Hugh Bonneville on Paddington, life in Sussex and why he hates chocolate brownies

Interview by Natalie Boare for ITV Meridian

25th October 2022
Source: ITV

Hugh Bonneville has told ITV News Meridian that when it came to Downton Abbey “none of us could have predicted that we’d be doing a second movie 10 or 11 years later.”

The actor, who lives in West Sussex is on tour at the moment sharing his stories from the book he has written called ‘Playing under the Piano’.

It’s full of anecdotes, from going to school in Dorset, getting his big break with acting, and life with his family.

He said it was important to get down all his memories as his father developed dementia.

Watch the full interview here.

Hugh told ITV Meridian’s Natalie Boare he couldn’t put down the script for Downton Abbey when he first read it. The period drama was filmed at Highclere Castle in Hampshire.

“You never know when you start a project, obviously everyone sets out to try and do their best work but there was something about that script I adored…

“It had this addictive quality and so many characters you could engage with…

“It was a very happy project to be a part of for all those years and it brought pleasure to so many people and it’s a lovely job to have been a part of.”

Theatre was where Hugh Bonneville’s love of acting began.

He says, “like any actor who has been involved in theatre it’s the live audience… you’re always trying to improve” and “every audience is different… and it’s unique.”

What some people may not know is that Hugh Bonneville featured in a James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies.

“I had great visions of lying on a sun-lounger in Thailand for a couple of weeks while the crews set up cameras on the ship, but not a bit of it, two days in a simulator in Portsmouth with some of the naval cadets who were training there.”

Notting Hill in 1999 was one of Hugh’s first big movie roles.

He said: “It was the first dining room scene I had done and I knew nothing… and I was presented with a tray of brownies at the beginning of the day, 8am or something and I thought ‘Oh delicious’ so I ate two on the wide shot and of course if you eat them on the master shot you’ve got to eat them on every other camera angle that happens during the day and there are many of them…

“So by lunchtime I felt absolutely sick… and certainly by teatime I never wanted to see another brownie again.”

The book also documents the highs and lows of Hugh’s career, including how he has dealt with rejection over the years.

“Accepting the word ‘No’ is really part of the actor’s toolbox really, you just have to take it on the chin but of course… sometimes… you can’t help but take it personally.”

The Paddington movies have proved incredibly popular and although it was fun playing the part of Mr Brown, Hugh said technically it was quite challenging.

Hugh has lived in West Sussex on and off since he was 14.

“I just love the South Downs, it’s a great place to go and clear the cobwebs out and the views on a good day, even in the driving rain there is something magical about it…

“I love the temperament of the people of Hampshire and West Sussex and I feel very proud to be a member of the community there.”

Playing under the Piano is out now.

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