David Morrissey Interview

David Morrissey interview

David Morrissey sips Guinness in the back-room of a comfortably shabby north-London boozer. He’s 37, he’s from Liverpool, and, according to Variety magazine, he’s a “superb” actor, comparable with Jimmy Stewart at his best. But for too many he’s “David who?” Track down Holding On, BBC2’s 1997 miniseries where he plays a tax inspector whose life spirals out of control – it’s one of the decade’s great performances, right up there with the best celluloid can offer.

But, to paraphrase another David, he’s an actor, not a movie-star. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, in which he plays the Nazi, Gunther Weber, might just change all that, For now, though he’s content to pass anonymously in his local. Fame isn’t the spur: “I like to act, because I can forget about everything else. I did a play last year, a couple of movies, some telly, some radio. I don’t differentiate – for me, the script is everything.” Right now he’s directing Paul McGann in Sweet Revenge, a BBC thriller, while planning a movie of The Wild, based on a novel by his long-time partner, Esther Freud.

It’s a long way from his teenage years with Liverpool’s legendary Everyman Youth Theatre, and Willy Russell’s Channel 4 drama One Summer: “I was just dead, dead lucky. I was 16, it was the first job I ever did, and I was absolutely shitting myself.” Drama school meant a move south: “RADA was brilliant, but I couldn’t believe how big and expensive London was.” He’s barely stopped working since – though his movies have largely meant either low-profile roles in high-profile films (the husband in Hilary and Jackie) or vice versa: The Suicide Club, “a fuckin’ brilliant story, but it’s never seen the light of day.”

Television has been kinder, though his size – he’s a rangy six-footer – initially typecast him as coppers and soldiers in the likes of SAS drama The One that Got Away. He’s gradually built up a varied post-watershed CV: “In Big Cat, I was playing someone who couldn’t physically love at all, he just couldn’t shag, but in Pure Wickedness I was playing somebody who couldn’t keep his knob in his trousers,” is how he puts it. Next up: Channel 4’s Linda Green, from the company behind Queer as Folk. “It’s all set in Manchester, with Lisa Tarbuck as this club singer who falls in love with me. I had real fun doing it.”

But this son of Knotty Ash rules out a full-time return to the north-west: “I love London, I’m bringing my kids up here, I feel it’s a really kicking city. If I moved, it’d probably be out of the country.” To Los Angeles, on the back of Corelli? “Well, I want to work with as many good people as possible, and a lot of good people are in that town,” he says, though his tone is unenthusiastic, measured, very RADA. But what if, say, David Mamet, rang with an offer? “I’d fuckin’ bite his arm off!” he laughs, suddenly Scouse again.

26th April, 2001

by Neil Young
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