STARSTRUCK: Giles with Steven Berkoff

IT was the Marbella International Film Festival last month and. shy retiring soul that I am, I found myself once again acting as Master of Ceremonies at the Gala Awards Dinner on the final night.

The running joke amongst my friends at the moment is that I’m so addicted to the limelight that when I open the fridge door and the light comes on, I do a five-minute intro…

As well as announcing awards at the gala, I also had the opportunity to interview the actor, writer and director Steven Berkoff.

To say that I am a massive Berkoff fan is somewhat of an understatement. As Uncle Monty would say, ‘as a callow youth I too crept the boards’ and during my year in London trying to get into drama school – 12 months that mainly saw me in full ‘Withnail’ mode, shivering in a bedsit on the Fortis Green Road – I performed a three-minute modern audition speech from Berkoff’s play, West.

Needless to say, theatre’s loss was (questionably) journalism’s gain as, after a year’s worth of rejections – including one from the director at the Drama Studio in Chalk Farm telling me that I should consider a career in sales – I gave up on being the Burton of my generation, although I occasionally dabbled in amateur dramatics, appearing at the Seven Dials Club in Covent Garden.

Later I landed a bit of work as an extra on Eastenders when they filmed in Marbella-More bizarrely, I appeared as a genie in a Romanian chocolate bar TV advert where I was sprayed dark brown, wore a pair of oversized Spock ears and had a massive ponytail stapled to my head. Thankfully it isn’t on YouTube…

It can always be a little disconcerting to meet your heroes, however. Some, like Rik Mayall, are brilliant. Others, like the 80s singer I was a big fan of, can be a total let down.

Even worse, you can end up coming out with the most inane comments such as, ‘I really like your music’, when meeting Jamiroquai’s Jay Kay; or worse, my female journo friend who went to pieces when interviewing Ewan McGregor and was horrified when she played the interview back to hear her schoolgirl giggles.

So I was more than a little apprehensive at interviewing Berkoff. He is not known to suffer fools and famously dismissed some of his Hollywood roles in films like Rambo and Beverly Hills Cop as being the means to raise money for his more serious projects.

But I need not have worried. Berkoff was frank, fascinating and had opinions on everything from Edgar Allen Poe to processed food to package holidaymakers. He posed for a photo with me and then I dug out my battered copy of his plays, including my audition speech from West. The great man signed it for me and then flicked through to his one-man play, Harry’s Christmas.

“Goodness”, he commented, “How did I remember all those lines?”.

With his one-man play about the fall of Harvey Weinstein scheduled for next year, something tells me that the brilliant Berkoff – who won Best Actor at the Festival – will be more than able to remember them.

 

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