By Editorial Staff • 23 Apr 2001 • West End
Even with an all-star cast featuring Julie Walters and film actress Catherine McCormack, Ben Daniels shone in the National’s recent production of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, directed by Howard Davies. His portrayal of son Chris, who comes to realise his family’s crimes, won him both this year’s Laurence Olivier and Whatsonstage.com awards for Best Supporting Actor (the latter, with a whopping 93% of the theatregoers’ votes!).
On 1 May, Daniels opens in the Donmar Warehouse’s revival of Christopher Hampton’s Tales from Hollywood, in which he plays Odon von Horvath, a once fêted German Hungarian exiled to 1940s Los Angeles. Later in the year, Daniels – and the rest of the original NT cast – return to the West End with All My Sons.
Date & place of birth
Born 10 June 1964 in Nuneaton, Warwickshire
Lives now in
London Academy of Musical & Dramatic Arts (LAMDA)
First big break
A 1986 production of Alan Ayckbourn’s Family Circles at Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre. I played a character called James.
- Playing one of two killers in Never the Sinner (at the Playhouse Theatre) and being nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Olivier.
- David Beard’s 900 Oneonta (at the Old Vic and in Los Angeles). I thought that was a blast – like Tennessee Williams on acid.
- All My Sons at the National, of course – it’s a terrific production.
- Favourite production that you’ve worked on
All My Sons
Dennis O’Hare, the American actor who was also in Never the Sinner. Our acting was very symbiotic.
I’ve got a long list:
- Howard Davies, who directed All My Sons – he’s a joy
- Michael Grandage, who cast me in As You Like It (Sheffield/Lyric Hammersmith)
- Marianne Elliott, who I worked with at the Royal Exchange in Manchester
- And I’m really enjoying working with John Crowley now. We’ve had a really good time on Tales from Hollywood.
- Favourite playwright
- Philip Ridley
- Joe Orton
- Sam Shephard
- Tennessee Williams
- What role would you most like to play still?
Brick in Tennessee Williams‘ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
What were you thinking when they announced your name as this year’s Olivier winner for Best Supporting Actor?
My agent told me before the show that I hadn’t won so I had another glass of champagne and relaxed. When they called my name, I thought “oh my god, I wish I prepared something better than what I scribbled down in Starbucks half an hour ago”. I can’t remember what I said now.
How do you feel about winning the Whatsonstage.com award?
I am completely thrilled by that because it’s voted for by the theatregoing public. It’s nice to know that your work is appreciated in that way. And I’m amazed by the percentage I got. A huge thanks to everyone who voted for me.
How important are awards in general?
Whether it’s a good or bad thing, they do make a difference. Purely on a business level, you become a more interesting product, and people use it a lot to sell your future shows.
What’s the best thing currently on stage?
Shared Experience’s Mill on the Floss (at the New Ambassadors). It’s so hard to adapt novels for the stage but this is great – a terrific, imaginative adaptation.
What advice would you give to the government to secure the future of British theatre?
I have no idea, but the older I get, the more I realise theatre’s true importance. Sitting in a space with a lot of other people and experiencing storytelling in that way is such a fantastic, communal thing. Somehow they’ve got to communicate that feeling.
If you could swap places with one person, living or dead, who would it be?
Neil Armstrong, when he’s taking those first steps on the moon.
Amanda and the Eleven Million Mile High Dancer by Carol Hill. It’s a book about a female astronaut and quantum mechanics. I read it when I was 24, and it opened up a whole new vista for me; it showed me that there’s a world outside the rehearsal room.
Favourite holiday destination
New York city – it’s the most cosmopolitan place I’ve ever been to.
What do you like or dislike about the Internet?
I don’t dislike anything about it. I love the bizarre mixture of things you can find on it. Many an hour of mine has been frittered away in front of a glowing screen.
Why did you want to do Tales from Hollywood?
I didn’t see it when it was done originally, but I found the story completely fascinating when I read it. I find it a deeply satisfying role.
What’s your favourite line from Tales from Hollywood?
“Despite everything, I still loved America, I was still devoted to its tragic innocence.”
Would you ever like to move to Hollywood yourself?
No, I wouldn’t live in Los Angeles, but I would live in New York.