Article from the Sunday Independent - 27 July 1997

Submitted by Nell

A bit too old to get my kit off

Aine O'Connor talks to the British Robert Redford as he turns fifty and attempts to take over the universe

You get the impression that Charles Dance thinks that turning 50 is the end of the world. Well, he certainly gives the impression of being a man who feels he has missed chances.

Born in Worcestershire and brought up in Devon, Charles Dance spent much of his childhood resenting his mother. An Eastender by birth she had gone into service at the age of 14 before becoming a Lyons teashop manageress and meeting Charles' father. Her husband died when Charles was four, leaving her in penury. His mother then married the lodger but his relationship with his stepfather was distant and with his mother, strained. Dance says she was a bit of a martyr, always going on about how she was doing the best she could. He hated her petty snobbery and neediness. At her funeral he wept bitterly and then laughed hysterically.

Dance's lifelong stutter started to disappear when he escaped the family home to go to art school and met people who broadened his horizons and changed his life.

He worked hard to get rid of the trappings of his upbringing, accent and attitudes and married Jo at 23. (He has two children - Oliver, 22 and Rebecca, 16). He describes his wife as a "stabilising influence" in the difficult days of pantomimes and touring companies before finally making it in The Jewel in the Crown in 1984.

He was hailed as the British Robert Redford and cast opposite Meryl Streep in Plenty, Greta Scacchi in White Mischief and made movies with Eddie Murphy and Arnold Schwarzenegger amongst others. But he failed to fulfill the A-list promise he had shown on television.

His latest movie Space Truckers had its troubled shoot in Ireland and was finally released last Friday. In it he plays the evil Macanudo who is trying to take over the universe.

"I think Space Truckers has been pretty well received although it has had its detractors. It is aimed at a specific market, 16 to 24-year-olds and most of the critics who didn't like it are considerably older. It's a lot of fun and it's a very well-made film. I really liked it when I saw it first, which was a relief. An actor makes his contribution and then walks away and leaves it to the director and you never know what the end result is going to be.

"Space Truckers gave me the opportunity to go way over the top, it's a kind of release. For an actor, emotional histrionics are the easiest thing to do, to be ordinary is much, much more difficult."

Dance was somewhat typecast as the dashing lead for most of his career and he still looks impressive, tanned and a lean 6' 4". "Unless you make a very conscious decision to go to the US and become American - I am thinking of someone like Tim Roth - English actors tend to get stereotyped as dashing chaps or the villain. There are only so many ways you can play romantic leading men. Let's face it, when you get to a certain age, in my case 50, you are a bit old. It's a funny age, I am not old enough to get interesting old men characters but at the same time I am a bit old for getting my kit off.

"If I'd had better advisors I'd have gone to America [after The Jewel in the Crown]. At the time, the British film industry was in the doldrums and the only way to make it big was to go to the States. But I didn't and there's no point in having regrets."

His job has brought him to some incredible places: four months on an icebreaker in the Bering Sea, Arctic Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico ... His wife does not come with him; she occasionally visits but he says that work and family in the same place don't work - one or the other of them would have to suffer. "It is difficult, but an occupational hazard."

So, is turning 50 the end of the world? "One has got to be realistic but I bloody hope it is not the end of things for me. As long as I can walk and talk I can work."

© 1997, Aine O'Connor for the Sunday Independent

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