“It takes a bit of stupidity to be brave, so I’ve never been short on that front. You have to be totally unaware of the consequences of what you are doing or you wouldn’t do it. Well, I must be lacking in the intelligence department because when I was in the Territorial Parachute Regiment I was leaping out of aeroplanes in the middle of the night and not thinking twice about it.
But before you start thinking I’m incredibly heroic, I should admit that I am terrified of spiders the big hairy ones. If we find a big spider in the house, it’s my wife [Pamela Stephenson] who has to get rid of it. I remember being in Australia once and I’ll never forget it. I was just walking across the room to the Christmas tree and I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye on the blinds. I looked round and I just saw these eight wee dots, four on each side of this vertical slat, and I was like, ‘What the hell is that?!’ It scampered and moved down about four inches: I nearly shat myself! Pam came running into the room thinking I d been stabbed or something. I backed away, whimpering, ‘There’s a tarantula on the curtains!’ It was a huntsman – huge and hairy – but she just put her hand over it, picked it up and threw it out of the window. I thought it was going to eat us. What a woman!”
“I’ve been scared lots of times. Haven’t we all? I nearly drowned when I was 30, on holiday in Corfu, which really terrified me. I was with a friend on the beach and there was this big rock out in the sea that everybody was sitting on and diving from, so we decided to go out there. As we were heading out, I thought, ‘This is getting a bit choppy.’ All of a sudden, out of nowhere, a storm was brewing. The water got more turbulent and it seemed safer to get to the rock than try to go back. My friend pulled herself out of the sea, but I couldn’t get onto the rock. I kept falling back, and by then the water was really deep – I was so frightened. In that moment, I was sure I was going to drown. But just in time this lovely Greek man jumped in and pulled me out. He saved me. I remember crying the next day and thinking, ‘Why am I crying now?’ But it was the shock.
I think you are braver in your youth because my bravest moment was back when I was 12. I was being bullied by this local boy, who was really horrible to me every day, calling me names and picking on me, you know the way kids can sometimes do. I knew it was only going to get worse if I didn t stand up for myself. So I did. I was brought up a Catholic, and after mass one Sunday I told him to leave me alone. I was really frightened because I thought he might hit me, but I faced him down and told him what I thought of him. And you know, it worked. That was the first time I was brave, but when you think of the work those lovely people in the emergency services do, and our people out in Afghanistan, it sounds a bit foolish.”
“I am constantly telling my children not to do dangerous things. And then an old friend very helpfully said, ‘Oh, perhaps you’d like to see what your Dad did in The Supergrass.’ My argument has been undermined ever since.
We were doing the scene where I had to walk down a breakwater in the midst of a sort of sub-hurricane at Hope Cove in Devon. There was a safety boat there, but as conditions got worse the guy in the boat left because he felt it was too dangerous. Huge waves were coming over the breakwater and I was carrying a double-bass case. We filled it with bricks because we thought that would stop me from being swept away. Now every time I see that scene I question whether it was bravery or stupidity.”