20 Questions: Mark Strong – 'Eddie Carbone is misunderstood'

The star of Ivo van Hove’s award-winning revival of ”A View from the Bridge” on not being a lawyer, idolising David Bowie and stripping back Arthur Miller

'Sometimes you're hot and sometimes you're not' - Mark Strong
'Sometimes you're hot and sometimes you're not' – Mark Strong
© Dan Wooller

1. Where did you grow up?
In London – in a beautiful square in Islington called Myddelton Square.

2. What made you want to become an actor?
The knowledge that I didn't want to become a lawyer.

3. If you hadn't, what else might you have done professionally?
I studied law in Germany for a year. Realised it wasn't for me, and came back to the UK to study drama at Royal Holloway.

4. First big break on stage?
My first big theatrical break was at the National Theatre – Richard Eyre cast me in Napoli Milionaria opposite Ian McKellen and Clare Higgins.

5. And on screen?
My big career break was undoubtedly Our Friends in the North.

6. Stand out career highlight to date?
It has to be A View From the Bridge – the response has been unlike anything I have ever known.

7. Any regrets?
I had a few nervous moments when I turned down the West End transfer of Closer.

8. What was the result of that decision?
It had a definite upside as I took the Almeida's The Iceman Cometh with Kevin Spacey.

9. What was the first thing you saw on stage that had a big impact on you?
The RSC's Nicholas Nickleby – it was the most inventive, colourful, exuberant thing I had ever seen and made me realise the potential of theatre.

10. And the last?
London Road – sheer genius in storytelling, and an utterly unique theatrical experience.

Phoebe Fox, Mark Strong and Nicola Walker
'He's not an inherently bad man' – Strong as Eddie Carbone (alongside Phoebe Fox and Nicola Walker) in A View from the Bridge
© Jan Versweyveld

11. Who are your idols?
David Bowie for his theatricality; and Nelson Mandela for his humanity.

12. What single piece of advice would you give to an aspiring actor?
Don't think that careers are linear – sometimes you're hot and sometimes you're not.

13. Why did you want to return to stage in A View From the Bridge?
I always wanted to return to the stage, and this play was the one that pulled me back. I had been reading a lot of film scripts and they couldn't hold a candle to Arthur Miller.

14. How would you summarise Ivo's vision of the play?
He wanted to strip away a tradition that the play was buckling under, and present it again as if for the first time, so all you heard were the words.

15. Is it true he originally intended for the actors to be nude?
There was some talk about nudity in the opening scene – it was impracticality rather than shyness that made me keep my pants on!

16. At the Young Vic it was played in a three-sided arena. How has the show been adapted for the Wyndham's?
There's an audience on the stage with us on either side, so it very much keeps the feel of the experience at the Young Vic.

17. What have you learnt about Eddie Carbone?
He's misunderstood – his lack of education is his weakness, he's not inherently a bad man.

18. It's a highly intense production – how do you unwind afterwards?
One of the best things about theatre is the debrief and the wind down with the rest of cast in the bar after the show.

19. What's your favourite place in London?
Waterloo Bridge for the best view in London – especially at night.

20. What's next?
Kingsman: The Secret Service has just been released, and I'm finishing filming Grimsby with Sacha Baron Cohen.

A View From the Bridge is at Wyndham's Theatre until 11 April