Fry took flight `to rethink life'

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The Independent Online

Arts Reporter

Stephen Fry finally came forward to reassure the world of his well-being yesterday. In a fax to his theatrical agent, he castigated himself for his failure as an actor and said he had gone into hiding because he desperately needed to rethink his life.

"I have been horrified and embarrassed to see from the papers how much attention my departure has provoked. I do want to apologise for all the distress and concern I have caused," Fry, 37, wrote in the two-page typewritten letter.

"I can only offer cowardice, embarrassment and distress as excuses for such absurd behaviour. I would also like to say that I hold no grudge against the theatre critics. I left not out of pique, because I had been wounded or hurt, but because I was afraid that they were right."

The statement follows concern over the actor's disappearance earlier this week after walking out on his new West End play, Cell Mates. Until yesterday, neither his family nor friends knew where he was.

It was not clear where yesterday's fax came from.

His agency, Hamilton Asper Management, said the fax arrived at its London office at 3pm by modem, giving no indication of its provenance. Asked if he knew of Fry's whereabouts, a spokesman would only confirm that he had been in contact. He refused to comment on a reported sighting of him in Bruges.

The publicist dealing with the affair, Sara Keene, said yesterday: "I genuinely don't know where he is. He may be in Bruges."

Fry's statement threw light on the "emotional turmoil" attributed to him on Tuesday but gave assurances of his mental and physical health. It also made a moving plea for the press to leave him alone because he "could not bear" to be traced.

"I have been selfish. I cannot deny that," Fry wrote. "I desperately needed to go away and rethink my life. I may live for another 37 years and it would be foolish to carry on doing things for which I haven't either the aptitude or perhaps the desire."

The Evening Standard theatre critic Nicholas de Jongh described Fry in Cell Mates as "little more than a stonewalling poser". But yesterday he admitted: "Incidents like this remind us how much toughness one needs to be an actor."

Geoffrey Wheatcroft, who said in the Daily Mail that the comedian was the most irritating man in Britain, was less sympathetic. "I have absolutely no views on the subject."