My Secret Life: Mark Strong, Actor, age 45

Interview,Charlotte Philby
Saturday 13 September 2008 00:00
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The home I grew up in... was a flat in Middleton Square in London's Islington, a beautiful Georgian square with a huge church in the middle. We moved around a lot when I was a kid. I remember flats in Walthamstow, Clapton, Stoke Newington and Edmonton, as well.

When I was a child I wanted to be... the French actor Alain Delon. I remember watching him in films and though I couldn't understand a word he was saying I remember thinking he looked great. Failing that, an astronaut, after watching the moon landing on a tiny, portable, black-and-white TV at my gran's house.

The moment that changed me for ever ... Having children. Life before and after kids is so different. My world-view changed and my daily life has never been the same. Occasionally I find myself looking at my two lovely boys in amazement.

My greatest inspiration... One is Nelson Mandela. I made a film this summer about the end of apartheid in South Africa – his suffering, coupled with his ability to remain tolerant, is staggering.

My real-life villain... Arrogance, bullying, intolerance, aggression – take your pick.

My style icon... David Bowie, then and now.

If I could change one thing about myself... I would tidy up a bit less, be a little less obsessed with organising my surroundings; I'd get off my arse, and get out of the house when I'm not working.

At night I dream of... I rarely remember. Occasionally I recall a dim glimmer of something, but no fully fledged, trippy adventures unfortunately. I usually fall asleep making a mental checklist of things I have to sort out in the morning.

What I see when I look in the mirror... Too often I'm frowning.

My favourite item of clothing... changes all the time. Right now, a pair of handmade German sunglasses made of surgical steel that are as light as a feather and unbreakable.

I wish I'd never worn ... a bin bag when I was a punk.

It's not fashionable but I like... peanut butter.

You may not know it but I'm very good at... DJ-ing.

You may not know it but I'm no good at... I have no sense of direction. I always have to ask where we're going and how we get there.

All my money goes on... Arsenal season tickets. It ain't cheap, but it's worth it.

If I have time to myself ... I read. Scripts, newspapers, magazines, books, cereal packets, anything.

I drive... an estate car, because whenever we go anywhere, we invariably take way too much stuff and need the big boot.

My house is... an old, red-brick, detached Victorian tardis.

My most valuable possession is ... an original photo of The Clash, which was a birthday present from my girlfriend. It's from one of their earliest shoots. They all look so young.

My favourite building ... I recently saw the renovated De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea and loved it for its shape and style, but the Duomo in Milan would be my favourite: over 500 years old and still not finished.

Movie heaven... Blade Runner, Spinal Tap, the Coen Brothers' films, old black-and-white films like Night of the Hunter, His Girl Friday and Ace in the Hole, good documentaries like When We Were Kings and Hoop Dreams. I could go on...

A book that changed me... The Diving Bell and the Butterfly [by Jean-Dominique Bauby] blew me away, it taught me about tenacity and endurance. It wasn't just what he had to say, but the way he had to say it: dictating the whole thing letter-by-letter, by blinking one eye.

The best invention ever... The internet. What the hell did we all do for information before it? Now there is nothing you cannot track down, find out, buy or research online.

My favourite work of art ... Changes all the time, but Caravaggio's paintings and Brancusi's sculptures are things I will never tire of.

The shops I can't walk past are... delis, any deli. I love good-quality food.

The last album I bought .. was by The Brian Jonestown Massacre.

The person who really makes me laugh is... Lee Evans. His eccentric brand of physical comedy reminds me of Jerry Lewis, whom I loved as a kid. He's also a talented actor and the film Funny Bones is a treat. Not only that, he's thoughtful, self-deprecating and a very nice guy.

In 10 years' time, I hope to be... calmer and wiser.

My greatest regret... I try not to worry about the past, as there's nothing I can do about it.

My life in seven words... Busy, changing, happy, organised, fast, hectic, fun.

A life in brief

Born Marco Giuseppe Salussolia in Islington, north London, in 1963, to an Italian father and Austrian mother, Mark Strong first came to prominence in the acclaimed Nineties BBC serial Our Friends in the North. His numerous film credits include the screen adaptation of Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch, Roman Polanski's Oliver Twist and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. He lives with his partner and two sons in north London, and stars in Guy Ritchie's new gangster flick, RocknRolla, which is playing at cinemas now.

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