Dominic West: This Cultural Life

The actor is well versed in all the classics: James Joyce, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Ray Mears...
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The Independent Online

What are you reading in bed at the moment?

Ray Mears' Complete Bushcraft. I went to live in the woods for a week a couple of weeks ago. I got pneumonia! I wasn't very good at building the shelter, and I starved.

Do you tend to re-read books?

Yes, James Joyce's Dubliners. It reminds me of my time living in Dublin and I love all the stories. You can just pick it up and read the odd one here and there.

What book have you been meaning to read since you bought it in a fit of misguided enthusiasm?

The Ultimate Chord Finder would definitely be the one, where you learn how to play guitar chords. I haven't got round to it. It's just application (or lack of it...)

What is the least disposable pop song?

"Walk on the Wild Side", Lou Reed.

What was your cultural passion when you were 14?

Adam and the Ants. I thought they were so cool. Everyone listened to them.

What music are you listening to at the moment?

I'm listening to Arvo Pärt. He's an Estonian classical composer. He's amazing. I have listened to it a lot in the past few days. It's very moving, very simple, tranquil music.

Do you listen to that before going on stage to calm you?

Well, I've got a very young baby so I play it to her most of the time. It's the only thing that shuts her up!

What do you cling on to from childhood?

Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs. I wheel that out for anyone who'll listen.

What is your ideal alternative job?

Skipper of a tall ship. I've been on a tall ship: I sailed one for about six weeks and I loved it. They're such amazing machines. I think, in an ideal world, I'd love to sail around the world in a beautiful tall ship with an ever-changing crew.

Where did you sail?

I was in the South Pacific, between Tahiti and Western Samoa. There wasn't much wind, though. We got becalmed for 10 days, which drives you slightly crazy. I read The Brothers Karamazov, which is the only way I'd have ever read it.

Do you have a hole in your cultural life?

Football, I suppose. I'd love to really know lots about it and be really good at it and play it all the time but I just never got round to it. I used to get excited about England games, but I just can't bear them now after the World Cup. I feel drained and slightly violated.

Do you have a secret cultural passion?

I was going to say wine, but I suppose a lot of people know that I drink wine all the time. I know a bit about it. I like reading about it and I like drinking it. I have been round a lot of vineyards and I've bought quite a lot of good wine. I'd love to have a vineyard - that would actually be my other ideal alternative job.

Which painting most corresponds with your vision of yourself?

Munch's The Scream. Such an obvious one!

If you could tear down any building in the world, what would you pick?

Charing Cross station. Not the front of it - the bit that faces the river. Prince Charles called it "like a 1930s wireless", but it's the most offensive building. I worked a lot at the National this summer and as you look along the riverscape, it's the one blot that really annoys me! I think it's so ugly and filled with 1980s misguided hubris.But the front of Charing Cross I really like - it's just that awful extension office block. But I don't think it would be wise if I redesigned it!

Do you like parties?

Yes, I love them. Weddings particularly. I've been to some great ones lately. I went to one in Dublin, one in Ibiza - that was great: civilised in a debauched way.

Do you consider yourself a cool person?

No. I think if you do, you're obviously not.

But you're in 'The Wire', and that's cool...

Ah, yes, The Wire's pretty cool, isn't it? Trouble is, I'm the most uncool thing in it. But it is a cool show.

Do people in America know you're British?

I think most people think I'm American. Actually, the Queen's Park constabulary are quite big fans of The Wire. They thought I was American, too. They like it, but they're just desperate to have our methods. I bumped into a copper in Queen's Park the other day and he said, "Oh, we do that work but we don't have the money to wire-tap everyone."

What is the most fashionable thing you own?

A Nano iPod. They're certainly fashionable. I've had it for about a year.

And the most uncool thing?

Cycling shorts. I have worn them in public - I picked up my daughter from school once and she was only about six at the time and, even at that age she realised just how ridiculous they are. She begged me never to do that again.

Who should play you in the Hollywood version of your life?

Borat. I look quite like him.

Who would be your nemesis?

Judy Garland. I love Judy Garland but it would be nice to be in a shoot-out with her!

Your house is on fire. What one item would you save from the flames?

Cycling shorts.

You die and go to heaven. Who would you like to meet at the bar and what would you ask them?

Dostoyevsky. I think if we were at the bar I'd say, how's the champagne? He loved champagne, and I bet in heaven it's pretty good.

* Dominic West is joining the cast of Tom Stoppard's play, 'Rock'n'Roll' from Tuesday. Duke of York's Theatre, London WC2, 0870 060 6623, to 25 February 2007