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Michael Sheen: The Day The Manic Street Preachers Made Me Cry - South Wales Echo, 26th December 2014

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The Hollywood star made the revelation writing the foreword for Assassinated Beauty - a new book of photographs of the iconic band

EVERYBODY loves a song by the Manics, but has one ever made you cry? Actor Michael Sheen has spoken of the day the Manic Street Preachers brought him to tears.

The Hollywood star, pictured below, is one of the South Wales band's most famous fans. He made his revelation in a foreword he wrote for a new book of photographs of the band by rock photographer Kevin Cummins.

In the book, Assassinated Beauty: Photographs of the Manic Street Preachers, published by Faber & Faber this month, Sheen said: "I remember once driving back to London from Wales, and, as I crossed the Severn Bridge, A Design for Life was playing and I was just weeping.

"It's ridiculously nationalistic, but there was something so incredibly moving about that song, and the meaning that it had for me and particularly crossing the Severn Bridge to leave Wales. That just cemented my relationship with the Manics. At that point they went very deep into me."

The 45-year-old said his eyes were opened to the band when he first saw them on TV. The effect was immediate.

"I first became aware of the Manics when I saw them on Top of the Pops wearing balaclavas during their 'terrorist chic' period.

"At the time, I felt like I'd missed out somehow, because I was too young for punk. It made me feel guilty, that somehow I wasn't a proper teenager because I'd never been a punk.

"So when I saw Manic Street Preachers on Top of the Pops, they just jumped out at me. They seemed so sure of themselves; so con-fident.

"The more I discovered about them, the more I liked them. Their political consciousness was reminiscent of the '70s ska movement - The Specials especially.

"Then there was the glam make-up, the gender ambiguity, with the anarchic edge of punk. So they had everything I'd grown up with all in one package... and they were Welsh.

"There were probably only four people in Newport who were into the things the Manics were into, so of course they had to become a band. They were naturally drawn to one another.

"I've always been interested in philosophy and iconic figures within politics, but coming from Port Talbot I didn't know anybody else who was into that," he added.

"So when I started to get to know this band, who came from a tough working-class area and yet had a gender-confrontational thing going on - trashy, provocative and sexual - at the same time as having a political consciousness and an awareness of iconoclastic style, they filled that gap for me immeasurably."

The Masters Of Sex star remembered vividly the first time their paths crossed.

"It was years before I met them. I remember walking down Chiswick High Street when I was back from America for a few days.

"It was St David's Day and I had my young daughter with me. As I walked along, I heard a voice behind me going, 'Oi, Sheeny,' and I turned around and it was James Dean Bradfield.

"It seemed perfect that it was St David's Day. I had a quick chat with James and then we carried on, and I remember feeling incredibly proud to be able to say to my daughter, 'That's a rock star.'" ."

The actor said he was stunned by the images in the book - especially the striking images of Richey Edwards, who would have just turned 47.

"It's extraordinary when you look at some of the early pictures in this book where Nicky and Richey are obviously doing what they'd always dreamt of doing.

"That awareness of the image, of how you engage with the camera. And you can see Sean and James watching, admiring. But there's always something slightly isolated about Richey.

"There's already something that's both incredibly present and absent about him in terms of his relationship with the rest of the band.

"Presumably that dialogue between the other three and him became even more intense after Richey disappeared."

Sheen said he was overjoyed when the Manics, who will play a sold-out headline show at Cardiff Castle next year, agreed to take part in his hugely ambitious and celebrated staging of The Passion in Port Talbot in 2011.

"It was so perfect that the Manics were a part of it, because everything they represented was what I was trying to do in that production.

"The naivety of it. The awareness of boundaries between performers and audience and stripping this down into something communal, something that is connected both to the past and traditions but also looking ahead to the future.

"Standing up for something and saying you have to fight for it. And the moment when the Manics came out to perform - it's bringing me to tears, I'm welling up thinking about it... for the curtains to go back in the working men's club and for them to start playing - I'll never forget it."

Assassinated Beauty: ¦Photographs of the Manic Street Preachers is published by Faber & Faber and available now.