It’s all going wonderfully well
Losing her father was one of Rosa Hoskins’ greatest challenges, but writing her book helped her to see the light at the end of the tunnel
It could be argued that the toughest situations to deal with are the ones we cannot control. When the late Bob Hoskins was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, his daughter Rosa began writing a book as a way of sorting through the emotions she was experiencing, hoping to capture the man he was and the father she loved, before the disease altered this reality. Not an easy undertaking by any stretch, considering the news she was coming to terms with. It’s All Going Wonderfully Well isn’t just a book about the life of a great Hollywood actor, it is an account of the real person by someone who truly knew him.
“I originally started work on it in 2012, not long after Dad was first diagnosed. The inspiration behind that was watching him lose his memory and starting to become more and more ill. When someone is very sick you’re totally powerless. In a way, it was a little bit of me trying to regain some control and also something that I could do pragmatically myself. We are entirely defined by our life experiences so when someone loses their memory, they basically lose themselves and that was obviously really painful and difficult to witness. I started writing as a way of trying to hold him together.”
While on the surface it seems only logical to speak to the person themselves, yet Rosa says the enormous task of piecing her work together, while simultaneously witnessing her father’s decline, became too much to handle at one time. “I found after a couple of months of doing interviews with him and trying to get something together that it was just too hard; the contrast between him at the height of his powers versus the present day version who was becoming increasingly unwell, was too difficult. I decided to put the book aside, but I knew that I always wanted to pick it up again.”
Not long after her father’s death Rosa returned to her initial idea and even though there were moments when the process seemed like the steepest of uphill battles, the overall experience has managed to bring her great comfort. “There were times when it felt like I was too ambitious or that I had bitten off more than I could chew. Most of the time when I would sit down to write I’d end up crying. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but it was therapeutic and it was cathartic. It gave me the opportunity to speak to Dad’s old colleagues, which was a real privilege and people were so kind and generous with their time, like Ray Winston who told me about when they got thrown out of the Elstree canteen. I got to hear all these stories that I would never have heard otherwise.”
A title that suggests everything is hunky- dory seems an unusual choice for a book such as this, however, Rosa explains that it is a phrase her father would say whenever the opposite was in fact true. “The title came from Dad’s quite ironic, arched sense of humour, because he was incredibly funny. e story originates from this time he was at an audition sitting in the auditorium and while he and other actors were waiting to go up and do their monologue, they heard this kerfuffle backstage. e leading lady of the company came on stage in tears while the leading man followed her and punched her in the face. She was on the floor, he ran away and the stage manageress came on stage and said, ‘Oh it’s all going wonderfully well.’ Dad used to say that whenever the, you know what, hit the fan. Whenever things weren’t going wonderfully well, that’s when he would say it.”
When asked if she feels as though she has inherited the same ironic sense of humour her father was known for, Rosa laughs and says, “I’d like to hope so, even though that’s not really for me to say; you’d have to ask my friends and family.”
Having a parent who’s in the public eye does bring with it an element of exclusivity and excitement, but while Rosa says she was aware of her father’s career from a very young age, as a child she became accustomed to it. In essence, that was her normal.
“I don’t even remember not having that awareness. ere were times when I was a kid or I would see him on set and it was clear to me that his job was different from my friend’s dad who was a dentist, a lawyer or a teacher. Quite often I get asked what it was like growing up with a famous father, but I don’t know any different. at was normality for me.”
The day after her father died in April 2014 Rosa posted 11 Lessons From My Dad on her website, which detailed the words of wisdom he had taught her throughout her life.
“The lessons that I put on my blog went viral very unexpectedly and I suppose that made me think, ‘Oh, well dad’s story deserves to be heard’. They all resonate; to say that one sticks out more than the other would be to say I remember one part of my dad and not the rest. Whenever I remember Dad, I remember him in his entirety. I was determined to write an honest book about him because writing a saccharin, sugar- coated version is kind of a fantasy. He wasn’t perfect, nobody is, but I felt that by writing about him honestly I would keep his memory closer to me and I would remember him more accurately. He was immaterial, intelligent, original and funny. He was a total one-off individual, which in a way is what made losing him all the more painful because he was so unique.”
While her dad’s many accomplishments have no doubt instilled a strong work ethic in Rosa, some of the ventures he didn’t utilise, perhaps as much as he could have, also give her the perseverance to keep going, even when the going gets tough. “Dad was a writer as well but he didn’t really purse it to the degree that he could have done. That’s certainly inspired me, because I still act, but I’m writing a lot now. You go through hard knocks when you have an artistic, creative career but Dad didn’t give up on things, he carried on. Whenever I went to him and said, ‘I didn’t get that job or something went wrong,’ he would just say, ‘Oh, fair enough, but carry on. Don’t give up.’”
The close bond Rosa shared with her father is self-evident and her memories of him are authentic and engaging. She wants her book to show people who the actor was, behind the scenes. “I suppose people will remember him for his work and as the guy from the e Long Good Friday or whatever it is that resonates personally with them. I think there’s this public perception of dad as the cockney hard man and that was a part of him for sure,
but he was so much more than that. When someone’s in the public eye you can’t really control how they’re remembered, but if people are interested in him I’d like them to read my book, to know who he really was and not the media perception of him.”