A lot of people, obviously, are very invested in everything being very important. Why do you think you feel differently?
“Well, when I was younger, I was ambitious and wanting to succeed. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. [Now] I lean back, and say, ‘Well, you know, I’ve had a great life, I’ve been very fortunate and it’s beyond my imagination where my life has taken me.’ So this is why I can, I think, be relaxed and at peace and just say: ‘Well, do the best you can, do what you can, but it’s no finally big deal because one day we’re all going to be dead.’ [laughs] That’s the truth. The last decade, I think, it came upon me: ‘Oh, come on, just relax, enjoy it, do your job, get on with it. If they want you to work, and if they want to do this, do that, go, show up, learn your lines, and you know, and have some fun with it—don’t take it all so damn seriously.’ Because there’s so many people suffering terrible pain in this world, and loneliness and unhappiness and confusion. And I think, good God, I’m so lucky. You know, I’ve had a great life. You can’t live on a high all the time. You have to live with reality: that life is a battle. Life is painful for everyone, because we’re born and then we suffer grief and loss and finally we have to say goodbye to it all. But for some paradoxical reason I feel okay about that. I think, ‘Oh well, that’s it.’ If anyone wants to give me another job as an actor, I’m 82 now. I’m going to be 83 at the end of the year. And if anyone is foolish enough to give me another part in a film, I’ll do it, show up, make sure my memory is in shape, and I stay fit and well and do the job and don’t take it seriously and have some fun with it, treat people with courtesy and with respect. And that’s what I do. And then the benefits, the reward is terrific, if you just are pleasant to people. Just take it easy. Don’t judge people. I’m not going to judge anyone. And it’s none of my business what people say of me or think of me if even they give me a thought. I do what I do because I like doing it. And my contentment, I suppose, my peace…[laughs] …I like having a cup of tea with my wife. Maybe a couple of cookies or something like that. I play the piano a lot, I paint, I play with my cat, Niblo.”
Those are the things that make you happy in the present day?
“Well, you know, I’ve been in here now for many months in quarantine. And I accept this situation for what it is, think, ‘Well, one day just hopefully they’ll find a way to get through this.’ But I think it’s going to be a reset for the whole of humankind. All this stuff, that turmoil that’s going on, I just think, ‘Well, that’s the way it’s always been.’ Something that keeps me in perspective, actually—and this is a bit deep, I guess—but I was born before World War Two, so I’m an old guy now, so I remember the aftermath of the war, the Second World War. I was then, what? Six, seven years old. So I was old enough to comprehend the devastation of an entire world. I was living in Wales, and the cities around, just west of us, were bombed by the German planes, and London was demolished, Coventry, all the cities, and the devastation in Europe. And I sometimes Google and go back to see the state of Europe, the rubble of Europe just 80 years ago, or 75 years ago—you know, millions of people were destroyed in that confrontation. I mean, 40 to 50 million people, they estimate. I look around, think, ‘Well, yeah, I’ve lived through that.’ I look at our lives now: ‘Well, yeah, this is not good, but we’ve been through worse than this.’ We have been through worse. And I’m not a philosopher, not a sociologist, I’m not a scientist. I have no idea what this is. But people have lived through the influenza pandemic, which killed millions of people in 1919, and the Black Death back in the Dark Ages. And we’ve come through these. You know, the virulent flu in 1957, I was very ill, but I survived that, and thousands of people died in that period, but I survived it. And I think the very fact that I’ve survived gives me a sense of hope. And I try to spread to young kids, to younger people, people who are in my business and struggling. I say, just hang on, just keep going. Just do what’s in front of you, try to do the best you can.”