ES Magazine
17th August 2001

My London: James Purefoy

Actor James Purefoy hates boy racers and likes his bird served with 40 cloves of garlic

How long have you lived in London?
Fifteen years. I'm a country boy - I was brought up in Somerset.
Where do you live and why?
I live in one of those parts of London that doesn't really have a name. I call it 'Starch Green' as it's between Stamford Brook and Turnham Green. I like it because nearly all the people I like in London live there.
If you could change one thing about your street, what would it be?
I'd have spikes coming out of the road to stop the speed kings of W12.
Are you a member of any club?
Yeah, several, but none of them deserve any publicity. They're all dens of iniquity.
What was the last book you bought?
One for My Baby by Tony Parsons. I haven't read it yet so I don't know if it's any good.
Do you have a local pub?
The Anglesea Arms in 'Starch Green'. It does great food and good Guinness.
Where would you most like to spend a 'lost weekend' in London?
One of those big old hotels like Claridge's or the Connaught. They just know how to do luxury.
What keeps you awake at night?
Lines - the written variety.
What is your earliest memory of London?
Lying on the back seat of my aunt's car when I was seven or eight and being told we were on Park Lane, the road from the Monopoly board. I wasn't very impressed - it seemed rather windswept.
When did you last lose something valuable and what was it?
Without fail, every day I lose my keys, credit card and dignity.
What is the most beautiful landmark in London?
I've always had a soft spot for the statue of a boy and a dolphin near Albert Bridge. The boy is touching the dolphin with the tip of his finger, and it amazes me how strong the statue is. It defies physics.
And the ugliest?
The Elephant and Castle shopping centre.
What was the last play you saw in London and did you enjoy it?
Blue/Orange at the Duchess Theatre. I thought the acting and writing were extraordinary, but the audience was terribly muted. I thought, what do these people want? Blood?
When and where did you last get drunk?
About a month ago at the Dorchester on some very expensive wine with some film people from A Knight's Tale.
Where is the most intimidating place in London?
I don't get intimidated very often. I won't let people intimidate me.
What don't you leave London without?
My laptop. I write - so my life's on it.
What's the sleaziest thing you've ever done?
How long have you got?
Admit to one thing you've done in London that you've never told anyone before.
I once had sex in St James's Park in broad daylight.
When did you last lose your temper?
The only person who knows how to make me lose my temper is my partner. But very rarely.
Where did you last blow £2,000 and what was it on?
About a month ago on a painting of a seascape by Sophie Eynon. Not quite £2,000 but near enough.
What's the first piece of advice you'd give a London tourist? Don't take minicabs. Even if you've only just arrived, you'll know the streets of London better than the driver.
What was the last conversation you had with a London cabbie?
It wasn't very nice as it was racist. The cab driver was edging around the subject of race, trying to find out whether or not we were like-minded. I cut him short.
When was the last time you broke the law?
I may have strayed into a bus lane on my scooter last night. If you were invisible for a day, where would you go in London and what would you do?
I'd go inside Tony Blair's office and earwig.
Give us your best tip for overcoming depression.
A good walk on Hampstead Heath.
What's the most overrated thing in London?
What do you miss most when you're out of London?
The multiracial mix. Also the idea that pretty much anything is available to eat, drink, watch or listen to.
Name a song that you associate with London.
The morning after my little boy was born, driving home at dawn, I heard 'Here Comes the Sun' on the radio.
Which shop could you not live without?
All the little food shops on Turnham Green Terrace, especially M&C's, the greengrocers. I despise supermarkets.
Have you ever been refused entry anywhere?
No, but there's nowhere worth queuing to get into.
What is the most expensive meal you've had in London and who did you eat with?
Probably the dinner for A Knight's Tale at the Dorchester. Not so much the food, but I suspect we weren't exactly thrifty with the wine list.
What's your favourite meal to cook at home?
You can't go wrong with Alastair Little's roast chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. And, as Nigel Slater always says, it tastes great with a leafy salad to mop up the juices.
What's your most memorable night out?
Can I count a night in? That would have to be the night in hospital when my son was born.
What is your favourite view?
From an aeroplane coming into Heathrow from the east. I always try to see where we live.
What and where is your favourite painting or work of art?
The Rothko Room at Tate Modern. I could sit in there for hours. I always find it amazing that people can walk through without stopping.
What last made you cry?
The Winter's Tale at the National Theatre about a month ago.
Where in London would you have your ashes scattered?
The lake at Chiswick House so my friends could nod to me after Sunday breakfast in the café.
If your house were on fire, which three things would you rescue?
My partner Holly, my son Joseph and the laptop.
Interview by Charlotte Williamson
Photograph by Jason Bell

Maybe Baby is out now on video. A Knight's Tale is released on 31 August.
To see past My London interviews, go to

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