My secret life: Elizabeth McGovern, actress, 47

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The Independent Online

The home I grew up in... We moved to the West Coast of the US when I was 10 years old, and our house was East Coast implanted on California soil. It was filled with classical music; my brother was a pianist.

I drive ... In London, I take the tube everywhere. I just got rid of my car – I think it was a VW Golf. It was the biggest relief.

The moment that changed me for ever ...was when I met Matilda Lee Curtis for the first time – my eldest daughter. I went from being obsessed with reviews to being preoccupied with nappies.

My greatest inspiration ... at the moment is Kevin Spacey. I knew him at drama school, he was a baby back then but he looked exactly the same as he does now. He is so concentrated, with such vision. And because it's always a good idea to kiss Spacey's butt when you're working at the Old Vic!

If I could change one thing about myself ... I would improve my digestion, I always have stomach problems.

At night I dream of ... very mundane things, like someone having switched the brand of toothpaste in the bathroom and I can't figure out who did it.

What I see when I look in the mirror ... Scarlett Johansson, I wish.

My style icon ... Miranda de Carcaci. She is 15 years old and goes to school with my daughter. I never leave the house without the two of them checking my outfit. If they give me the thumbs down, I will march back to my room and start from scratch.The shop I can't walk past ... Boots. There is always something I need from there.

It's not fashionable but ... I like writing letters and receiving letters. It's a shame that we've lost the art of letter-writing and saving correspondence. I mourn that.

I wish I'd never worn ... my glasses in our rehearsal photos. They will be in the play's programme for ever.

When I was a child I wanted to be ... a ballet dancer. I have the world's greatest point but I could never get myself off the ground, I'm too earthbound.

My favourite item of clothing ... my blue sparkly Prada coat. I spent more on that than anything I've ever bought. Consequently, I never wear it.

You wouldn't know it but I'm very good ... at writing songs. I write and record with a band – lyric-orientated, idiosyncratic, quirky, observational tunes.

You may not know it but I'm no good at ... getting anywhere. I have a terrible sense of direction. I'm usually 100 per cent wrong.

All my money goes on ... music stuff – mostly session musicians for my recordings.

If I have time to myself ... I read or I play my guitar.

My house is ... full of life. It's a big, beautiful haven in Chiswick, crammed with things.

My most valuable possession is ... my guitar, sentimentally, but it's not worth much.

My favourite building ... any theatre, I find them to be both spiritual and sexy. The Old Vic has many ghosts from over the years, and nooks and crannies all over.

Movie heaven ... Joe Wright's Pride and Prejudice. It's so romantic, a rich story and a real pleasure to watch.A book that changed me ... Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. I read it when I was 15 years old, an age when it resonated in my evolving sense of self.

My favourite works of art ... are Leonard Cohen or Joni Mitchell songs.

My real life villain... I don't believe in villains – just people who channel their energy in the wrong way.

The best invention ever ... is the iPhone. I just got one and I'm obsessed. I just love texting and the music being right there at the touch of a button.

The last album I bought/downloaded ...Dido's Safe Trip Home. It was actually a gift from my husband. I haven't listened to it yet.

The person who really makes me laugh ... my husband, Simon Curtis. In 10 years' time, I hope to ... be living where I live now, with the ones I love.

My life in seven words ... Use it up. Go to bed tired.

My greatest regret ... I have none. My philosophy is "move on, baby!" There is a reason for everything.

A life in brief

Born in Evanston, Illinois, in 1961, Elizabeth McGovern cut her teeth in Robert Redford's 1980 directorial debut, the Oscar-winning Ordinary People. The following year, her performance in Ragtime earned her an Academy Award nomination, and in 1984 she was Robert De Niro's love interest in Once Upon a Time in America. McGovern now lives in Chiswick, London, with her husband, the producer and director Simon Curtis, and their two children. She stars in Complicit, directed by Kevin Spacey, which is at the Old Vic from 7 January to 21 February