Simon phillip Hugh Callow, actor and director, was born on 15 June 1949. He went to the London Oratory Grammar School and Queen's University, Belfast, where he dropped out after a year and enrolled at the 'Drama Centre', London. His first major role after leaving was as Mozart in Peter Shaffer's Amadeus. His best-known film work includes A Room with a View and Four Weddings and a Funeral. He currently concentrates on directing, mainly for the stage, but is also a prolific writer, having published biographies of Charles Laughton, Orson Welles and his former agent and friend, Peggy Ramsey, as well as the 1985 book Being an Actor.
Who was the greater actor, Charles Laughton or Orson Welles? Barbara Jonas, Hale
Laughton, unquestionably. Welles had a massive and massively interesting personality, but Laughton was a creative genius in the medium of acting. His intention was to produce images of the human condition as powerful and enduring as those of a great painter or sculptor, and in my view he succeeded.
Callow by name if not by nature. Have you rebelled against your name? Arthur Ramsay, Scarborough
Callow comes from calu - old English, signifying bald, small fledgling, naked (which in many ways I remain). I have been all of these things - bald, fledgling, and naked more times than I can remember. As for the name, fortunately I have outgrown the Callow youth gags, so I am at peace with it now.
What part did you play in your school nativity? Were you in any other school plays? Richard Taylor, Richmond
In the whole of my childhood, I played only one part, that of a king who saw spots before his eyes. None of his physicians or wise men could cure him. Finally his tailor came to tell him that he was wearing his collar a size too small and this could cause spots before his eyes. At this point, I - at the age of nine, against the advice of my director - did a spectacular backward faint. For some reason, I was never cast again.
Who in your life has made the most impression on you? Ken Bailey, Glasgow
My mother's mother, Vera Guise, was an embracing personality: warm, sensuous, playful, indulgent, with a great gift for making small things in life seem extraordinary. All my sense of theatre and most of my sense of how life should be lived comes from her.
Would you say that the homosexual roles which you have played have successfully challenged gay stereotypes? Arnie Thomas, by e-mail
Gareth in Four Weddings did, I believe, break the mould somewhat. His death was one of the most useful events in the evolution of people's attitudes to homosexuality. I had letters which said "I never realised gay people had normal feelings".
As a director, what do you feel has been your greatest challenge? Tom Newman, London N1
Putting Les Enfants du Paradis (a four-and-a-half-hour film) on stage for the RSC. The critical verdict was negative, but I believe that - when it worked - it put a certain kind of romanticism on a British stage for the first time.
Is there anything you can't do? Sally-Ann French, by e-mail
Sing, dance, cook, paint, answer questions concisely.
A lot of your male heroes seem to have been quite portly. Is there a thin man inside you, struggling to get out? Catherine Honey, Cheltenham
He got out. At the moment I'm thinner than I ever have been. I have recently lost two stone and kept it off. Unfortunately, nobody seems to have noticed. Around the age of 50 you begin to think that if you can't achieve something like this now then you never will and you might as well give up; consequently I got myself a personal trainer and sweated it all off.
You have said that the theatre is the only place where acting can be made. In the light of this, what do you make of your film work? Larry Turner, Sutton
I'd like to clarify that the point I made was that the theatre is the only place where an actor can be made. Of course there are exceptions, such as John Wayne. I started out on stage and brought my acting to the screen.
Are people scared to ask you to weddings (especially if they are Scottish ones)? Matthew Magee, Dublin
No, they keep asking me. I think they must perceive me as some kind of mascot.
What object don't you own, but wish that you did? Mark Edwards, Luton
A bigger house.
Who is the greatest luvvie of them all? Isobel Lewis, by e-mail
Me, of course.Reuse content