Acting’s last great character – John Standing on Elizabeth Taylor, Cary Grant and the day Peter O’ Toole dragged him off to a nunnery

The veteran and wickedly irascible thespian is a pukka former RAF pilot in ‘The Great Escaper’. In an outrageously indiscreet interview with Jasper Rees, he shares his stories of being caned at Eton, acting naked, wild nights with ‘Larry and Vivien’ and a cult appearance on ‘Game of Thrones’ – ‘I loathe that cr**!’

Sunday 08 October 2023 06:30 BST
<p>John Standing in ‘The Great Escaper’ </p>

John Standing in ‘The Great Escaper’

To meet John Standing is to glimpse a vanished world. He’s 89 and he seems to have shared a stage or a screen with everyone who was once anyone. There can’t, for example, be another actor left alive who has worked with both Vivien Leigh and Elizabeth Taylor.

“They were marvellous women,” he proclaims. “Staggering beauties, both completely different. Vivien was like a wonderful porcelain doll but somehow ravishing. She was very withdrawn. Elizabeth Taylor was much more earthy and outwards. She used to drink bullshots at lunch every day. She was ‘here I am, tits and all, look at this’.”

You may not think you know John Standing, but you do. Onstage a light comic actor who excelled in Coward and Wilde, on screen he was and still is perennially cast as plummy establishment types: a vicar in The Eagle Has Landed, a doctor in The Elephant Man, a bishop in V for Vendetta. (His camp hairdresser in X, Y and Zee with Taylor was an exception.) And now he’s a pukka former RAF pilot in The Great Escaper.

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