Alfie Allen: What's it all about?

His dad Keith and his sister Lily are renowned for saying exactly what they think. But Alfie Allens got his own opinions as well. Plenty of them. And as Deborah Ross discovers, hes a talented actor, too
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The Independent Online

Alfie Allen is the son of Keith Allen, the actor and comedian, and the little brother of Lily Allen, the pop star, and he is probably the cousin of someone too but, let's face it, we're not very interested in that. We meet at an office in London where he is accompanied by a PR lady, rather protectively. He is 21 and looks a bit like the boy from the Mad comic. Although this isn't to say he isn't cute. He is.

Anyway, the PR has bought along one of those magazines I pretend not to read but do is it Look? It may be but I wouldn't want to say for sure as it could ruin the pretence. Whatever, there is a picture of Alfie in it canoodling with his new girlfriend, Jaime Winstone, daughter of Ray Winstone, the actor. She, too, is probably the cousin of someone but, let's face it, we're not very interested in that either. "It's a photo of you and the lovely Jaime," says the PR. "Hey, what about the lovely Alfie?" asks Alfie. "And the lovely Alfie," she says. I wonder how like her father Jaime is. Alfie, I ask, does she ever shout: "Shu' it, you slag!" and then slap you hard across the face before kneeing you in the nose? She does not, he says. He adds, a little wondrously: "She's lovely!" His PR says he is also in Grazia this week. "Why?" he asks. "Because," she says, "you gave them an interview." "Ah, that's why," he says, smilingly. He has a sweet and winning smile, and is a smart boy who gives as good as he gets, which is annoying, as compliant pushovers are much less effort. What's your mother like?, I ask at one point. "I don't know, what's your mother like?" he replies. Oh, great. Make me work, why don't you?

Alfie is quite a bit famous already. He's an actor, and a good one, but it was Lily who first put him on the map with the song she wrote about him, "Derek". OK, it's "Alfie" and it was a very big hit and the first verse goes:

Ooooo deary me/My little brother's in his bedroom smoking weed/I tell him he should get up cos it's nearly half past three/He can't be bothered cos he's high on THC/I ask him very nicely if he'd like a cup of tea/I can't even see him cos the room is so smoky/Don't understand how one can watch so much TV/My baby brother Alfie how I wish that you could see.

Oooooo deary me, indeed. Alfie! He says children love the song because it's so "bouncy and nursery rhyme-ish" and he's now always being scolded by dads who say: "Cheers, I had to explain to my five-year-old what weed is." Alfie, I say, you shouldn't do drugs. They are bad. I don't even know what THC is, but it's bad, bad, bad. The PR says: "Alfie doesn't smoke crack." Alfie says: "I'm not getting into this." Did you, I ask, know Lily was writing a song about you? He says he didn't. "I was in Canada, teaching kids how to snowboard I wasn't sitting in a smoky room doing nothing! when I got a My Space message from Lily saying I should check out her page because she'd written a song about me, and I should listen to it. I was like: "Great, yeah. It's going to be: Alfie, you're amazing, you're so brilliant..." He laughs. I say you can't really complain, as it's such an affectionate song. "God, yeah," he says. "Anyone who doesn't see that is an idiot." The PR says you should have seen the crowds when Lily sang it at Glastonbury. "They went mental." Did you always know that Lily had it in her? "Yes. She's a genius." What is your earliest memory of her? "Peeing on her head in the bath." Nice. And your dad? "I remember being in St Lucia and my dad taking me out on a jet ski. I was very young, too young, but, yup, dad does like to break rules." I bet. And the cousin? Nope, I still can't care.

Let's be honest (for a change), if it weren't for Keith and Lily but not the cousin, I probably wouldn't be here. On the other hand, maybe I would. Alfie's career does seem to be going great guns. He appeared in the film Atonement and as Jason, a street boy in Stephen Poliakoff's recent BBC drama Joe's Palace. Joe's Palace was fabulously watchable but heaven knows what it all added up to. What, Alfie, did it add up to? He says this is the thing about Poliakoff. "You can't stop watching it because you want to know why you are watching it." Why did I watch it? "I think it was all about self-discovery." Anyway, he must be a good actor because he has just been cast as Daniel Radcliffe's replacement in Equus and you don't get cast as Alan Strang the horse-crazed, anguished teen in Equus unless you can hold a stage. He's not that worried about appearing in the buff. "I was very relieved to find out I wouldn't, at least, have to be naked on the horse." The final stage in getting the job was meeting Peter Shaffer (the playwright) and David Pugh (the producer) for breakfast at the Wolseley at 8am. He thinks it was test to see if he'd get up. "And I did!"

He says there has always been a performer in him. When he was little, he quickly realised he could get to stay up later if he did something to make his mum and sisters laugh. "For example, there was a log that my mum had bought back from Glastonbury and I would put it in the middle of the room, look at it, then sit on it and pretend that something had poked me up the bum, and go 'Oh.' I'd then walk round the log, look at it, sit down, and go 'Oh' again. I was three or four or something and everyone used to laugh." He once, as a kid, filmed a Channel 4 pilot with his dad "and at the end of the day we'd all go to the top room of the hotel. Matt Lucas was there, and David Walliams and Paul Kaye, and they'd end up getting drunk, role-playing and coming up with new characters. For instance, the only gay in the village was made in that room with Matt and David and my dad. That sort of thing gave me ideas."

I say I love his dad, as I do. Not personally, you understand, although I wouldn't be the first. He has notched up eight kids by six women which has to be pretty good going. But I do love him as an actor. It's that air of danger and menace he gives off. You never know quite which way he is going to go. Some actors paint by numbers but your dad, I tell Alfie, seems to take the brush and go mental with it. I think Alfie considers Jude Law a bit of a painting-by-numbers actor. This is revealed when I mention having just seen the remake of Sleuth, and could not believe how appalling it was. "Well, Jude Law, that's what I say," he says. He's useless? "In my opinion, yes." I love it that he is so Lily-ish in saying what he thinks. The PR then says that Jude's real name is Dave. "Why change your name to Jude?" he asks. Maybe, I suggest, it's some kind of Thomas Hardy fixation. "What, Tom Hardy? The actor?" he asks. "No," I say. "Thomas Hardy, the writer. Jude the Obscure and all that." "What?" "It's a book," I say. Alfie's education was not as complete as it could have been, largely because he was expelled from every school going, pretty much.

True, the best and brightest people always are, but did your parents despair, Alfie? "You'd have to ask them," he says. His mother is Alison Owen, who was married to Keith for six years, and is a film producer who, among other films, produced Elizabeth, Shaun of the Dead and Brick Lane. "My mum wouldn't do a film for money. She does it as a passion. That's why she's involved in things that are so brilliant. She really cares about what she does." He says he was never naughty as such at school, but he was rude and difficult and did not like authority. Quite Keith-ish, in other words, and he still is quite Keith-ish. You're never quite sure which way Alfie is going to go, either. When I tell him that my mother is nice and plays bridge, he asks: "But does she have massive tits? Mine does." "Alfie!" I exclaim. I then explain that I can't possibly discuss my mother's breasts with him, not least because they are quite small and she'd so hate to see that in print.

I'd read, actually, that he had, at one point, been diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder. Is that right? "Yeah. I did have a problem at school concentrating on anything for more than 10 seconds." So it was the right diagnosis? "Definitely." Were you ever put on Ritalin? "I was one of the first kids in the UK to go on Ritalin and my mum hated it and I hated it. We went to Ibiza and I was on Ritalin and for a kid who couldn't concentrate, I read a 200-page book on King Arthur and my mum just hated it." What has she got against King Arthur? "She said it just wasn't me." And how is your concentration now? "What?" How is your... oh, very funny. "Ha!" he exclaims triumphantly.

I do think he'll become something, this Alfie Allen. As it is, he has just finished a film with Daniel Craig and another with Scarlet Johansson. He's not convinced by fame. "It's just something that comes with the job. It shouldn't, but it does. I do think some people enjoy it too much. Lily was like that in the past but now she is fine." I ask if he's ever thought about writing a song about her. No, he says, "She's the genius at that." This is a pity because it could have gone something like:

Oooooo, deary me/My big sister thinks she got to have the very last laugh/But I'll tell you this for nothing: I once peed on her head in the bath.

Genius. There must be a lot of it about.

Alfie Allen is working with BT Total Broadband to promote use of the internet. For more information see www.bt.com/totalbroadband

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