LONDON / The Observer / Life & Style / March 27, 2011
The actor, 69, on trying to join the Air Force, loving women, and the last time he was inebriated
By Shahesta Shaitly
I don't feel much towards my Italian or Scottish roots, although I do cook the pasta at home. I suppose that's what happens when you're of dual nationalities.
Fame is a silly business.
People who chase it are almost always going to be disappointed.
There's a line in The Tempest, which I've just appeared in with Helen Mirren, that I think is true: "Every third thought shall be my grave." As you get older the thought of death starts to impinge. There's nothing to be said for getting old, not a damn thing
"I don’t smoke, I don’t drink to excess, but I’ve always loved women": Tom Conti. Photograph: Suki Dhanda for the Observer
Procrastination is probably my worst habit out of many. Especially when it comes to paperwork. It seems like everybody's lives are filled with stupid amounts of admin – it's rubbish.
My temper manifests itself when I can't find something. I could swear that there is a plot against me to put kitchen utensils in the wrong drawers.
I tried to join the Air Force when I was younger. I wrote a perfectly good letter and I didn't get a reply. I thought they mustn't have liked the cut of my jib. Years later I remembered my mother had asked to post the letter, and it all clicked into place: she didn't posted it. I guess she didn't fancy the idea of me dying or dropping bombs on anyone.
I was raised a Roman Catholic, but I am anti-religion now. It's just silly – all this stuff about God sending his only begotten son. He sent his own son to a torturous death, and we're meant to love him?
I can get over things very quickly. I just decide they're not going to happen. I think there's a part of the brain which we ignore – it's the part that's involved with hypnosis – and if you can harness it, you can chase things away.
I tend not to read reviews, as they'll almost always make me angry, even if they're good.
The last time I was inebriated I was 20 years old. The experience was so awful it put me off getting drunk to this day. I feel lucky. The ones that are unlucky are the people who feel wonderful when they drink.
Acting is an odd business. You really do think that every job will be your last. Everything is last minute. It drives me crazy because it's difficult to plan and it smacks of carelessness.
I got a letter from an American "fan": "Dear Shitface Conti, You're a fucking dreadful actor and I hope you get cancer and die a miserable death." It was so ranty it was comic. Many years later I got an apology letter from the same woman – she'd become a Buddhist and wanted to make peace.
I don't smoke, I don't drink to excess, but I've always loved women. I don't see that as a vice. Where's the "vice" in liking women? Vice is a horrid word.
I don't cry much, but that doesn't mean things don't touch me.
Tom Conti stars in Smash! at the Menier Chocolate Factory until 8 May.
Visit menierchocolatefactory.com for details
© Guardian News and Media Limited 2011