After training in Bristol, actor Christopher Cazenove launched his career on stage with seasons at the Phoenix Theatre in Leicester, Colchester's Library Theatre and the Pitlochry Festival Theatre.
He found fame in the 1970s and 1980s with a number of film and television roles including those in The Regiment, Zulu Dawn, Heat and Dust, Dynasty, The Lady and The Highwayman and Three Men and a Little Lady. More recently, he's appeared on screen in A Knight's Tale and Beginner's Luck and Judge John Deed.
Following his early credits, Cazenove's many stage appearances have included Othello, Cyrano de Bergerac,Time and the Conways, The Sound of Music, Home Truths, Private Lives, The Turn of the Screw and, in the West End, Brief Encounter, An Ideal Husband, Joking Apart, In Praise of Rattigan and The Winslow Boy.
He's now returning to the stage to lead the cast in the UK premiere production of Neil Simon's London Suite, which opens next week at London's Upstairs at the Gatehouse. Devised as four contrasting comedies, the play moves from black humour to unbridled farce, with four different sets of characters who have just one thing in common - suite 402 of a fashionable London hotel. After completing its Gatehouse season on 28 September, the production will embark on an international tour.
Date & place of birth
Born 17 December 1945 in Winchester, Hampshire.
Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.
Between London and Los Angeles.
First big break
In a national sense, Regiment for the BBC. It was in the early 1970s and set at the turn of century drama about the army. The first series was the Boer Army and the second series set in India. I played the young hero.
Favourite productions you've ever worked on
Difficult to answer, I've enjoyed so many that I've worked on - one of them was a film Heat and Dust, it was wonderful - filmed in India and I loved it. It's one of them at least.
I've worked with many wonderful people - and I wouldn't dream of telling you.
Same! These sorts of questions are the ones I never answer.
What roles would you most like to play still?
I've never ever thought of roles that I'd like to play but, like everyone must say, before I die, I'd quite like to have a bash at Lear.
You've done a variety of film, television & theatre work. Which do you prefer?
I like a combination of all three. If I had to choose one alone, I'd choose films provided they were all in lovely places. I've been very lucky in the films that I've done; they've all been in wonderful locations.
What advice would you give the government to secure the future of British theatre?
Remove VAT on theatre tickets.
What was the last thing you saw on stage that you really enjoyed?
The Constant Wife. I thought the cast was superb, and the play I didn't know about. It's a surprise to have a play that's not been revived for many years which is very relevant and works extremely well.
If you hadn't become an actor, what would you have done professionally?
There was one stage when I sort of wanted to be an architect. I've no idea why, but I still have strange architect dreams to this day. I think it's about building things but then, even if I'd have become an architect, I couldn't have done any building!
I have just read a marvellous book: The Future Homemakers of America by Laurie Graham. It was a surprising read. It sounds like a girls' book, but it's so beautifully written. Funny, sharp, incisive and economical - really wonderful. I don't always have a book on the go. I'm a holiday reader and on planes. I love Graham Greene as well in terms of all time classics.
Favourite holiday destinations
Nowhere in particular but I do like the sun and the sand. My whole life is a holiday so I don't very often take holidays, but when I do I'm looking for relaxation, sun and sand and a good book.
Why did you want to accept your part(s) in London Suite in particular?
It's Neil Simon for a start. But also I play three different parts which is a challenge. I play a Welshman, an Englishman and an Irishman. The Welshman is an angry writer who has lost all his money. The Englishman is kind of bisexual, but more gay than anything else. He comes back to visiting his ex-wife at the hotel, (he lives on a Greek island), she's now a big television star in America. It's a follow up of California Suite, which was made into a film - Maggie Smith won an Oscar for it and Michael Caine was in it too. This play is eight years on from that, maybe 12 - so that adds a nice twist. The third one, the Irishman is a doctor who takes pleasure in giving pain to his patients - pure farce in that play. That's what is so wonderful about them. They are all very different styles of comedy.
What's the best hotel you've ever stayed in?
I think probably the Oriental in Bangkok. It's a wonderfully run hotel, very beautiful and exotic and the service is fantastic. Of course, it's incredibly expensive. As for bad hotels, well I've stayed in some 'interesting' motels. There was one actually, I was driving across America and I landed up in Albuquerque. There was this big conference on, and I couldn't stay in any of the hotels. I tried all across town and found a motel that had rooms for some reason so I stayed there. It was a bloody dirty room and it even had one of those machines were you put 25 cents in and it shakes the whole bed! I realised why it was empty later. It had a shunting yard in the middle of it with lots of trucks, and at about three in the morning, they started roaring up. Looking back on it, it was quite an interesting experience.
What do you think makes Neil Simon's plays so successful on Broadway?
I think he's a very clever writer. His observation of the human condition is pretty damn good. It's in the way he's able to turn a word around, he's a very clever man. Interestingly enough, Simon's never taken off here. He's a bit like Ayckbourn over there - huge success on one side and not on the other. In this play, there are a lot of English characters, though, so you'd think an English audience would be fine with it. There's no real reason why he shouldn't have been successful. Maybe it's to do with theatregoers not being so interested in the American way of life. Mind you, most of the people who come to the West End these days are American, so none of it makes any sense!
What's your favourite line from London Suite?
It's quite sweet when I arrive as the Englishman and my ex wife's PA opens the door. I'm wearing a light overcoat and she says, "Can I take your coat?" - and I say "Yes, but you can't keep it, I'm a bit short on winter clothes."
What are your plans for the future?
I don't have any really, I'm still working on Judge John Deed with the BBC so I'm filming three days a week while I'm doing this. That comes to an end soon and, when this thing is finished, I don't have anything afterwards. But it's always like that as an actor.
-Christopher Cazenove was talking to Sarah Beaumont
London Suite plays Upstairs at the Gatehouse in Highgate, north London, from 4 to 28 September 2002.