The star of The Forsyte Saga, 39, lives in London with his wife, the actress Helen McCrory, and their two children
I used to be a bit of a party animal. These days I can’t go out relentlessly and be a father as well. I have two children, aged 3 and 2, so instead I tend to do silly “dad” things such as going on 150-mile bike rides with my friends just to prove that we can do it. We did a ride in the Cambrian Mountains and Brecon Beacons over three days at Easter out of a sense of adventure, but we’ve all been in physiotherapy ever since.
I’ve got my own five-a-side football team called the Tufnell Touch. It’s just me and a few mates: five fit, handsome men struggling with mid-life crises. There aren’t any other celebrities in the team: they can be temperamental, and you need a strong mind to play with me.
I started playing football aged 6, but back then, I was just banging footballs over the playground netting and getting into trouble with the nuns.
I’m naturally a pale, skinny Englishman, so if I need to get some muscles, I go on little fitness regimes. Sometimes I’ll get a personal trainer, other times it will be weights in the trailer. There are very few sports that I won’t do. Though you’ll never see me curling.
Maintaining my “girlish” figure is a constant worry. But really, if you’ve ever played competitive sport to a half-decent level, you get used to being in shape. I don’t do it for work, I do it to be healthy.
I ride my bike like a 12-year-old. I love having a bike and bombing around the city. It’s by far the best way to get around. I’ll ride to rehearsals, I’ll put my kids on the back and take them to the park, I’ll go to the pub to meet my mates and I’ll cycle to meetings. Although it’s difficult if you’ve got to look smart: you turn up dripping sweat in your Prada suit with wet patches under the arms of your Armani shirt — no one wants to see that.
I’ve had two health “scares”. The first was when I was 11. I was playing cricket when I missed a full toss and the ball shattered my nose. They took me to the hospital, but I still can’t really breathe through it. The other was on the first day of filming The Forsyte Saga. I got chronic appendicitis. It turned out I’d had it for a week previously, but I put it down to a bad stomach ache. But the pain became so excruciating that I doubled up on my hotel room floor, wearing a bathrobe, calling reception to ask for an ambulance.
Almost everything stresses me out, but sitting in a traffic jam is my idea of hell.
You have to learn to contrive spontaneity. Spontaneity is difficult when you have a family. I’m a restless character and I’m not one to rest on my laurels, so I’m always looking for new challenges and ways I can do things better. My philosophy is that you only get out of life what you put into it.
The most difficult moment in my life was the death of my mother.
I instinctively like healthy food, but I eat puddings galore. Fortunately, I have quite a quick metabolism, but it does get to the point where, if I keep drinking beer and eating puddings, it starts to show.
As a child, I ate endless fishcakes or battered cod with ketchup and mash. My mother wasn’t that interested in cooking but she had a few staple recipes: navarin of lamb, a cracking macaroni cheese, shepherd’s pie and fish pie.
My favourite quotation is by the writer Kenneth Tynan: “Rouse tempers, goad and lacerate, raise whirlwinds”.
If my friends were to describe me, they would probably say I was forgetful, scatterbrained, unfocused — all the things I strive not to be.
My most enviable feature? Well, that would be my red hair.
CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT Benedryl In the summer.
B-Complex vitamins – they make me high. It’s quite confusing, a bit like coffee without the sweaty anxiety.
Mother’s remedy – a walk around the block cures indolence and apathy.
On the iPod- Django Reinhardt, Hugh Masekela and Elvis.
Original article here.