|Despite travelling the world, the Sheffield-born actor finds it hard to recapture the buzz of going to Bournemouth
Interview by Garth Pearce
I donít feel quite as excited about holidays today as I did as a kid. Why is that? Iíve travelled the world through acting and been to some great locations, but nothing quite compares to my childhood excitement of going to Bournemouth. We went every year, Yorkshire to Hampshire, on the old trunk roads of the 1960s, which seemed to take for ever. That was part of the thrill, being in the car for hour after hour, knowing that we would eventually be there on the seafront with those wonderful sands.
Weíd get up, my mum, dad and sister, Lorraine, at two oíclock in the morning and travel through the night. Dad liked to have a late breakfast at a restaurant called the Trocadero, near the beach, on our first Saturday morning.
We stayed at the same bed-and-breakfast place, which was run by a gay couple. They must have been ahead of their time, because homosexuality was not widely acceptable back then. It was immaculate and always well run.
We looked forward to it for weeks ó and talked about it for weeks afterwards. But dad decided one year that the journey wasnít long enough ó so we went to Spain, on our first holiday abroad, by coach. We went with a company called Cornellís, in Sheffield. My dad was scared of flying ó and still is. So off we went from our home to Lloret de Mar. The coach was driven onto the ferry, from Dover to Calais, then we drove through France and Spain. It took for ever, but was very exciting.
Now I can afford to go on holidays wherever I like, Iíve almost forgotten what theyíre for. Theyíre meant to be relaxing, but itís only recently that Iíve rediscovered that. Iíve had several holidays in the past 20 years by linking working trips to a break. When I was filming Sharpe, we went all over the place, like India, and I would simply stay on after filming was finished.
Maybe I find it hard to relax. When I was in New Zealand to film The Lord of the Rings, it was a project that went on for a year and a half. Itís a beautiful country, but when Iím filming, Iím thinking only of what I have to do in front of the camera. I was also travelling back and forth to England to see my children and to stay in touch with life here, so it never once felt like a holiday. I donít mind being abroad, concentrating on work, because thereís nothing else to do. I miss home, but thatís part of the job.
I used to go on holidays to Portugal when my eldest two daughters, Lorna and Molly [with his second wife, the actress Melanie Hill], were young. Albufeira was a favourite. I canít say, looking back, that I was ever that relaxed. With my third wife [the actress Abigail Cruttenden] and our daughter, Evie, we went to a friendís cottage in Devon and, yet again, I was reminded that I should take more proper time off.
So, with Georgina, Iím trying to have proper holidays again. We went to Sicily last year, which was very beautiful, very friendly and hot. We were in Taormina, at a small, family-run hotel, just the two of us. We could see the lava from Mount Etna glowing at night, and they served some great lobster meals. Iíd go back there again like a shot.
I also like Rome, and northern Italy in general. Thereís a feeling that they make enjoyment of life a priority and feel no guilt about taking time off. That has always been a problem for me, if Iím honest, since childhood. I always want to be doing something, even if itís gardening or working in the garage.
Iím always trying to get the same buzz out of holidays that I do from acting. One of my favourite moments was playing a footballer in When Saturday Comes [released in 1996]. We had time on the pitch to re-create match-day scenes at half-time at a game between my team, Sheffield United, and Manchester United. My dad and grandad were there, and the crowd got behind me so much that I couldnít come down to earth afterwards. I had 16 pints of lager, felt stone-cold sober and was still buzzing with excitement. A holiday can never give me a thrill quite like that.
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