My Secret Life: Richard Briers, 78, actor

'I'd prefer a smaller nose, frankly'

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The Independent Online

My parents were… My father was a racing man, and my mother was a sort of pianist – I think she would have liked to say she was a concert pianist but she never quite made it.

The household I grew up in… A first-floor flat in Raynes Park, London.

When I was a child I wanted to be… Oh, an actor of course – I was showing off from the age of five.

If I could change one thing about myself… I'd prefer a smaller nose, quite frankly.

You wouldn't know it but I am very good at… nothing. Nothing at all. I'm hopeless at absolutely everything except acting.

At night I dream of… I don't really bother with that. When you're 78, you don't dream a lot.

I wish I had never worn… It's a strange question, I'm not anything like a natty dresser, I wear really old sweaters and rubbish. It drives my wife mad. She tries to get me into suits, very occasionally.

What I see when I look in the mirror… A bit too old, I'm afraid.

I drive/ride… a car, it's a Toyota Avensis and it's in its 15th year, still going.

My house/flat is… It's a semi-detached house, a jumbo semi I used to call it. We've been there 44 years now. Settled? Not half!

My favourite work of art… It was always Turner but I could never, ever afford a Turner – they cost £18 million or something. So I've got three Turners, but they're all fake.

My favourite building… The Theatre Royal Newcastle – I'd done most of my classical work there and now I'm one of their 'friends'.

A book that changed me… When I was very, very young somebody bought me the book of the life of Henry Irving – it was written by his grandson, and it's called The Actor and His World. It had a great influence on me.

Movie heaven… Well, I think a proper film like The Third Man – it's a rather marvellous film.

The last album I bought… You won't believe this – it's Al Jolson.

My real-life villains… It would be Stalin obviously, and Hitler of course.

The person who really makes me laugh… Oliver Hardy.

The last time I cried… I can't remember.

My five-year plan… You'll be lucky – I'll be 83 then. Maybe.

What's the point? The point is to carry on, I suppose.

My life in six words… Acting for 50 years. More please.

A life in brief

Richard Briers was born in London in 1934. At 18 he joined the RAF, before pursuing his acting ambitions, studying at Rada. He graduated in 1956 with a silver medal – and a job at the Liverpool Playhouse. In 1962, he got his first TV comedy role in Brothers in Law. Briers became a household name in 1975, as Tom in BBC sitcom The Good Life, and he has been a much-loved presence on stage, TV and cinema screens ever since. Briers stars in the film Cockneys vs Zombies, which is in cinemas now. He lives with his wife in Chiswick, London