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You hardly ever do plays, so why this one?
‘It’s ten years since I did a play – with Kevin Spacey at the Old Vic [‘A Moon for the Misbegotten’]. Then and now I made the mistake of reading the play and realising how good it was, and Big Daddy is such a great character. You can’t pass up those parts as an actor.’
Does it take it out of you, doing these big American tragedies?
‘“A Moon for the Misbegotten” was a three-character play, it was four-and-a-half hours long, you did eight shows a week, we did it for five months here then brought it to Broadway and did six months… by the end of that year I was like: That’s it, I’m never doing another play. So I guess it takes me ten years to recharge each time.’
As a younger man you were a stage actor in London. Are you nostalgic for those days at all?
[Laughs] ‘Not really, no. My years in London were great, but in the ’70s it was hard for an Irish actor to play something other than Irish parts; we just weren’t give the opportunity. That’s changed dramatically, but back then it was true. Whereas you went to America and you were playing American parts right away.’
You always seem to be in work. Is there a secret?
‘Some people might say I’ll do any old shit, you know? I like to work, I’m not good at being out of work – when I go home, I’m good for two, three, maybe four weeks but then I start getting twitchy.’
Does London feel like it’s changed a lot over the last ten years?
‘There are more cyclists, which is great. The skyline has changed. It’s one of those cities you expect to stay the same, like Paris or Rome, but it’s changed. Oh, and the food: the food is so much better.’
'Cat On a Hot Tin Roof' is at Apollo Shaftesbury until October 7 2017.