The 5-Minute Interview: John Mortimer, Author and playwright

'Magna Carta is more democratic than what we have now'
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Sir John Mortimer, 83, is the author of the Horace Rumpole series, dramatised for television as 'Rumpole of the Bailey'. He is performing stand-up at the King's Head Theatre in London until 26 February

If I weren't talking to you right now I'd be...

Thinking I should be writing my book. It's called The Anti-Social Behaviour of Horace Rumpole. He's an anarchist at heart- the chambers want to bring an Asbo against Rumpole to stop him taking cigars, food and wine inside.

I wish people would take more notice of...

The British constitution. This Government has unpicked Magna Carta: imprisonment without trial, threatening to curtail jury trials and limit cross-examination. Wild, mad authoritarianism has crept into the Labour Party. They have destroyed our civil liberties more than the Conservatives would ever dare.

The most surprising thing that happened to me...

Is to have a very happy life at the age of 83.

I am not a politician but...

If I could, I would get back to Magna Carta. It's more democratic than what we have now, which sees us handing over absolute power to a PM for five years. Politicians should be a public utility. They should improve everybody's lot but not interfere with our laws.

A common misperception of me is...

That I'm rich. I am not.

I'm good at...

Speaking. I can make a speech on any subject because I can think on my feet. And I think I can write rather well.

I'm very bad at...

Waiting for anything.

The ideal night out is...

To go to the theatre and see something good. I just had an ideal night out with my daughter Rosie. She's 22. We had dinner in the Royal Court. It was a decent production. I felt it was enriching for my daughter. My Dad did the same for me. From when I was eight my Dad took me to the theatre.

You know me as a playwright but in truer life I'd have been...

A barrister, as I was, and a dramatist and everything at the same time. If I hadn't been a barrister I wouldn't have written about Rumpole. In all my childhood I wanted to be an actor. I'm glad I'm not - all that rejection. I think actors are very brave. My daughter Emily [Mortimer] is an actress. She lives in New York and is in Lithuania at the moment making a film with Woody Harrelson but I still get to see her quite a lot.

In moments of weakness I...

Surrender. I enjoy it as much as possible.

The best age to be is...

I'm not bad now, except that I'm not going to last very long. I'm not too worried about what I'll turn out to be because I've turned out to be it.

In a nutshell, my philosophy is this:

In terms of religion I'd say the most important thing is not the future or after you're dead. It is that individual moment in time.

Sara Newman

Comments