The legendary actor makes guitar pilgrimages to the King’s Road, loves chatting with cabbies and knocks back the bubbles with Royal Court lutists
Interview by MICHAEL HOGAN
Santa Barbara, near Harry and Meghan. I’ve never seen them in the supermarket, though. I live with my wife, three teenage sons and two bulldogs. It’s not a quiet house.
Where do you stay in London?
Usually The Dorchester, which is a stunning hotel. I remember the Burtons staying there, Noël Coward, all these celebs.
New Kings Road Vintage Guitar Emporium, owned by Rick Zsigmond, is absolutely brilliant. If you’re into stunning guitars, that’s a pilgrimage to go on. My son is into music, so I’ve become a bit of a connoisseur. I’ve always loved Harrods, too, but I’m a quirky shopper. I love rare finds and antique watches. In the old days, Portobello Road was a goldmine.
Best meal you’ve had?
San Lorenzo on Beauchamp Place was our watering hole. I remember going in when it was literally one room with five tables and running into Peter Sellers and Michael Caine on the same night. Nowadays London is one of the greatest cities in the world for food, certainly better than Paris. I also used to love La Famiglia — my God, walking down the King’s Road in those days, you’d pass Vivienne Westwood, Mary Quant… You took it for granted and didn’t realise you were part of history.
If you could buy any building in London and live there, which would it be?
Apsley House on Hyde Park Corner, just because of its address: Number 1, London. Wouldn’t that be amazing? But if I came back to live here, I’d try and find a place in Soho, right in the middle of everything.
I adore The Royal Court. It was so groundbreaking. I was working in Twelfth Night there in 1968 when I was cast by Lindsay Anderson in my first movie, If…. I was so excited, I went to the pub next door and spent half my salary on a bottle of champagne. I thought I’d share it with my fellow actors but they’d all gone home. I saw a guy who looked familiar and he turned out to be one of the play’s musicians. Me and the lute player had a great celebration.
What do London cabbies say to you?
They always want to talk about A Clockwork Orange. You can always have a good chat to a cockney cabbie. You don’t even mind the odd traffic jam because you’re being entertained royally.
What makes someone a Londoner?
You’ve just got to live and breathe it. It’s not only a cockney’s city. You can come from Bangladesh and be a Londoner as much as anyone else. Immigration changed the face of London and it was the best thing that ever happened.
What are you up to for work?
I’m in a lovely new movie called She Will. It’s directed by multimedia artist Charlotte Colbert and stars Alice Krige, who gives a towering performance. Next up, I’m off to Newfoundland to film the second season of hit Canadian comedy Son of a Critch.
Ever had a run-in with a London police officer?
I did spend a night in the nick. In the early Seventies, I’d been drinking too much and they slung me in the cells. I was retrieved by my lawyer, who was also drunk because I’d been with him at lunch.
Where would you most like to be buried in London?
Scatter my ashes on Hampstead Heath. You’ve got the great city right at your feet. Hampstead is like being in a major city and a country village at the same time.
‘She Will’ is in cinemas 22 July