BRIAN is one of Britain’s most recognisable actors, with roles as diverse as TV series Z Cars through to movies like Flash Gordon and Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.
He even provides voices for the Peppa Pig cartoon. An ex-amateur boxer, he holds a 3rd Dan in judo, has climbed Everest, survived a jungle plane crash, and wants to go into space. Brian turns 82 on Tuesday.
How did you get into acting?
Patrick Stewart and I are friends. I’m a coal miner’s son, his dad was a milkman. The idea of two lads like us becoming actors was laughable, yet the South Yorkshire education authority gave us scholarships. We owe it all to them.
Do you have a motto for life?
“Don’t let the world grind you down.” We all have something unique, so go out there and fulfil your dreams. No excuses. Just do it.
How important is the Flash Gordon movie to you?
Everyone still asks me to say my line “Gordon’s Alive”, even at the North Pole. I was exploring there, the oldest to go on foot, and an American submarine surfaced. The captain looked down and said: “It’s you! Please say ‘Gordon’s Alive.’” I can’t escape it.
It was your first Hollywood movie. Challenging?
Yes. On my first day on set they gave me a cardboard gun. I was running around making the firing sounds with my mouth, like children do. The director shouted “Cut!”, then said: “You do know we put the sound effects in afterwards, Brian?”
How do you keep your mind young?
It’s not how old you are, but how you are old. I bench press 300 pounds and run five miles every day. We should all be like Peter Pan.
Why so much exercise?
Because half my life is acting, and half is exploring. I worked with NASA, and I’ve completed my astronaut training in Moscow.
So you could be going into space?
I definitely will. In fact I’m on call right now. I’ll be the oldest man ever to go up there.
You met Putin in Moscow. What’s he like?
Terrific. I did judo years ago so we had that in common, and we talked about one of my Everest climbs which I did with some with Russians. People are people wherever you go.
The late Stephen Hawking was a friend too, no?
Yes. He once called me and said: “They want to send me into space. What should I do?” I told him he might as well as he’d be dead soon. He laughed at that.
You have 24 hours left to live. How do you spend it?
With the Dalai Lama. He blessed me when we met, and we sparred at boxing. He told me that when he sees a beautiful woman he controls himself by taking a cold shower. My goodness we laughed.