ba magazine



“I’m not naturally competitive. I wasn’t great at sport at school. I don’t understand the idea of going up against someone and trying to annihilate them. It’s just not me. I am very ambitious for myself, though.”

“Illness is like a shadow.  My mother had cancer a while back.  She is of that generation that won’t burden other people with worry.  On one level it was extremely admirable but on another it made me anxious because I wasn’t sure I was getting the whole story.  I’ve lost my father and my stepfather and several friends to illness so you think, ‘oh God here we go again’.  Thankfully she’s in the clear and fingers crossed will remain so.”

“I haven’t been hospitalised for 20 years.  On that occasion it was self inflicted.  I lost my temper after an argument with a girlfriend and punched a door.  I thought it was hollow, but it was solid.  I broke knuckles and fingers and had to have pins inserted.”

“I was bullied at school.  I had red hair and freckles, so it was inevitable.  I moved schools a fair bit as well and I became very adept at fitting in.  I made friends easily.  Everyone gets the piss taken out of them in some way at school  You learn to roll with it.”

“I don’t understand therapy.  If people could learn to be more objective about themselves it would be of huge benefit.  If you can detach yourself and think hard you can alter your behaviour.  Too often we employ someone to do it for us.  Clearly there are some people who need help desperately, but for most why not try and work out what the issue is?”

“Lying awake worrying is awful and like most of Britain it’s money worries that are usually responsible.  Half of the country is writhing around wondering how to pay the mortgage and its draining.  That the only time I reach for pills - herbal or chemical sedatives I don’t care as long as I can knock myself out.”

“My wife swears by manuka honey.  If I’m coming down with something she reaches for a pot.  Apparently it has strong antibiotic properties.”  

“I like to run with nothing in my head but if I need a boost it has to be heavy with lots of power chords.”

“I can’t live without sugar.  Since I stopped drinking I have developed a sweet tooth.  Before Id only have savoury things, now I love cakes and sweets.”

Source: ‘The inside track’,  Mike Pattenden.

“Yes, there was.  The first time I thought I might have something; might be able to express myself this way was in a school poetry competition. All the other kids were just reading out the longest and most complicated poems they knew. I chose “Dulce et Decorum Est” and, rather than recite it, I just instinctively performed it. I didn’t understand exactly what it was about, but I felt it. The teachers seemed almost shocked and I won the competition. They made me do it again the next day.’ 

Source: ‘The Seriously Handsome Toby Stephens’, Spectator,  Mary Wakefield

"I think we all as human beings go through periods of disillusionment with life, with humanity”

“I suppose I would like to be remembered as a decent human being who represented humanity truthfully. In a nutshell!” 

“Death’s an abstracted idea until a certain point where it begins to become more focused and more real and more concrete. I think the older you get, certainly in our civilisation here, the more people you experience dying. It’s just the way it is. And so it makes it much more real.” 

Source: ‘The Big Interview: Toby Stephens’, Official London Theatre, 

"I blub all the time, in the most weird situations – not in the ones that should make me cry. Music makes me very emotional. I think I cried yesterday, in fact." 

Source: ‘This Much I Know, Toby Stephens’, Guardian, July 2010

"Well, I turned 40 recently and I can understand how the confidence of one’s youth disappears. There’s a Talking Heads song called ‘Once in a Lifetime’ that has the line: ‘Where is my beautiful car?’ It communicates a lot of those feelings. Luckily, I spent my 40th birthday at a lovely dinner with very good friends – no dramas!" 

Source: ‘Keeping It Real’,, 2010

"I wish I could do something else, I really do, but this is the only thing I’ve ever been any good at." 

Source: ‘Of Course I’d Act with My Mother’, London Times, 2010

My wife did it once [googled his name] and it freaked us out so much that I don’t any more.  I have a friend who does it a lot and he’s just constantly being upset.  Ignorance is total bliss.  I like going around pretending everybody loves me.”

Source: ‘A Big Ask’, Gabriel Tate 

“I’m pathetic and I’ll cry anywhere, any time.  Its the cause of great embarrassment.”

“Most afraid of not working.”

“My big hatred is littering so I would impose an one the spot punishment and make litterers wear a sign saying I am a lazy slob.”

Last listened to:

“Brian Eno’s ‘Plateaux of Mirror’, which I put on when I’ve drunk too much coffee.  Its very mellow.”

Save from a fire: 

“My heavily pregnant wife Anna-Louise and my two kids.”

Most like wearing:

“My double breasted navy coat from Tin House in Norfolk.”

“I’m in Norfolk at the moment and we’re staying in an old lighthouse.  I recently took my wife to Paris for a romantic break and we spent last Christmas in Venice, which is so atmospheric when the sea mists are rolling in.”

“I was recently in a lift with a mother and her daughter and they were complimenting me on my work.  Just before we got out they said, ‘And what’s your wife Helen doing’.  They thought I was Damian Lewis who is married to Helen McCrory.  In the end I went along with it and just said ‘She’s very busy at the moment’”.

“Got arrested in LA for stealing bubble gum when I was about six.”

Source: ‘My London’ : Toby Stephens, Hannah Nathanson, 

“I try to avoid travelling with my children.  They’re at that age when it’s a nightmare.  My wife and I are good at creating time away - even if its just a weekend - we have to for our own sanity.  Venice is our favourite destination.  We spent our honeymoon at the Hotel Cipriani.”

“I am obsessed with really good colognes and scents.  I like to smell nice after a long flight.  I love anything by Comme des Garcons.”

“I don’t have a huge skin regime but I do like Aesop facial oil, because its natural.  The older you get the rougher you look so you need to take care of yourself.”

“Running is great because you can do it anywhere.  So I always pack my new balance trainers.  The only place I didn’t manage a run was India - everyone thinks your insane.” 

“My wife gave me a Bell and Ross watch for my 40th birthday.  I’m never without it.  It’s made by the same company that creates dials for French fighter jets.” 

“On a flight I catch up on my reading.  It’s mainly fiction - I loved the ‘Line of Beauty’ by Alan Hollinghurst but I’m very selective.”

Source: BA In flight magazine

"If I ever read that actors know what they’re doing, they are either immensely successful movie stars or they are just lying.”

Source: Western Mail

“I absolutely support the Standard’s campaign [Dispossessed Fund]. I live in Tower Hamlets, which is one of the poorest boroughs in London, and it is also very near Hackney, where there is knife and gun crime. Anything that remedies it, or seeks to remedy it, is a good thing.

“I’ve never been in court. My father-in-law is a criminal barrister and I’ve been to watch him once but that’s the only experience of it so it was fascinating to act in front of the great and the good of the legal profession.”

Source: Evening Standard


“Home is East London near Spitalfields.  Earliest memory is being taken for walks by my nanny in Battersea Park and looking up at the huge blue gas towers and smelling the malt from the brewery that used to be there.”

“Walk as much as possible to avoid the Tube which is terrible and overpriced.”

“I go to John Sa doe in Chelsea for books because it’s like something out of a Dickens novel with its little corridors.  Folk, in the Old Truman Brewery, for unusual but well made shirts.  A lovely perfumery in Belgravia called Les Senteurs for unique colognes and perfumes that don’t take your head off.  St John Bread and Wine for Eccles cakes and brownies.  I like to browse the records in Rough Trade East.”

“Galvin La Chapelle, off Bishopsgate.  During the week its filled with obnoxious bankers, but its lovely and quiet at the weekend.”

“Triple shot lattes in small cups from Nude Espresson on Hanbury Street E1”

“Cheshire Street off Brick Lane.  I go window shopping there with my son and we stand outside the toy shop and fantasise over which mechanical robot wed like to take home.”

Most romantic place:

“Two temple place by the Inns of Court.  Its where we had our wedding reception.”

Best kept secret:

“Bunhill Fields Cemetery, off Old Street,where William Blake is buried.  Its an oasis of peace.”

Little known fact:

“My neighbour, the historian Dan Cruickshank told me that the Shakespearean actor Richard Burbage is buried in a vault in a church on Shoreditch Hight Street.”

Source: ‘’My London : Toby Stephens, Hannah Nathanson, 


“At the moment, I’m working and she’s working and we have 2 children so it’s complicated but often one of us isn’t working.”

“My parents didn’t actively discourage me, but that was a different time.  If my children showed an interest I’d push them towards university so they’d have a back-up.  Acting is overpopulated now and everything is precarious.”  

Source: ‘Acting the part’

“I don’t live life in the public eye.   That’s why I’ll never act with my mother.  I’d maybe do a film, but not a play, because much as I’d love to work with Mum - she’s an amazing actress - it would become about something other than acting and I find all that a bit naff.”

“I didn’t really know her at drama school.  I mean, she’s six foot one with curly hair so you couldn’t exactly miss her, but I had my head up my own arse then.  I only cared about what I was cast in, whether I’d get an agent and so on.”

“There are worse things, and it forced me to watch my mother as a performer and understand that she is two people, the mother I know in a domestic situation and the one who does what I do now, who is somebody else.  Any child who goes into a parent’s workplace has to realise that.”

Source: ‘Toby or not Toby’, Metropolitan Magazine, Eurostar

On take his son Eli to the Old Vic Theatre where Stephens was playing in ‘The Real Thing’:

“He was totally mystified. He thinks work is digging holes.“ 

"I was obsessed by the fact that she was dressed up in odd outfits, kissing some strange man. It was embarrassing, very disconcerting.”

“It’s not very healthy, as I’m sure my mother would testify." 

"I would hate to feel that I had some sort of innate right to belong. My parents’ world, that old school hierarchy, has gone. Everyone’s all mixed up now, and, because of that, theatre is finally exciting again. People want to see something real. As an actor, you take your humanity and you put it on stage. You make people look at themselves and say, 'Thank God I’m not alone.’" 

"Sir Laurence Olivier was sweet to me, but later he was struggling and couldn’t remember who anybody was. He had been close to my mother and my father, then got fed up with them both. He was frightened of people coming up behind him or stealing his limelight. He saw both my parents as a threat." 

"We occasionally visited the Oliviers on a Sunday. There’d be loads of people there. I was always so terrified, I would just clam up. I wasn’t swanning around being precocious, I was hunkering in the corner. People would have thought, 'Who’s the spotty kid with the red hair?’ I wasn’t doing myself any favours." 

"People talk about my family as if it were a dynasty. But it was never like something out of a Noel Coward play, with everyone going, 'Oh, dahling!’ and serving up theatrical anecdotes for breakfast." 

"I don’t worry about not being as good as them. All I can aspire to do is to have the same incredible drive as my mother, never sitting back on great reviews, always seeking to improve. All people tell me about my father is how amazing he was in things they saw, but that’s not a pressure. It’s lovely never to hear anyone say a bad word about him.”

"I told him it was fine for an older, more sophisticated actor, but in our production Coriolanus had to be a young man. He did accept it in the end, after a bit of harrumphing." 

Source: ‘Home and Dry’, London Times, July 2010

"Now I have children I live the most domestic mundane life." 

"I sort of dread them doing it. I guess my parents must have been the same about me; there’s no guarantee you’re going to be any good at it or that the industry is going to be kind to you. My instinct is to protect them and say, do something else. But then if that’s what they want to do I’m not going to stop them.” 

"Naff. She really is amazing. I’m so immensely proud of her as an actress, she is extraordinary. Also what I love is that I have two separate lives. I have my professional life and I have my personal life and I really like that separation.” 

"My brother only took a stage name because there was a male stripper in Holland who was a member of Equity who had the name Chris Stephens, so he was forced into choosing another name. No, I didn’t. I certainly didn’t want to hide away from it.” 

"When we found out about it, it was … I mean obviously you immediately go 'oh my God, that could mean, you know …’ Luckily it wasn’t, she is in the clear. But obviously you go, that death is one of the possibilities and she must have gone through that process as well.”

Source: ‘The Big Interview: Toby Stephens’, Official London Theatre, 

"I’ve learnt an enormous amount from my children. Mostly that my agenda isn’t the most important thing in the world. For a while I was trying to squeeze them into my life. And it was such torment! It makes you realise how selfish you are." 

"The smallest audience I’ve ever performed to is my three-year-old son on the way to nursery. I’ll be babbling to myself in the car and he’ll suddenly say: 'Daddy, are you running lines again?’" 

"I didn’t know my blood father that well, but my parents taught me that what I do is a job. It’s a craft, something you have to work at. My mother taught me that you never deliver a perfect performance. I’m constantly tweaking and fiddling with roles.”

Source: ‘This Much I Know’, Toby Stephens, Guardian, July 2010

"It’s not something you’d do lightly. It would be a … situation. I’d love to learn from her. I also would be very seriously intimidated. I wouldn’t flatter myself that it would be enough, but if that’s what got her back on the stage, I’d do it in an instant." 

I’d be going, 'Why is she talking like that, why is she dressed up, who is she kissing?’ Looking back I am as amazed by her as everybody else. She had the most incredible, rarefied time of it on stage.” 

"It was terrifying for all of us. Your foundations go.” 

“I was completely lost. Having lost two fathers I kept saying: 'Oh God, please, not yet, just a little more time.’" 

"I was very lucky. Beverley was my mother’s sweetheart from an earlier time and a wonderful father in ways that Robert, bless him, just could not be.” 

"Robert was very ill, it’s no secret, with alcohol. I watched him die in the most … the most gradual … I mean it was not an easy process. But his legacy is sometimes incredibly reductive. Actors come up to me going: 'God, your father could drink.’ And I say – 'I am aware. Yet you neglect to say that he did things nobody else can do with Shakespeare.’ He was extraordinary. He was many things, and he influenced me enormously." 

Source: ‘Of Course I’d Act with My Mother’, London Times, 

"Having kids certainly means you can’t obsess about your career the way you used to, which I think is healthy. But inevitably, when you become a father, you reference your own past. What makes me really sad is that neither Eli nor Tallulah will have an experience of their grandfather. And a lot of what I know about Robert is apocryphal, because I was four when he left and I didn’t see him for a long time. And inevitably, people are very reductive about him: 'Oh, he was a great actor but he liked a drink!’ Whenever I have any dealings with my son, I am aware that he walked away from us. I look at my situation and know I couldn’t even dream of doing that. But those were choices that Robert made in a context I can’t know. I’m incredibly lucky: I’m in a different place to where he was. I’m a different person.”

"To look at my mother with an objective eye and see how incredible it is what she does. Because purely selfishly I’d like to see her in something new, and also because I know it makes her happy." 

Source: ‘It’ll Be Weird to Be Here with My Family History,’ Evening Standard

 "No, not really, I wasn’t an extrovert. My brother did try to put on plays, but I didn’t like the limelight. He’d be the director, and he’d try to get me to perform, but I’d be paralysed with stage fright and refuse to come on." 

Source: ‘The Seriously Handsome Toby Stephens’, Spectator, 

"My parents would read almost anything – from trashy novels to highbrow ones. But I tend to be a bit of a snob, so I don’t do anything too trashy." 

Source: ‘My Life in Books, Toby Stephens’, Easy Living, 

"My mother’s an amazing role model. Having famous parents can put a lot of pressure on kids, but she taught me that, underneath it all, it’s just a job, a way of earning a crust, and it’s not about fame and notoriety, it’s about craft and practice." 

"I was waiting for a plane in Johannesburg, and a Scots woman came up to me and asked if my mum was all right. She was a stranger, but she felt this empathy with her because she’s moved people – it’s not a showbiz thing, it’s a deeper connection than that." 

"I was only three or four at the time, so I didn’t know what was going on. But looking back, they were hailed as the new Olivier and Leigh, and it must have been so hard for them in that goldfish bowl. I’m just relieved that I don’t have to live that way.”

Source: ‘In a Taxi with…Toby Stephens’, Daily Mail, 

I would probably get something to eat.  Screw the National Gallery and all that!  I get so little time because of the kids that I love those moments when you can just have breakfast, read the paper….”

Source: ‘A big Ask’


“Filming is rotten for your health. If you’re on set all day, you’re not going to get home at 9pm and go for a jog. When I go home I try and clean up and be a bit fascistic about my diet for a couple of weeks. Lose the pounds, go to the gym.”

“I hate hanging around. The big joke as an actor is you’re “resting between parts”. It’s not funny if you’re an out-of-work actor. You want to work and I love work.  Each job is a little pod in itself and very fulfilling, then you move on to another one which is completely different.”

Source: ‘Inside Track’

"I went through periods of wanting to be a doctor or a pilot, but I was too thick to become any of them." 

“Seaford College was full of farmer’s children. You didn’t really go round saying you wanted to be an actor." 

"Anyway, if they made a film of ‘Jane Eyre’, they’d want Russell Crowe, not me.”

"I enjoy that moment when I come off stage and don’t go for a drink. The drinking after a show is about trying to keep something alive that is gone. Actually, I love the fact that it has gone.”

Source: ‘Home and Dry’, London Times, July 2010

“I’m totally cool with it. I chose this profession. I think I entered into it naively, thinking it wasn’t going to be a preoccupation, but inevitably it is because they are in it and my mother is very much evident in this industry and I can’t hide from it. Turning up to interviews and saying 'yeah you know what, I’m not talking about my parents’ it makes it into some sort of issue like I’m embarrassed about it or ashamed. I’m not, I’m immensely proud of iit.” 

"It was basically the only thing I could do. It was also the way I, strangely, could express myself, through other people’s writing. Giving voice to these characters, making these characters into human beings that are believable, that was what I was fascinated in doing and I still am; I love doing it.” 

"There’s a lot of theatre I really like at the moment, and there’s a lot that I don’t like. If you don’t like that kind of theatre, take responsibility rather than just moan about it.”

"Performing at the Donmar allowed me to develop as an actor. I think before working at the Donmar I was a different type of actor and I think what happened to me when I worked at the Donmar was revelatory really. Because there you can’t hide, the audience is on top of you. I think a lot of actors hide behind various smokescreens of affectation and there you can’t. The difficult thing is letting go of it, and the Donmar is the perfect venue to do that.” 

Source: ‘The Big Interview: Toby Stephens’, Official London Theatre,

"Most actors do stuff they’re not proud of to pay the bills – and the good thing is that they do the best they can on it. You know: I’m going to polish this turd and I’m going to make it as shiny as I possibly can." 

"It’s not out of choice that I play so many historical characters. After 'Pride & Prejudice’ happened, anyone who looked or spoke in a certain way was shunted into doing that sort of stuff.” 

“Actors don’t listen to each other. You’re so obsessed with what you’re saying or doing that the other person could be talking in Swahili and you wouldn’t know.”  

Source: ‘This Much I Know, Toby Stephens’, Guardian, July 2010

“I don’t want to do the same thing over and over again,”

Source: Leicester Mercury

“Every job you go on is with a new character, a new group of people and a new script, which is wonderful.  You create these relationships and then move on.  But it’s also the worst thing because you never low what’s round the corner.  Very insecure, but extremely exciting.”

“I auditioned for Neil LaBute, and the casting director said, ‘Neil has a problem with British people playing American parts, so can you pretend that you’re American?’  So I spent this sleepless night thinking: where the fuck do I come from?  So I made-up this story about coming from Pittsburgh where my family made shoes or something.  I worked with Neil later on, and he told me that he’d known all along because he’d seen me in a play.  So there was this ridiculous double-bluff going on.  But it taught me a great lesson.”

Source: ‘A Big Ask’

"I’m not nearly that titanically brilliant off-script.  What I love about acting is that it allows you to articulate things you couldn’t readily say in normal life. In Coriolanus, I could be this eternally confrontational character, for instance. I’m not saying it’s therapy. It’s a strange, instinctive understanding of human behaviour that can be quite manipulative.”

Source: ‘Talking to…Toby Stephens’, London Times, April 2010

"We all want to stop the voices in our heads, don’t we, the ones that criticise and question us? Well, when you get a perfect moment on stage, the voices in your head are silenced, which is what we all want really, isn’t it?" 

"The reason I do it, the heart of it all, is that every so often, during some rare performances on stage, there’s a moment when you lose yourself completely. It’s amazing. The audience feel it too — well, it’s their focus that takes you there. And those moments are sublime. I can’t explain it very well, but it’s as if everything suddenly comes together and you’re able to pour yourself completely into the part as if it’s a vessel. It’s a very strange thing to do, but it’s…well, it’s my function, it’s what I love, it’s what I do." 

"It’s amazing. The audience feel it too - well it’s their focus that takes you there. And those moments are sublime. I can’t explain it very well, but it’s as if everything comes together and you’re able to pour yourself completely into the part as if it’s a vessel. It’s a very strange thing to do, but it’s…well, it’s my function, it’s what I love, it’s what I love, it’s what I do.”

Source: ‘The Seriously Handsome Toby Stephens’, Spectator,

“Theatre does not pay well, and sometimes I think, 'God, forget art, I just want to earn enough money not to lie awake at nights going 'shit’ all the time’. But I keep telling myself I am happy, and I don’t think super successful Hollywood types are. They end up living a monstrous, monomaniacal life.” 

“Great daredevil act that you’ll get too constipated with terror to do anything." 

"I mean these people trying to sell you 3-D TVs. Imagine it: sitting, eating your TV dinner with your f***ing 3-D glasses on. What insanity are we talking? ‘Avatar’ says quite literally nothing to me. Theatre is experiencing a really exciting, energetic time now, because it’s so satisfying to see real human beings in front of you and not some 3-D virtual sh**.”

"Yes and no. A lot of theatre felt quite tired then. It had this atmosphere of being a bit fusty, musty and middle class. My mother started in revue, a child of vaudeville, and was taken on by Olivier. When she came in it was all Noël Coward, everybody smoking cigarettes and isn’t it marvellous darling. The National and the Old Vic shook things up with these experimental productions — people like Ingmar Bergman, Franco Zeffirelli, Bill Gaskill and a 24-year-old Peter Hall opening ‘Waiting for Godot’. Extraordinary times.” 

"I love what I do. I absolutely love being here." 

Source: ‘Of Course I’d Act with My Mother’, London Times, 2010

"A lot of people see going to the theatre like rocking up at the cinema, and it’s not. They have mobile phones they leave on, they arrive late and want to get a drink in too. But at least people are coming to see us." 

"The theatre is much more challenging than film, where casting is really unimaginative. Filming is tedious … it’s a grind. You have to maintain focus all day in case you’re suddenly called to set, so it’s not like you can switch off. In the theatre your day begins at about 4pm, which is a bit difficult when you’ve got kids. Then, it’s about being in the moment and remembering everything you’ve rehearsed." 

Source: ‘Keeping It Real’,, 2010

"There’s a twinge of course, but it’s in my pocket more than anything – a job like that would pay the mortgage or the school fees. No, I’d like to keep it at the 'I’ve seen you in something, not sure what’ level. Having a life and being grounded is really important to me. In this business, especially for guys, you can become so obsessed with where you’re at and where you think you should be that you get angry and screwed-up, and forget to value what you have.”

"I guess theatre’s my creative engine. Television doesn’t really stimulate me in the same way, plus there’s such a circus surrounding all of that – what premieres or parties you’re seen at, what magazines you can bag the cover of. I feel I can’t live up to any of that. I get embarrassed by myself. I can’t actually watch ‘Britain’s Got Talent’. I’m hiding behind the sofa; I can’t cope with people humiliating themselves in that way. And that’s what the exposure of myself feels like to me." 

"In this business you can become so obsessed with where you think you should be that you forget to value what you have”

Source: ‘In a Taxi with…Toby Stephens’, Daily Mail, 2010

“That’s the difference between stage and film, or rather TV, given that we don’t have much of a film industry in Britain, or at least one I’m involved in. On TV a lot of stuff isn’t well written. You spend a lot of time trying to polish a turd. Whereas in theatre you usually don’t have to expend all that energy selling the thing, because the writing is superior." 

Source: ‘It’ll Be Weird to Be Here with My Family History’, Evening Standard

I’m not nearly that titanically brilliant off-script.  What I love about acting is that it allows you to articulate things you couldn’t readily say in normal life.  In 'Coriolanus’ I could be this eternally confrontational character, for instance.  I’m not saying it’s therapy.  It’s a strange instinctive understanding of human behaviour that can be quite manipulatively.”  

“Try as I might, I seem unable to get out of theatre.  I’ve never played the Old Vic before.  I was literally a baby when my parents were here under Olivier, but that’s part of the reason I’m hoping we pull it off.  I hope we do the theatre proud because it’s a magical building, and when you see that right product and the hairs on the back of your neck go up it’s an incredible feeling.  You can’t get it anywhere else.  It’s irreducible.”

Source: Lucy Powell talking to Toby Stephens

“That’s what acting is, playing different parts”

“I want to be on stage, serve a play well, try to replicate human behaviour.  Theatre is a learning process.  It’s about trying to fool people into believing they’re watching a real situation, a real person.  Film is more about personalities, which is also difficult but different.  You don’t ask Jack Nicholson to be anything other than Jack Nicholson.”

Source: ‘Toby or not Toby’, Metropolitan Magazine, Eurostar

“What I find bizarre is that the theatre is always there for me.  20 years ago I thought people were moving away from that.  If someone has said that to me ten years ago, that it would the be the bedrock for me, I would have laughed at them because I thought it was on the way out - but ironically people arc coming back to that.”

Source: ‘Acting the part’


"At the risk of sounding crass, the best thing about this prize is the cash. As a young actor - or certainly as a young stage actor, which is what this prize rewards - you’re not earning much, so a cheque for £5,000 really does make a huge difference. I remember that, beforehand, I had been getting quite desperate: after winning, I subsisted on it for quite a while.”


“The strangest thing about Hollywood is that you actually have to lie! When someone asks what you’ve been doing, you can’t just say, 'Well, I’ve been dossing around for six months.’ You have to say, 'I’ve been making this really interesting little movie.’ The whole town is run by producers who are just in it for the money. And they make bad movies because they don’t want to risk anything. They won’t risk losing money so they end up making boring films. The whole thing is a fiction, I mean the whole town! It shouldn’t even be there, it’s built on a desert!" 

"Trying to crack Hollywood nearly killed me. It’s such a strange world full of phony people. You have to pretend to be really hot shit all the time. You’re constantly in this weird state where the end of the rainbow keeps receding. There’s success all around you — fancy cars, posters of big-budget movies — but you can’t get at it. And you learn the language of false hope. It means that when people say, 'You’re in the mix for this one,’ that actually translates as: 'You’ve got no chance.’”

Source: ‘The Seriously Handsome Toby Stephens’, Spectator, July 2010

There was a time when I thought, yeah I want to go out to LA and do a big TV series or get into movies, but now I’ve got kids and Im a homebody, I like bing in London.  But don’t hold me to that, because if I was offered something….:”

Source:’Cop duo wont let crime get in the way’


“Every schoolboy’s secret longing! You can’t turn down the chance to be in a Bond movie, can you? And I do love playing baddies, they’re more…interesting." 

Source: ‘The Seriously Handsome Toby Stephens’, Spectator, July 2010

“Too unlikely to take seriously — a baddie and Bond? I think not." 

“Exceedingly silly but great fun; the movie industry has so little imagination. I’d just end up replicating the same English cad. So I backed away from it.” 

Source: ‘Of Course I’d Act with My Mother’, London Times, 2010

“A bit of an aberration”

Source: Daily Mail

“It was a blast, like a strange holiday, and then I went back to my normal life.”

Source: ‘Cop duo wont let crime get in the way’


"If I was to meet Lou Reed or Bob Dylan, I would be totally helpless. Writers and musicians make me feel completely starstruck. Once I did a read-through in front of Ted Hughes and mauled his text so much I could see him twitching.” 

Source: ‘This Much I Know - Toby Stephens’, Guardian, July 2010

“Brilliant musicians or songwriters.  Someone like Miles Davis or Bob Dylan.  I’d probably come away hating them - never meet your heroes.”

Source: ‘A Big Ask’


“I absolutely loved ‘Wolf Hall’. I’m intrigued by Henry VIII. He was an utter selfish shit, but you can see why everyone wanted to be around him – people were magnetised. I’m fascinated by those kinds of characters." 

Source: ‘This Much I Know - Toby Stephens’, Guardian, July 2010

"My reading has ground to a halt of late, because we have two small children and I’m so tired I can’t focus on anything past seven o'clock in the evening. But, recently, I was filming in South Africa, which afforded me time to read. I gobbled this up; it totally grabbed me. Mantel is brilliant at being able to give real texture to the past; you feel you’re there; that you understand these people. It was a present, together with one of her earlier novels, ‘A Place of Greater Safety’, about the French Revolution, which could not be more apposite, as after ‘The Real Thing’, I’m doing ‘Danton’s Death’, the play, at the National Theatre. So it’s become slightly 'set text,’ but I am managing to fit it in between changing nappies.

American Pastoral’ by Philip Roth 

“It’s not a big book, but it’s huge in its themes, and I think it’s my favourite Roth. I’ve read all of his novels, and I find him hit or miss, but when he hits, he really hits home. I think this articulates everything Roth had been trying to say about his sense of identity, his Jewishness, the American Dream and how it goes so wrong for the protagonist: it’s utterly tragic and compelling. It’s one of the greatest modern American novels. I couldn’t put it down, and when I did, I felt it had moved me on somewhere beyond where I was before.” 

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ by Hunter S. Thompson

“This came to me in my twenties, out of the blue, and knocked me sideways. I remember reading it on trains and thinking other passengers must think me insane as I was laughing so much. I love Thompson’s visceral, funny writing style and how it really captures a time in history. I was evangelical about this book for a while and kept insisting people read it." 

“'Moby Dick’ is a big guy’s book. It’s like the Old Testament in scope, but there’s a simplicity to the plot, and the irrevocable, tragic path that this man is on- his monomania is a very male thing. I found it totally compelling - aside from the very, very boring bit in the middle, about what the whales look like! Skip that, because this is an amazing read and has at its heart a very human tale. You know it’s an old classic, but when you’re in the midst of it, it feels present, fresh, and so real.”  

Tom Jones’ by Henry Fielding 

“My stepfather told me I should read this because it’s wonderful, and I remember thinking, 'But it’s such an old book.’ I was just blown away by the humour - it’s hilarious - and its sauciness and bawdiness. I read it in my teenage years, when I was becoming obsessed by sex and women, so it was perfect because it’s so hand-on-hip and has such thigh-slapping gusto. It is a satire, there is a Hogarthian element to it, but it has this jovial goodness of spirit that is so engaging. It has a lust for life in all its glory; it says, 'This is life - and it’s wonderful.’ I love it still.”  

‘The Wind in the Willows’ by Kenneth Graham

“This is one of those books that become part of you. Ratty, Toad, and Mole became so entrenched in my imagination that, no matter how many times I see it on stage or an animation, it never fulfills how I perceive them in my mind. It changes the way I saw rivers and big old country houses. It’s so much of its time, and there’s this innocence to it, which I love, this idyll of a past England; in later life we can be cynical about it, but in childhood, it’s so lovely to believe in it.”  

Alice in Wonderland’ by Lewis Carroll

“I was five when this was read to me, but it wasn’t until I was 11 that I came to love it - when I claimed it for myself. It’s so wonderfully imaginative and weird. I long to read it to my children, but I have to hold myself back. I think it’s important to pass on your literary heritage, but if they don’t like it, that’s fine - getting on with a book is a chemical thing. The number of times I’ve tried to read Dickens…I just can’t get on with him. I’m really keen for them to read it for themselves. It might be great for me to do these finely wrought performances, but they might not enjoy them as much as I do!" 

“A sense of humanity. All the great plays and novels remind us who we are, and that we’re not alone. As an audience or reader, I respond to art that makes me say, 'You know how I feel. You’ve revealed to me what I already know in my heart of hearts.’ And I want to give that to the audience." 

Source: ‘My Life in Books, Toby Stephens’, Easy Living, June 2010

“Christopher Hitchen’s autobiograhy, ‘Hitch-22’ .  I’m fascinated by him - I admire him but I’m not sure that I like him.”

Source: ‘A Big ask’


"It was awful, there was no excuse for it. I had to buy her [Dame Diana Rigg] flowers and crawl down to her dressing room, literally on my hands and knees. It was the beginning of knowing I couldn’t go on like that. I had this sense of my father not having achieved what he might have done because of drinking, and I didn’t want it for me. I didn’t want it for him, either." 

"I look at actors now and they’re all totally ripped - the young guys in my cast are all incredibly fit. It’s so tough to get on in this job. People have to look after themselves and be sharp. You can’t turn up half-cut to do a performance.”  

“All that romantic, living-on-the-edge stuff is a load of crap. People talk about Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole - imagine how much better they would have been if they hadn’t had a bottle of vodka." 

Source: ‘Home and Dry’, London Times, July 2010

"A big drinker ever since I started. I had given up for a year, but when Robert died I stupidly thought: 'Sod it, I might as well.’ I can’t have just one. It’s a chemical thing. It’s such agony to stop I’d rather not start. It’s hard enough in this profession without sabotaging yourself. There’s this stupid romantic notion about it, but I guarantee, drinking does not make good acting.” 

Source: ‘Of Course I’d Act with My Mother’, London Times, 2010

“Raises its head in the most banal situations. But I don’t obsess about it like I used to. It’s a choice not to drink. I know I don’t want to go down that route again. I’ve got too much to lose." 

Source: ‘It’ll Be Weird to Be Here with My Family History’, Evening Standard,

“In the old days I used to stay agents in a restaurant ordering bottles of wine and brandy but because I couldn’t do that any more it was all a bit functional.  I’d eat and say, right bill please, so my wife, who drinks like a normal person was constantly getting indigestion.  I was very jumpy, it’s a wonder she stuck around.”

Source: ‘Toby or not Toby’, Metropolitan Magazine, Eurostar

“I used to be of the type who takes a vice to the hilt.  I was a heavy drinker.  It got to the point of being very scary.  It was mainly drink but also anything that was going, one thing leads to another and so on.  I was quite robust then fortunately but there was a point where my liver blew up and I knew I had to do something about it.”  

“Im very dogged, I do something totally or I don’t.  When I gave up booze it was intensely hard for a few weeks and tough for a year, but I’d made up my mind.”

“I haven’t drunk for ten years now.  Once I make a decision its like flicking a switch.” 

“My only vice now is coffee.  Lots of it.  I’d rather do that than anything else.  Every morning I go to a local cafe that does a mean espresso and I drink triple shots often two back to back.  They think it’s hilarious there.  My wife has suffused I cut down because I can get a bit jumpy.”

“It can be a bummer not opening a bottle of wine.  I don’t have that stress reliever choice that most people reach for.  Exercise is good, unleashing all those endorphins.  You have to have something.”

Source: ‘The inside track’


J. Cole & Bas: Behind the scenes at the OFIVE Magazine shoot