My Secret Life: Dominic West, actor, 39

The home I grew up in ... was a big, detached, stone house by the moors that fringe Sheffield, where my mother still lives. I've just had this exact conversation with her insurance company.

When I was a child I wanted to be ... an actor. My mum got me involved with a local, amateur company when I was nine years old.

My greatest inspiration ... I always really liked the German actor Klaus Kinski. Ever since knowing about him, I've wanted to be a performer. What he did was what was exciting about acting.

The moment that changed me for ever ... was when I first discovered cider.

My real-life villain ... The guy who knocked down Penn Station in New York and those who ruined the City of London should be in jail. I seem to care an awful lot about buildings, and the vandalism of the architecture of the Sixties.

My style icon ... is Sly Stallone.

I ride ... a Triumph Bonneville motorcycle, and horses.

If I could change one thing about myself ... I would like to be much more focused and tenacious.

At night I dream of ... I'm not telling you.

What I see when I look in the mirror ... is a handsome, bearded has-been, and a highly undervalued national treasure.

The shop I can't walk past ... Any hardware or stationery shop.

A book that changed me ... is "The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying" by Sogyal Rinpoche, which I read recently. It's really not very cheerful, but it just seemed to be in accord with whatever thoughts I had about dying. I felt a distinct sense of clarity when I finished it.

The last album I bought ... "The Teaches of Peaches" by Peaches.

The person who really makes me laugh ... is the American stand-up, Louis CK. Him talking about money is the funniest thing I've seen in ages.

It's not fashionable but I like ... Princess Anne.

My favourite item of clothing ... I had a bespoke velvet suit made once by a Greek man on Berwick Street in Soho. It's brown and I wear it as often as possible, usually late at night when everybody else is in bed.

I wish I'd never worn ... most things, particularly a pair of brown leather shoes with buckles on the side, which I had as a student in Paris. I got them in a flea market and wore them for an entire year – and missed an awful lot of social activity as a result. I couldn't for some reason lose them.

My favourite work of art ... Whistler's portrait of his mother. I love the stillness and the melancholy and the greys.

You may not know it but I'm very good at ... calligraphy. I've always been interested in it. My brother was educated by monks in Yorkshire, and I took it up when he did, in my teens.

You may not know it but I'm no good at ... fighting. I've tried and failed miserably a few times. I usually fall over, when I don't panic and run.

All my money goes on ... eBay, usually useless things like ghastly lights and unpleasant pictures. I bought a toolbox recently, with a whole range of antique tools which are absolutely useless and take up a lot of space.

If I have time to myself ... I go on eBay.

My house is ... a big family house, in the flood plain of Shepherd's Bush in London.

My favourite building ... is in Paris, the monastic church of Saint Paul [in Le Marais], which is a most wonderful building. It's quite a traditional, 18th-century church, which has been taken over by a community of monks and nuns, who have made it the most beautiful, peaceful place, full of simplicity and calm.

Movie heaven ... would be watching 'L'Atalante' by Jean Vigo, with my fiancée, at home, on a projector which I haven't bought yet.

The best invention ever ... is the airship.

In 10 years' time, I hope to be ... directing an epic film of 'The Siege of Krishnapur' in India.

My greatest regret ... is that I never joined the Boy Scouts.

My life in six words ... the lavender path of least resistance.

A life in brief

Born in Sheffield in October 1969, Dominic West is best known as the hard-drinking, womanising Baltimore cop in the cult HBO television series The Wire. West was the youngest of six children in an Irish Catholic family and was educated at Eton before studying English Literature at Trinity College Dublin. He has three children and lives in London with his fiancée

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