First black Heathcliff sectioned after racially abusing girlfriend
Wuthering Heights took James Howson from prison life to the big screen, but the sparkle faded fast
THE FIRST black actor to play Heathcliff on screen, after seeing the Wuthering Heights role advertised on a JobCentre wall, has been sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
James Howson pleaded guilty to racially abusing the mother of his child last month and was yesterday due to be sentenced at Leeds Magistrates Court. But the proceedings were adjourned after his solicitor announced that the 24-year-old was being treated at a hospital in Newcastle for “a period of 28 days for observation”.
The court previously heard how he shouted abuse and death threats at his ex-girlfriend, Shakira Ramdihal, in a number of rows about her pregnancy and their three-year relationship. According to The Guardian, he was so aggressive that he was banned from the maternity unit after their baby daughter was born.
Just three months ago Howson was being touted by film critics as the next rising star. After being expelled from school at 14 and spending most of his adult life on the dole or behind bars, he won the screen role of Heathcliff when film director Andrea Arnold went searching for an actor to match Emily Bronte’s description of Heathcliff as a "dark-skinned gypsy in aspect and a little lascar".
She held open auditions, advertised in job centres and even walked the streets of Leeds looking for the right person.
After picking Howson from hundreds of other applicants, he went from earning £34-a-week Jobseeker’s Allowance to attending the Venice film festival.
Soon after the film reached cinemas, it emerged that Howson was back in his council flat and signing on once more, and in an interview with The Daily Telegraph he admitted he had found life “difficult” since the excitement over the film had died down.
Howson, who will find out if he faces a jail sentence on 26 March, told the court last month: “I was just getting my head round doing more acting and going on from the opportunity I was given. Now I think I might have blown it.”