The Worst of Times: I'd rather my nose had been smashed at school: Jeremy Brett talks to Danny Danziger

I REMEMBER the desolation when Mummy's car left and I was marooned. I found that so frightening. And having my own room made me instantly lonely. I cried the first night because I was alone.

Well, I was scared. I found the uniform alarming. I don't think black is a frightfully good idea for someone that young.

I remember the first morning trying to open my starched collar with a nail file so I could breathe. I was crippled by a kind of beauty, which was hell for me, and I got a lot of wrong responses.

I had blondish, long hair, and in a school full of boys that is the nearest thing to a girl you can get. It makes you very self-conscious. I watched other pretty boys do better than me.

I remember walking around holding my mouth differently, and out-staring people, and I cut my hair and poked at my face with a pin, and tried to infect the wound with dirt.

The older boys could send junior boys on errands, and I was sent by one of the top members of my house to take a message to a boy in another house. And when I got there, after a few minutes, I was aware that I had been sent for other reasons, and I began to retreat. He said: 'I want a picture of you, that's all.' But I felt threatened by him, and frightened by the fact I had been set up by the boy in my house.

But you never told your parents you were unhappy, because you knew, especially me, the youngest of four, that it was costing them practically everything they had to keep you there.

I was beaten a great deal. You had to wait until after the beating when they asked: 'Do you have anything to say?' You would say: 'No.' 'You may leave,' they then said. And you must then say: 'Thank you.'

The first time, I got up, and out of panic, I immediately said thank you. 'Oh,' they said, 'he likes it, bend over,' and I got another five. I got 158 strokes altogether, which now seems unbelievable.

Sometimes I wasn't quite certain why I was being beaten. I hope they got their kicks . . . but that made me very bitter.

The experience haunted me for quite a time after I left. It made me very unsure of my gender, because I was attractive. When girls found me attractive, that was the most enormous relief.

I went to drama school, and I overheard two girls talking about me: they were saying that I was attractive, and I ran back to my digs and had a look at myself in the mirror.

Later on, I had my nose smashed, on stage at the National Theatre. I wish I had had it smashed at school, if I was going to have it smashed at all, it would have been nice to have had it done then.

I have seen people who have gone through that school and had a wonderful, mesmeric time, a beautiful time, full of education, full of friendship. They stepped out the other side, and it has not rippled across their psyches. And I envy that, I really envy that.

It gave me an enormous amount of anger: I can't think of Eton except with rage. And for many years I used to have a nightmare that I was back there. But that's gone now. I've had such a wonderful life since.

I'm now playing a part as Sherlock Holmes where I'm wearing almost exactly what I wore at Eton, the tucked-under tie, the black frock coat, I'm almost dressed the same. It's very strange, extraordinary.

(Photograph omitted)

Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

    Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

    £17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

    The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

    £28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

    The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

    £30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there