What’s that splashing sound?
Give me a sec son, I’ve just got to put some clothes on.
What, you’re naked?
Well, yeah, you don’t have a bath with clothes on do you? Hang on, I’ll get out, let me get my dressing gown… oh fuck it, let’s just do this. Go on, ask me stuff.
Your new movie Outlaw paints a pretty bleak picture of life in Britain, do you think the nation’s gone down the drain?
Oh yeah. If you listen to people on the street, the country’s buggered. I don’t think you can be ashamed of Britain, but you can be ashamed of the government who’s fucked her up. It’s pretty grim out there on the streets.
Have you had any run-ins with chavs?
No, not really. Funnily enough, people don’t want to have a go at me. When they see me walking down the street they recognise me, but not as a celebrity. They all think they know me from somewhere, but can’t work out where – so they’re always nice, just in case I’m their uncle or something.
How much time do you spend in Britain compared to Hollywood?
I don’t bother with Hollywood much, not these days. I’m not one of the LA crowd any more. I prefer Europe. There’s something about America that makes me always feel like a foreigner. In America, I’ll say things and they’ll just look at me with their jaws open. It’s easy to shock people.
Are you still proud to be English? Do you pin your St George up during World Cups and all that?
Well, I’m proud but I’m not into football much. I’m not into sport at all really. When I was a kid, my uncle had two daughters but he was a complete Arsenal fan. Because I was the only boy in the family, I had to go to the Arsenal with him every Saturday. In those days everybody stood up on the terraces, so you can imagine how much football I saw. I’m not a tall man. All I saw was the back of knees every week. I watched those fucking knees every week for three years, and really grew to hate football.
Is it fun filming really violent films like Outlaw or The Long Good Friday, where you can let all your anger out?
Nah, you’re kidding aren’t you? I’m getting too old for that caper. I did that film you know, what was it, that one with Jet Li? What was it called son?
I don’t know, you were in it…
Oh you know, karate film with that Jet Li bloke?
Danny The Dog?
Yeah, Danny Dog, that was it. Jet would say [adopts terrible cockney Chinese accent], “Bob this not real action picture, fights not hurt. This just tea-time comedy.” I was like, “Is he fucking joking? All this hitting me is starting to fucking hurt.” To Jet it was nothing, but it was killing me.
Are you genuinely lamping each other in films like that then?
Yeah, and it hurts like hell. I’m not a trained stunt man, when someone kicks me in the head it fucking hurts. Jet can slow everything down in his mind, he thinks so fast he can predict the punch and prepare to take it. It’s like meditation to him, for me it’s like being kicked in the face all day, every day for a month. I had a panic attack on my way to work every day.
Were you quite handy in a scrap during your younger days?
Nah, you don’t get to look like me by being able to handle yourself. I had too much mouth and nothing to back it up. If you know how to fight, your face stays alright. Look at Cassius Clay. Muhammad Ali is a handsome bugger because nobody whacked him.
What’s the biggest ruck you’ve ever been involved in?
I had a road rage row with a bloke in another car. We were shouting blue murder at each other and then he got out, so I got out and we started whacking lumps out of each other. Fortunately he was in the same sort of shape as me. Within six seconds we’d both had enough and decided to pack it in and go for a beer.
You went to the pub?
Yeah we went to the pub. Nice bloke.
Outlaw was directed by Nick Love of Football Factory fame, are you a big fan of his stuff?
Nah, I’d never seen any of Nick Love’s films before but I was really impressed with him. He’s really different, very clever – you hardly notice he’s there. By the time he puts the film together I think it’ll be quite a number. Actually, he must have done that by now. Have you seen it?
Is it good? I would have thought it was. I haven’t had a chance to see it yet. It’s quite violent stuff, he’s not what you call a pacifist that Nick Love.
There’s an insane amount of swearing in the film, more than even this interview. Does all that cussing rile you?
Nah. People swear all the fucking time these days. Swearing’s taken the place of punctuation. People used to use full stops and commas, now they use fuck and shit.
Did you go out on the beers with your co-stars Danny Dyer and Sean Bean?
Yeah we’d go to the pub and stuff. I wasn’t there for that long because I get fucking killed early on in the film! But Sean’s a top guy and Danny’s a character. Off screen he’s twice as much as he is on screen. He has to be toned down.
When you’re working on a British film like Outlaw, do tight budgets mean you get rubbish trailers?
Yeah, but I don’t want much in my trailer anyway. At the end of the day it’s a caravan, all it needs is a door, wheels and roof. I just sit in there and play cards with my mate Sammy. Okay, in Hollywood you get a fancy trailer, but they make you film such long, long, long scenes you never get to see much of the place anyway.
Is there anything you demand to have in there?
Anything I demand? Are you having a laugh?
No special type of beer, or nuts or something?
Nah. You’ve got these big catering vans who do tea and sandwiches and whatnot, they’ve got all I need.
What has been your proudest moment in film so far?
I ain’t got the faintest idea, but it’s not Super Mario that’s for sure. Where the fuck do you dig up these questions? What are you talking about?
Well, do you think people will remember you for Roger Rabbit?
How the fuck do I know? Anyway, I’ll be dead. They can remember me for what the hell they like. As long as it’s not Super Mario…
You really hate poor Mario. We once read that you didn’t even know it was based on a video-game until you’d finished filming, is that true?
That’s completely made up son. Ridiculous. But that film was shit. The directors didn’t have a clue what they were doing. What a terrible film.
Do people ever mistake you for Danny DeVito?
Yeah, about once a fortnight.
Does it annoy you?
Nah, not at all. And I sign autographs as Danny DeVito all the time too. People are like, “Danny! Can you sign this?” I’m like, “Sure, no problem, did you enjoy Twins?” I like Danny, I can’t say we’re mates but he’s a good boy. I bet he’s never signed an autograph in my name though.
My nan fancies you, do you get many grandma groupies?
No, I seem to have a lot of grandma friends but they’re not after any sexy business.
Are there any actors smaller than you and Danny?
Judi Dench. She’s minuscule. It’s nice to work with an actress a foot shorter than me. Most of the actresses I work with, I have to stand on tiptoes most of the time, but Judi’s tiny. I like her.
Finally, is it true that you used to be a fire-eater before you took up acting?
Yeah. A mate of mine said to me, “Do you want to come and work in the circus?” I said, “Yeah, I’ll come.” One of the things I did there was eat fire. It’s easy. But it’s not much good for your sex life. The smell of paraffin on your breath is a real turn-off. I did a bit of the old escapology too…
Original interview by Lee Coan in the April 2007 issue of FHM UK magazine