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Brian Cox Drew Inspiration From These Real-Life People For His Performance In Prisoner's Daughter - Exclusive

In the new film "Prisoner's Daughter," Scottish actor Brian Cox plays Max, a one-time promising prize fighter who long ago became a mob hitman in Las Vegas and went down a dark hole of crime, drugs, and stints in prison. As the movie opens, Max has been in the slam for 12 years and is being given compassionate release due to a diagnosis of terminal cancer.

Required to live under house arrest, he appeals to his estranged daughter, a former showgirl named Maxine (Kate Beckinsale), whose own life centers around taking care of her young son and paying the bills while she struggles to hold down menial jobs and keep her addict ex-husband at bay. Max wants to use his remaining time on Earth to make amends and help her if he can, but — still bitter from his abandonment of their family years ago — Maxine initially wants nothing to do with her dad.

Brian Cox is known for playing a variety of dark roles, from the original Hannibal Lector in "Manhunter" to the mutant-hating Colonel William Stryker in "X2" to the merciless media mogul Logan Roy in the hit HBO series "Succession." He's even played a convict before in the underrated 2008 prison thriller "The Escapist." But when it came to researching a role like that of Max, Cox told Looper that he didn't have to look much further than his own past to get into Max's mindset.

How Cox relied on personal experience to play a criminal

Let's be clear: Brian Cox has never done prison time or been arrested for a crime. But he acknowledges (via The Scotsman and The Wall Street Journal) that he had a tough upbringing in the city of Dundee, Scotland, where he faced bullying at school and could have easily become a delinquent himself. These experiences informed his portrayal of the dying criminal Max in "Prisoner's Daughter."

"I know people who've been to prison, and I was aware of people who [were] going to prison when I was very young," he told us. "I could see some of the less attractive of my classmates at school — not necessarily in my class, but people who could be quite violent — I could see them ending up in a certain way. I was always aware of that because I absolutely loathe violence and I can't be dealing with it in any shape or form."

But Cox, whose family also experienced poverty after the death of his father (who ran a grocery store in Dundee), said that the travails of his early life gave him the kind of empathy necessary to play a character like Max.

"You do try to understand what makes one behave the way they behave," he explained. "A lot of it is to do with repression — how you repress what you feel, how you repress who you are. It makes it, from the acting point of view, so much easier to play because it's an open book; you can just do it. You use your imagination. What is it like to be deprived? What is it like to be in that kind of situation? I've played a few people in that boat."

"Prisoner's Daughter" premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.