Edinburgh Festivals Magazine

Greg Wise “The journey to death is part of the journey of life”

Completing his sister’s online diary after her death helped actor Greg Wise see how her legacy could help others.

When publishers approached him about turning a blog about his sister’s death into a book, actor Greg Wise had one condition:

“I said: the bottom line is that not one single piece of editing can be done on this. This has to be a real time account.”

Not that Kind of Love begins with the online diary written by Clare Wise about her treatment for breast cancer; it ends with Greg’s account of her final illness and death.

“She started it when she was first diagnosed and it kept going pretty sporadically – and then the cancer came back,” he says. “She was in a lot of pain and she didn’t have the strength to keep going, so when I moved in with her for the last three and a bit months I took it over.”

The blog started as a practical way of updating friends and family when the days were full of the time-consuming care needed by someone very sick. But Not That Kind of Love became a moving, intimate and sometimes funny account of dealing with the end of life. It is also a beautiful testament to the closeness between brother and sister.

'The journey to death is part of the journey of life'Click To Tweet

Clare had worked as a film executive for Universal Pictures, meaning long hours, doing deals, flying around the world. Her relationships with men had taken second place to her career – but Greg had always been there for her. “Because she was not able to do that kind of love I was her go-to guy.”

Fortunately, Greg’s wife, actress Emma Thompson, understood. “Emma was always wonderfully open to that,” he says. “She was always very supportive.”

At the time, Phyllida Law, Emma Thompson’s mother, was also facing serious health problems, with what was later diagnosed as Parkinson’s disease. But there was never any question that Greg should help his sister, who lived in the same street in West Hampstead.

“The work I do meant I could drop everything. I was incredibly lucky to be able to be with her for the last three months. It was a real gift.”

Greg, who is currently filming a new supernatural CBS drama called Strange Angel, spoke to many experts in end of life care and thought deeply about how to support his sister.

“I think we have to realise that the journey to death is part of the journey of life,” he says.

Despite this, he’s still very open about his own emotions, admitting that, “the most frustrated I got with my sister was the day before she died.”

He looks back on this day in the book, describing how Clare was becoming so weak she was barely able to say what she wanted from her days. Exasperated, he reminded himself: “IT’S HER GIG. I am merely her roadie.”

The very next day she died, “within minutes of me posting the previous evening’s blog about the ‘sameness of days’ and that I was going to have to make a unilateral decision, Clare was busy making other plans.”

The chapters written by Clare reveal a person honestly evaluating her life, appreciating everything she has but also wondering if she should have loved more and worked less. Reflecting on the legacy of her words, Greg sums it up by saying, “it is a wonderful testament to my sister that she is being helpful to people.”


Greg Wise, Baillie Gifford Main Theatre, 17 August, 6.45pm and Greg Wise with Sally Magnusson, Baillie Gifford Main Theatre, 18 August, 11.45am, from £10

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