Theatre is liberating because it only works if it`s truthful, That`s what it requires. That`s not true of film: the camera does lie. You can be moved by a performance on set, but when you see it on screen, it does nothing. Yet there will be someone you simply didn`t notice on set that on screen: bam!
I was lucky to learn early in life that you need money for food and shelter, but there`s no ambition in having money in the bank for the sake of it!
If you're willing to have the same expectations of yourself that many male actors have -- and many women actors deny themselves by wanting to look sexy or pretty -- then there are a lot of parts that are open to you. If there's one interesting thing about acting, it's trying to lose your ego in the character.
(THE INDEPENDENT, MARCH 4, 1998:)
Most seven-year-old children are taller than me.
(THE INDEPENDENT, MARCH 4, 1998:)
I love children. And when I am around them ... I really enjoy playing with them. It's such an excuse to be a kid yourself, isn't it?
Africa is an incredible country to grow up in because you remain a child for much longer. You don't have the European pressures of 'Do you look good? Do you have a boyfriend? Do you smoke yet?' You know, I came back with bunches and cigarettes were for grown ups.
That was the biggest thing my parents gave me: a feeling that I was going to be the thing of tomorrow.
I'm definitely a survivor. I've never been neurotic about pain. Ever since I've been a kid I've recognised that there are times when you go through some awful sh*t in your life, and that everybody does, and there's no avoiding it. So I've always sort of slid down the razor blade straight away, picked myself up and gone on. I'm not really someone to nurse wounds a lot. Only because I don't think you need to welcome pain. It'll always be there so you don't need to hold on to it.
I really love pressure. It's when I think I'm most relaxed. I like the intensity of it. I love it when all the fireworks are going off. It means that people really give a sh*t about what they're doing. I don't think that the best projects are necessarily the happiest projects. I much prefer people to have a fight than I mean there's nothing more boring than people going off and b*tching in their Winnebagoes behind each other's backs. I just think, 'Oh, get some balls.
Drama Centre genuinely inspired me. It changed me, in fact, as a person, as well as an actress. Lots of people can act. But after a few years in work, there are so many genuinely unhappy people, because they hate being freelance or can't take the criticism. At Drama Centre London you find out at 23 whether you have the stomach for criticism rather than at 45, as a card-carrying member of Alcoholics Anonymous.
(My education at Drama Centre) wasn't just a foundation in acting, but a preparation for the job, which isn't quite the same thing. It was a tough course, but it's a tough profession. It teaches you to ask questions, how to look at yourself -- which you need if you're an actor -- and how to keep constantly training yourself.
I've been really lucky. Theatre doesn't pay much, so I don't have the biggest flat in London, and I don't see my friends as much as I'd like. But I haven't had to compromise on my work. It's a real honour to be given that opportunity, and I do feel that you shouldn't waste it. If you are lucky enough to have a choice, choose the stuff that interests you, that's going to make you happy, rather than what other people might think would be an intelligent career choice or would get you the biggest bucks. Life's too short.
There's a part of me that thinks, 'I'm an actor, it's part of my job to do interviews.' But there's another part of me, as Helen, as a person, that feels very vulnerable.
I think what disturbs me about the whole idea of (celebrity culture) is that it's a lie. "People don't look like that, or behave like that. The world isn't full of happy endings. And the more you keep telling people that it is, the more terrified and lonely they feel when they see that's not what their life is like. And that's not the job of an actor, or of a playwright. It's to reassure the audience that life, as muddled and as wonderful as it is, is worth living. And that pain is just as much a part of it as pleasure and happiness.
I think whatever job you’re doing at the time is your complete preoccupation, and after it, you’re then on to the next one. I’m not particularly nostalgic. I don’t tend to look back and sort through which were my favourites.
Awards mean absolutely nothing until you receive one; then they become strangely meaningful.
I’ll always keep coming back to the theatre. I love the direct connection with an audience and the chance to sustain and develop a character anew every night. Playing live is much more exciting.
It's far more terrifying falling in love at 35 because you understand the complexities of it and you have a lot more to lose.It's far more terrifying falling in love at 35 because you understand the complexities of it and you have a lot more to lose.
The advantage of travelling and different cultures (as I did in my childhood) is that it teaches you to adapt and use your intuition because you have to go to different schools and you want to be popular and you know you'll only be there a couple of terms. It suits me to be in things and then leave them. I like the change. But I'm very secure and not neurotic in any way because of the grounding my parents gave me.
I didn't see theatre as a kid in Africa. There wasn't any. The first film I saw was screened by my father in East Africa. It was The Man Who Would Be King and I was completely blown away by the fact that it was a film and this was at the age of nine. I never had idols or posters of people on my walls. The people I grew up with in my family because of my father's job were statesmen, scientists, politicians.
I'm not intellectual enough for ideas to interest me and I'll never be capable of original thought. But when I see truth and humanity on stage I understand how that changes and affects me and how it can really change my view of the world. ... Also, I adore showing off!
Now the younger generation of actor just wants to 'succeed'. They just want to be famous within the system that exists. I had a theatre company, I built the Landor Theatre with Saskia Reeves, I produced plays at the Royal Court and the Donmar, and that was our generation. You don't just want to be a participant, you want to change the system. ... And you know that you're not going to make much money in theatre, so you might as well say what you want.
I look for the conflict in a play because of that. I get so bored in interviews with people saying: 'It's so amazing. You looked so ugly (in that role); how did you do that to your ego?' But I'm an actress telling a story. It has nothing to do with me. What you're doing and what you believe in is more important than yourself.
Now people ask: 'Are you going to LA?' And I go: 'What are you talking about?' I find theatre far more glamorous. Bunches of flowers at the stage door, people coming round with champagne. That's far more glamorous than a load of photographers at a gala evening screaming, 'Oi! Helen! Here!' There's nothing glamorous about that.
I've never been broody before, but when I met Damian I became very different about relationships.
At 18, if someone's asking you to explore certain facets of your personality and show it to other people, that's really tough. And the teachers (at the Drama Centre) didn't mince words; they could be vicious. They believed I had such confidence, they had to be strong in order to break it down. ... That's what critics do, isn't it? What the experience shows you is whether you're the sort of person who can pick yourself up and carry on or, if you're going to be so upset by criticism, you do something else.
When people turn against you, it doesn't matter who it is, it's horrid. There are reasons people decide to be discreet.
Nobody wants to marry someone nobody else wants! It's part of his job, and it's part of my job as well. Damian doesn't mind; he just puts the flowers in the back of the car and drives home. We understand where it comes in life. It's because people project on to you; some people are like that.
Manon is very easy and very beautiful. So far she's also very calm, so Damian should definitely be getting a DNA test for that one. ... I've no idea what sort of parents we'll be. It's like any relationship, it grows; we'll have to see what Manon's like, and whether she's a nervous, timid child or an extrovert. We're not following a book or doing the tough love thing. To be honest, I'm feeding her more on whim than demand – she only has to look at me sideways and I'm there, day or night. I don't mind; as I've never needed eight hours' sleep, I can take it or leave it.
I love working. Selfishly. Just for me and my own happiness. I was due to appear in the new Harry Potter film, but they couldn't get insurance because I was expecting a baby. I have to say that when they told me I was devastated for about five seconds - then I had to remind myself that I was, after all, pregnant.
Lauren Bacall came backstage after a show I did with Emily Watson on Broadway and rasped: 'You were fabulous. I've been a fan of yours for years, I love all your work. I adored you in Breaking the Waves.' I thought Oh God, she's got the wrong f---ing person, oh s--t, oh s--t, so I quietly pointed out she actually meant Emily." Bacall was mortified, whereupon quick-witted McCrory smoothly broke the tension by declaring: "It's such a pleasure to meet you, because ever since Philadelphia Story, Miss Hepburn, I've always been a great fan of yours." The Hollywood legend burst into laughter, and duly swept her off to supper.
I was at a dinner party recently where people were discussing The Queen and most of them had no idea I was in it. I didn't tell them. I thought that finding out what they felt about the film was far more interesting than the fact I was in it.
One morning I'll be tripping down the road in kitten heels and a Chanel coat, the next I'll be in something floaty. In a broader sense too, I thrive on constant change, and it doesn't worry me, I don't feel threatened by it.
I learnt that in England, as soon as you open your mouth you are judged. In Italy it's all largely about your shoes, and in France it's what school you went to. From an early age I learnt to adapt and to live in the moment because you can't hanker after your past.
I'm half Scottish, half Welsh and I regard red hair as perfectly ordinary. And to set the record straight, contrary to reports, (Damian) has never referred to himself as the 'Ginger Ninja'.
Some women seem to spend their childhoods dreaming about their perfect wedding day. I've got no fantasies to fall back on. My daydreams were always about winning the 800 metres to wild cheers, not about completing myself with another person.
I did have a honeymoon. It lasted an evening. It was very short, but very lovely. We got married in the Kensington and Chelsea registry office, then walked down the King's Road and had lunch in a nice restaurant around the corner with 11 people. A very romantic day.
Actors and actresses have sensitivity bludgeoned out of them at birth. We are that rare combination of vanity and self-obsession. Actually, I don't know about Damian, but I do get nervous, especially when speaking in public without a script. I had to present the prizes for an under-12s poetry-reading once. I was performing in three plays at the Olivier Theatre, back to back, 17 hours with no nerves whatsoever, but I stood up to say a few words and my voice wavered and I became self-conscious. ... My trouble is I make no connection between myself and what I do on stage or in front of a camera, so when I am being myself I get very, very nervous and take tranquillisers.
Being married to someone who is also an actor gives you a shorthand about your job -- makes it easier to relate. Also, you know the realities. Some people think acting is all about laughing as you sip champagne from a slipper at a premiere. But actually most of it is unglamorous.
My parents were always very encouraging. I never felt unloved. They gave me great stability. I think that is why I am so relaxed as a parent myself; they gave me a great blueprint. Besides, parenthood is only a seven-day-a-week job and apparently in 18 years you can stop worrying so much. I'll have a nice nap and a shandy then.
When I was in my teens, I was dragged along to some function with (my father, a Foreign Office diplomat) in Brussels, and when the national anthem struck up, I rolled my eyes and sat down. He took me to one side and said, 'Never do that again. The man standing next to us is the head of the SAS. His friends die for Queen and country, so show some respect.' It's a lesson I've never forgotten.
Because we moved around a lot when I was a child, my sense of home and belonging was with people rather than places. My whole identity was grounded in my parents and brother and sister. I don't think having a daughter altered me enormously in that respect.
We're going to have the baby out there (in Los Angeles) in November. Should be interesting. LA is a city that makes you wash your hands before you go to the supermarket; ust imagine how clean the hospitals will be. I'll have to find out how soon I can bring the baby back on a plane. Is there a minimum age? I don't want its ears to explode.
I was supposed to appear in Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix, but they couldn't get the insurance because I was pregnant. They said I can be in the next one, though." After a pause, she adds with a grin, "I play the old Harry, who is 72 and on steroids.
It's very important to get the physicality of a character right, because it tells us so much about them.
Lots of my friends are journalists. So I know that they'll go to an interview and say, ‘Oh f***k! I've got to stitch them up! I have to write this horrible thing about Gordon Brown because they've got pictures of him where he looks satanic and they want me to write the copy that goes with it.' So you always have to read what's written about you with your heart in your mouth because it's all totally subjective.
There is a level of exhaustion that comes with motherhood. And there are times when you feel as though you have completely run out of energy. But, on the plus side, I am the most unneurotic mother you could ever meet. I do find it tiring and hard work, but never, ever stressful.
I became an actress, I suppose, because I'm a natural interpreter. I don't originate ideas, but I have a huge respect for people who write fantastic plays or scripts and I feel that you learn so much about people by playing them. That is the attraction for me, anyway.
My childhood was very peripatetic. We moved around a lot and, therefore, from a very young age, almost by necessity, you lived in the moment because you didn't know where you were going to be tomorrow and where you were today was very different from where you were yesterday. So you don't search for stability and you adapt very quickly to different situations. I don't think I've ever felt trapped at any point in my life.
Being with another actor means that you have a short hand and an empathy for each other's world. It also means that you're with someone who doesn't find your work and your world nearly as interesting as everybody else does. So Damian and I don't even talk much about each other's work. I've seen hardly any of his and he's seen hardly any of mine. So we are able to talk about completely different things, which is a relief, actually." She is not, then, the type who holds up a crucifix at the idea of falling for a fellow thesp. "I don't understand that at all," she says. "Who has such low self-esteem about their own f**king job that they don't believe they could ever find anyone else in it attractive? What nonsense.
I've often sat down with people talking about a film I've been in and they haven't realised I was in it. I think they're just being weird by not saying anything until I realise what has happened. ... What really matters to me is what my peers think.
I love theatre because it's just me and the audience. It's the litmus test in acting, to be able to sustain a performance over one, two or three hours.
I have really started to enjoy the craft of film acting. I do a lot more film and television now than theatre. The difference between screen and stage is that in theatre it's tangible whether someone can act or not. I've worked with people, who will remain nameless, where a film scene has had to be cobbled together from a whole day's worth of takes because the actor is sh*t. They can't remember the lines; if they do remember the lines, they can't remember the moves. In the final project, they will look great, because the director will cut the film for them. In theatre, you can't employ someone who can't remember their bloody lines. That's the difference.
I used to be really ignorant about film. I didn't know anything about film culture or film actors and I still haven't seen many of the great movies. Damian's a great film buff and he really introduced me to them. I suppose a part of me thought my ignorance was slightly charming, but actually it's my job and I should bloody know them. We watch a lot of stuff now. The more I see, the more I appreciate it, and the more I'm excited about being involved in it.
I'm not into mainstream Hollywood. Not because I'm a snob, it's just because I don't like it; it's not my thing. I'm not really their demographic anyway. I mean, I just get in rages about things, so I think it's easier for me not to watch it -- all those big t*ts and guns.
Sex is all in the brain.
If you think you are beautiful in a scene, you will come across as beautiful. I don't think looks are important, I think what's important is if someone is sexy. Someone might have a great face, but all the sex appeal of a walnut. And then other people walk into the room and you're like, 'Wow!!' because they've just got it. And my husband has definitely got it -- whatever 'it' is.
The Life schedule was very tough on him: he went to work at two in the afternoon on Friday and didn't wrap till seven or eight o'clock on Saturday morning. It's an 18-hour day, it's brutal and it's just seen as product. And that kind of schedule just doesn't exist in England. We don't let it, it would be illegal.
I don't know. I'm very, very happy as we are at the moment. We are very lucky to have a girl and a boy.
What I find most interesting about acting is transforming myself. Some actors are always themselves and they're fantastic at it, but you know you're always watching Clint Eastwood. Other actors really enjoy becoming other people and losing their ego, and I'm the latter.
Music really influenced me when I was growing up. I did go through a Jimi Hendrix phase. My hair was naturally quite afro, and I wore low-slung jeans with very high heels. Siouxsie and the Banshees had a lot to answer for. I was in a top hat with peac*ck feathers and thigh-high black boots. I was 17 -- old enough to know better.
I play Narcissa Malfoy in the new Harry Potter film. If I told you what I was wearing, I would probably have to kill you; it's a bit like working for MI5.
If you're walking around, basically in your nightie and a great big silk dressing gown, and huge wigs with white powdered faces and little cupid lips, it's a very sexy look. Quite artificial really: it reminded me slightly of a geisha, which I know is sexy, but very restrictive. I had the feeling of having a mask on. I like that -- the mystery of dressing. I like it when women have an air about them.
I love the fact that I have a pair of hips and a bit of a chest. My shape changed enormously after pregnancy. Now I am learning to dress a different figure. I have no desire to do battle with my weight.
In summer, we might get together with friends for a picnic on the Heath. Everybody brings a blanket and one food they like eating. We take footballs and other things we can play. After a glass of Rioja, it's remarkable how many games I can play: I won't be held back. It's boules for the very drunk, tennis for the not so drunk. When we've done that in the past, we've then gone to Kenwood for an evening concert and fireworks. Something light like the Strauss waltzes would be good.
I love the English papers on Sunday, which you can never get until Tuesday abroad. I should be reading the business pages, but all I want to read are the pop-y (popular) articles. We don't have lie-ins now - we'll probably be up at 6 o'clock. Damian is a very good cook so he does breakfast in the garden and I get the papers with Manon.
I was a real art freak when I was a teenager. When I got my InterRail card I went off and sat in the Uffizi gallery, in Florence, for six days. If I ever have a bit of spare cash, I try to buy art. A friend works at Christie's; I once got to hold a Vermeer and see how it was restored. It's what people create that makes my heart stop.
Damian and I have separate interests. I don't care if Liverpool win or lose. Nor could I explain any of the cricket scoring. Damian is very sporty. I watched him play football for England at Old Trafford in a celebrity game against the Rest of the World; I turned the air blue. My grandfather was a boxer so I was used to shouting at the television. We do both love rugby, though. A perfect weekend would be watching Wales win the Grand Slam. My mother, who is Welsh, would be singing her heart out and refusing to speak English for the entire match.
In London, I love walking along the South Bank. I always gravitate to the river.
When I was a teenager, I lived in Paris for six years, and every holiday the family would go to Biarritz (right). It’s a wonderfully 'French' resort, stylish and interesting -- the tearooms are full of women you know change their clothes three times a day to match the collar they’ve put on their dog. It’s also one of the safest places in France, as all the gendarmes go there on holiday. The Petit Plage is great for children, and on the Grand Plage there are fantastic fireworks displays. You can catch rugby at the Biarritz Olympique stadium, or watch pelotte, a cross between lacrosse and tennis. It’s very exciting and you’ll often see ambulances carting off members of the crowd who have been hit by an errant ball. Nearby there’s great surfing, or you can catch an old train that rumbles through the foothills of the Pyrenees.
There are plenty of big films that are just not to my taste. Like the films that everybody knows are an absolute copy of one that's been done before because they know it will be money and bums on seats. I'm attracted to projects that are ambitious and ambitious for more than just making money.
I've always found it quite simple to live in the moment. I don't reflect a lot and I don't worry about the future.
I don't know that I've always been confident and self-assured, but I've never been all that self-conscious. I find what's going on around me far more interesting than my own navel.
When I met Damian I felt very calm with him, and like I belonged. I still do. Although we're very different, our impulses are the same. I've never looked at him and not understood why he's done something, and while I may not like what he's done, I understand where it comes from.
When I'm working on stage I rush around a lot, so I can eat more, but when we're filming it's completely different. Basically everyone arrives on the first day at their normal weight and leaves double the size, spines crushed a foot shorter with fat. That's the problem with eating on the Harry Potter set. It's even worse when you're doing a US production -- they may have sushi and salad bars in addition to the burgers, but I have seen living proof that you can get fat on salad. That said, Damian and I love eating out twice a week, we always have. Even when the children were really little we'd take them in cots. We were big party animals, but now instead of keeping going until the early hours, we'll be done by midnight and think, 'Wow, what a fantastic evening.' It's an age thing; quite frankly, we don't have the staying power we used to.
I got my first big break under Richard Eyre at the National, but was also doing my first jobs for television with the likes of Michael Gambon, Billie Whitelaw and Bill Owen. It's great to sit there and watch these people and find out what they're doing. Why are they still working at 75? I want to carry on as long as they have if I can -- hobbling on to the stage of the Haymarket on my zimmer frame.
I was at boarding school, and my drama teacher recommended Drama Centre and I auditioned and they looked at me and said 'you must be joking' -- I was murdering Juliet's 'Gallop apace' speech, kicking it to death, it lay limp at my feet. They looked at me and said 'tell me what it was like when you first fell in love' and I said 'I don't think I have really', and they said 'well don't waste our time -- why did you choose that speech?!' I just looked at them and thought 'oh, do I have to think about this?' And I went to the other drama schools and they were very nice and offered me places, but I really wanted to go to Drama Centre because they were so direct and I really liked that. So the next year I auditioned and I was put on the waiting list and I auditioned for a few other drama schools who again offered me places. But I refused them saying I was waiting to see if I got into Drama Centre and told Drama Centre that I had done this and than a few days later I got a letter back saying 'see you in September'. And I spent three very important years there.
Each job is taking me away from my children, so I have to really believe that what that person has to say is relevant and interesting and entertaining.
People talk about settling down; there's nothing settling down about it, love. We've moved country three times, we've sold two houses, bought a house, done about seven films, a series, four plays, had two kids. I'd just like the dust to settle.
It was an amazing childhood. There was a wildness about it. I was shocked when we came to Britain when my mum was pregnant with my sister. I was confused that children wanted to be adults, to wear make-up and smoke. My idea of naughtiness was to go up onto cliffs and practise our swallow dives. I had no interest in smoking, boys and hair. I'm a bit like that now! I don't sit and think, 'Do I want a straighter nose?' I'm sure that's because of Africa.
(what does this versatile actress look like as Narcissa?) If I told you that they'd shoot you as you walked away from this building. No I'm not joking. ... It's like working for MI5. When you film, a man comes in with a wand. You do the scene, and as soon as it's finished, it's locked in a cupboard. At first you think: 'Why?' And then you see the eyes of the kids being shown round the set and you think: 'Oh that's why.' Because if it's not nailed down, it's going to disappear.