Daily Mail - Daily Mail Weekend Magazine


The actor, 74, in the drawing room of the north London home he shares with his partner



This house has been my haven for 30 years, especially the light and peacefully quiet drawing room full of mementoes. I’m very fond of this photograph of myself and Sir Ian McKellen as Cambridge undergradu­ates in 1958. We were cast together in Ibsen’s Pillars Of Society and it was the start of a 50-year friendship. We’ve rarely acted together, but this year the ITV sitcom Vicious brought us back together. We didn’t know what had hit us with five cameras and a studio audience, but we loved it so we’re doing another series.


I’m hopeless at curtain calls and can’t bear the attention, so this Screen Actors Guild award to the entire cast of The King’s Speech shows I’m a team player. My heart lies in the theatre but I loved working with Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter, who’s a great friend. I had to spend two hours in make-up for my role as Archbishop Cosmo Lang, but the TV series of I, Claudius in 1976 took over five hours. To remove a rubber face I lie in a hot bath with Badedas bath gel and a snorkel until it gradually comes off.


Bella, our Irish terrier, is our first dog; after our twin cats died we got her from a breeder at seven weeks old. She’s been a great companion and comfort over the past 12 years. She’s divine because she doesn’t moult, doesn’t bark, except when necessary, she loves people and children and has a wonderful scent which is nothing like a doggy smell. We’ve often said, ‘If only we could bottle Bella’s scent.’ She has a beautiful face with a long muzzle and loves the camera. She totally upstages me.


These statues, given to me by an old producer friend, are both of Sir Laurence Olivier, one as Oedipus and the other as Mr Puff in The Critic. He was my mentor, my boss, my director and ultimately my friend, and these represent his famous double bill at the Old Vic in 1946, where he lay screaming as Oedipus for the first half before returning as British author Mr Puff. This was never braved again until I followed in his footsteps in 1971 in Birmingham. After the first night he sent me a telegram, joking, ‘You cheeky bugger.’


I love this beautiful book on Nijinsky by Lucy Moore because I adore ballet. The dancers are so dedicated and discipline­d but produce these fantastic displays that look effortless. I couldn’t believe it when a friend in the Royal Ballet told me how she tried to sell her washing machine by passing the whisper down the line of the corps de ballet as they danced across the stage. By the time they’d got back to the other side she’d sold it – and the buyer had even knocked down the price!


These Vocalzone throat lozenges are my life-saver and I’ve become addicted to them. I suck on them throughout the day when I’m working in the theatre, even if they do taste pretty harsh. As soon as I wake up each morning I wonder, ‘Is my voice still there?’ I lost it once in 2011 in Llandudno on the morning of the opening night of the Donmar Warehouse tour of King Lear. It was awful – they had to cancel three shows because I had no understudy and I had to use a voice masseur to help me get it back.

As told to Lisa Sewards. Sir Derek co-hosts a Star-Studded Gala Of Dance And Song in aid of the Yorkshire Ballet Summer School at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, tomorrow, 7pm. www.sadlerswel­ls.com.

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