Derek Ja­cobi

The ac­claimed ac­tor dis­cusses Shake­speare’s love of the land, the del­i­cate beauty of the British coun­try­side and the vi­tal im­por­tance of laugh­ter

Countryfile Magazine - - 01986 785112 | -

Shake­speare’s canon is full of ref­er­ences to na­ture.

Who­ever wrote Shake­speare was a great lover of the coun­try­side, be­cause he uses it in the verse and the prose in­stinc­tively, as if it is part of him, part of his psy­che. And he de­scribes the land in very beau­ti­ful ways. He was clearly a lover of na­ture, had a great knowl­edge of how the coun­try worked, how it sur­vived and how it nur­tured him. As, of course, it does all of us – we couldn’t ex­ist with­out it. I’m a lover of towns but I couldn’t ex­ist with­out what the coun­try­side gives me, both ma­te­ri­ally and spir­i­tu­ally.

When film­ing on lo­ca­tion in Bri­tain,

you’re looked after, fed and wa­tered. So you have no wor­ries about life and can give your time to the work and leisure sur­round­ing your work. When in the coun­try, that means lovely walks, sights, breath­ing fresh air. My lungs en­joy the coun­try­side more than Lon­don. You can ac­tu­ally feel the air’s good­ness.

My proud­est achieve­ment

is prob­a­bly that I’ve lived this long. I’m go­ing to be 80 next year, so I’m pleased I’m ac­tive. I still feel teenage in­side and I’m still able to do the things I love most. I wanted to be a suc­cess­ful ac­tor and here I am, near­ing 80, still act­ing.

In my youth, my par­ents took me to the coun­try­side and sea­side.

Par­tic­u­larly to Devon and Corn­wall. I loved it – Dart­moor, Bod­min Moor – those ar­eas are won­der­ful.

I’m very keen on laugh­ter.

It’s so im­por­tant. If you laugh a lot, you won’t get re­ally ill. I don’t re­ally be­lieve that but I hope that is the case. Laugh­ter un­der­cuts pom­pos­ity – al­ways a good thing. Laugh at it, laugh at it, send it up!

If I were a wild an­i­mal,

I’d be a deer. I have a house in France, and they some­times come out of the for­est to a won­der­ful hill in front of the house. They’re beau­ti­ful to look at, al­though they eat the roses. I don’t ap­prove of that! I’m a war baby, and I was brought up on Bambi. So I would be a deer.

France’s coun­try­side is beau­ti­ful but ours is beau­ti­ful on a more del­i­cate pal­ette.

And I love the fact that in this coun­try we have weather, the sea­sons . It’s not al­ways the sun – the sights and sounds of the land change con­stantly, which is lovely to be part of.

I sup­pose there must be a ru­ral and ur­ban di­vide,

be­cause you get ac­cus­tomed to the en­vi­ron­ment in which you live. As a city dweller, you know how to sur­vive in a city. In the coun­try, as a vis­i­tor – which I can only be, as I don’t work in a ru­ral way – it is a place of peace, soli­tude, re­lief, re­lax­ation, beauty, of look­ing at the world in a more in­tro­spec­tive way. I don’t feel I’m hav­ing to sur­vive in the coun­try, be­cause the coun­try ac­cepts me, whereas in town, I have to be on my guard. I sup­pose that’s what I like about the city – as an ac­tor, you can’t be too re­laxed, your nerve ends have to be raw, be­cause that’s what you live on and give to the pub­lic. But it’s lovely to go to the coun­try and feel dif­fer­ent.

I think any per­son who slogs 15, 16 hours a day farm­ing is a hero.

Wak­ing up at 3am to pick or sow potatoes, pro­vid­ing me with lovely food – that’s pretty heroic.

What in­spires me: en­ergy, achieve­ment, com­mit­ment.

I love watch­ing ath­let­ics – it makes me cry to see peo­ple rac­ing around the track and get­ting to that win­ning line. In a wider con­text, it’s striv­ing after some­thing. The com­mit­ment to it, the en­ergy re­quired and the courage that needs. All those things I ad­mire and can get very emo­tional about.

When I’m walk­ing in the coun­try I look on the ground too much,

in case I trip over a stone, so I miss what’s go­ing on around me. I pre­fer to sit and look, prefer­ably with a glass of wine, to take in the glory of it. The sounds of the coun­try are so dif­fer­ent from those of town. As we speak, ma­chines are dig­ging up the road out­side my house, lay­ing new tar­mac. I’d much pre­fer to lis­ten to bird­song.

I can sum up why I was drawn to this re­cent adap­ta­tion of Mur­der on the Ori­ent Ex­press in two words: Ken­neth Branagh.

I’ve known Ken since he was 18, when he in­ter­viewed me for a drama school magazine while I was play­ing Ham­let at the Old Vic . When he phoned to say “Do you want to be Johnny Depp’s manser­vant in the movie?” I said, “Yes I’ll do it for free.”

For me, it’s jam first and then cream on top of a scone.

When I used to go to Corn­wall and Devon for my hol­i­days, we al­ways had cream teas and I was al­ways told to put the jam on first. What should it be?

“The coun­try to me is a place of peace, soli­tude, re­lief, re­lax­ation and beauty”

Derek Ja­cobi stars as Ed­ward Master­man in Mur­der on the Ori­ent Ex­press, re­leased in cin­e­mas na­tion­wide on 3 Novem­ber.

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