Life is Beautiful: Steve Beckingham '01

By Jessica Wilson '05

After graduating from Pacific, Steve Beckingham '01 knew he wanted to pursue acting and music. Instead of moving to the usual Los Angeles or New York to start his career, however, Beckingham is living in London with Europe at his fingertips. Moving there was a coming home of sorts.

Photo: Steve Beckingham '01 (left) in 'Death of a Salesman'Beckingham was born in Surrey, England. His "mum" and dad are both Londoners and the family immigrated to Oregon when he was three years old. "Growing up I had a British home life, and everything outside was, obviously, very American."

The decision to move was solidified when he and his partner Sara Kleinschmit '01 were both accepted to schools in London. Beckingham studied at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. "I suppose, to me, London has it all Рflourishing theatre, film, and TV. Los Angeles equals film and TV and indulges itself in a very plastic society. I guess the only thing London has over New York is the rich history. And boy, am I a sucker for Shakespeare, clich̩ or not! Relocating to New York is definitely in the future though."

Beckingham's first acting gig in Europe was a Germany stage tour of "Death of a Salesman." He saw much of the country and found the landscapes and cities to be amazing. The play, however, left something to be desired. "It was a hell of a first job," he said. "I'm afraid the production company was slightly corrupt and off their heads at times, but thankfully the rest of the cast were great and we made something of the show."

The highlight thus far in his career, he said, was a four-day trip in October to Tunisia to act in the Roberto Benigni film "The Tiger and the Snow." It takes place during the recent war in Iraq and is a political satire due to open in late 2006. Beckingham said he encountered explosions, heat, tanks, guns, helmets that didn't fit, and a director who is a comic genius.

The young actor played a First Sergeant in a marine battalion who discovers Benigni's character hiding in a ditch speaking on a mobile phone. "I shout out some orders at other marines, then there is a close up on me finding Roberto's character. I was under the impression I was going to get to improvise with Roberto at one point, but the filming of the scene I was in was under a time constraint, so no luck." Beckingham said he was struck by Benigni's kindness.

"I have to say, he is a lovely man. He took time out to personally thank all of the actors after our few days on set." Benigni is well known for his Oscar winning film "Life is Beautiful."

Beckingham has also landed television parts. As an actor, not a criminal, he appeared on "Crimewatch UK." He played an off-duty policeman in a reconstructed scene that witnesses a robbery. The program is similar to the television show "America's Most Wanted." The BBC is reviving "Dr. Who" with Elizabeth Christopher Eccelston in the title role. Beckingham traveled to Cardiff, Wales to play a small role in one of the episodes.

Although Beckingham said he enjoys living in Europe, he misses Oregon's beautiful mountains and trees, driving a car, and Butterfinger candy bars. Mostly he said he misses his parents who still reside in Salem, Ore. Kleinschmit and Beckingham returned to Oregon in December to get married.

Beckingham is having success with theatre productions and wrapped up a lead role in "The Settling Dust" at the end of March. For his next project he will be doing some radio work for a production of "Six Degrees of Separation" for BBC Radio Worldservice. "Performing as an actor is where I am in my element,"Beckingham added. "I love becoming someone new, making an audience crack with laughter or get a chill from a very lucid moment during a production. With this topsy-turvy world we live in, we all have to 'act' in a certain way in certain situations – for the better or for the worse."

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