Roraima is a 9,000 foot high mountain in Venezuela with a completely flat summit - surrounded by thousands of square miles of unexplored jungle.

"It's a childhood dream - my three big dreams were to go to the bottom of the sea, to climb to the summit of Everest and go to the Lost World.

"I heard Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World on the radio when I was a child - it was marvellously done by the BBC.

You're going to go when you're going to go.
Brian Blessed

"I always knew I'd make it one day. I've never been scared of adventure - the greatest danger in life is not to take it."

However, danger doesn't enter into the equation for Blessed: "You're going to go when you're going to go," he says.

"I think my family love me for what I am. If I didn't go on adventures and encourage other people to go too I would die within myself and become a vegetable."

Next year Blessed will tackle Everest again - and become the oldest man to do so. He's also planning to go down to the deepest part of the ocean - the Marianas Trench in the Pacific - with the US fleet.

Blessed played Boss Nass: King of the Gungans As Boss Nass in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
Right now, Blessed is basking in his cult status - he can't cope with the thousands of letters a day he gets from Star Wars fans.

"It was getting a bit that way after Flash Gordon, but now there's even a Boss Nass club in America - the Star Wars phenomenon is unbelievable.

"I love the attention. Actors who protest about it shouldn't do it.

"I love being recognised and I love making people happy. It means a lot to me that the public like me and appreciate me and are inspired by me."

And the non-stop world of Brian Blessed shows no sign of slowing down in the new millennium.

Apart from his adventures, next spring will also see the release of a big screen version of King Lear he directed earlier this year - and this Christmas he's back on stage as dastardly Captain Hook in a production of Peter Pan at Manchester's Palace Theatre.

Brian Blessed's Quest for the Lost World is published by Boxtree, priced 16.99.
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Tarzan swings into the top

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