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Then there was school. I wasn`t a great success: I was shy, not particularly clever, and dyslexic. But thanks to an English master called Quibble-Smith, who gave me a part in a Greek tragedy, I realised that I enjoyed getting into character - I could express myself better through a character than I could as myself. The part was Athena, and I had three pages of speech to deliver, which was quite a daunting prospect. It was an open-air performance, and the speech was to be given from the top of the cloisters. I wore a ghastly Roman helmet, a shield and a spear and was bedecked in blue silk skirts topped off with a long, blond, curly wig. As I stood up to speak, the wind caught my skirts and raised them above my eyebrows. I spent the entire speech battling with billowing silk and revealing everything underneath. It didn`t dampen the desire to perform, though.

It was such a fabulous role that I can`t be at all surprised, let alone upset, that people still mention it. We were very lucky to have 13 episodes in which to dramatize Evelyn Waugh`s novel, and one reason for the series` impact is a combination of time, money and producing talent that was unique. I think it`s fair to say that you`ll never again have that length of time (we shot it over nearly two years) or that sort of budget to shoot a television series about one book. Sebastian was the part I wanted to play, having read the book, and though I was initially seen for the part of Charles Ryder - which Jeremy Irons played in the end - it was Sebastian that I was after, and luckily I got him! AA, regarding his role in "Brideshead Revisited"

(on Ava Gardner) One of the most generous and warmhearted of people.


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