Fry saved from abyss by thoughts of his family

Back from the brink: Comedy actor contemplated suicide after deserting his West End role - now he is ready to work again
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The Independent Online

Arts Correspondent

Stephen Fry spoke yesterday for the first time about the breakdown he suffered earlier this year, saying he had considered committing suicide.

Referring to his dramatic exit from the West End play Cell Mates, he also criticised the show's producer, Duncan Weldon for suing him for pounds 500,000.

"He does not accept medical reports that make it quite clear that I was not a well person," said Fry.

The comedian and actor was speaking to journalists for more than half an hour, before being reinstalled as Rector of Dundee University.

He said that ultimately it was the thought of hurting family and friends which pulled him back in the days when he was alone in Europe. He has since undergone psychotherapy in the US.

He was now feeling much better, he added, and was starting to work with cameo roles in television and film. He was also getting back to writing.

Looking slim and fit, having lost two stone and begun training at a gym - and with his once dyed blonde hair now a brown colour, called Chocolate Kiss, he said he was ready to take on the future. But he would not be working and pushing himself as much as in the past.

The pressures of working non-stop in entertainment for so long had contributed to him reaching "crisis point" when he got bad reviews in Cell Mates.

It was a general feeling of complete unhappiness, he said.

"When you get just a complete sense of blackness, a void head view that somehow the future looks an impossible place to be, and the direction you're going seems to have no purpose.

"There is this word, despair, which is a very awful thing to feel," he said. Asked if he had contemplated suicide he said: "Yes, of course, if one is honest, yes absolutely."

He refused to describe the crisis moment, saying it could be something he would write about in the future, but the thought of family and friends pulled him back from the edge.

"It seems a rather negative thing that the only reason to consider carrying on having a pop at living is so other people don't get upset, but it is a good enough reason. One is reminded of the Dorothy Parker line: 'You might as well live'. I hasten to say I do not feel that kind of black at the moment."

Referring to himself, he added: "You look at your life and say it is hopeless when in fact it is not hopeless. You've got friends, enough money to take time to do things, far luckier than many other people. It was an absurd overreaction. There is no ignoring that."