Bob Hoskins' 2012 Saga interview

By Elaine Lipworth, Wednesday 30 April 2014

British film star Bob Hoskins has died of pneumonia at the age of 71. In 2012 the much-admired actor spoke to Saga about the aches and pains of ageing, the secret of a long marriage and why family is the only sure thing. Here is another chance to read the interview:
Bob Hoskins by Scott Barbour/Getty ImagesBob Hoskins by Scott Barbour/Getty Images

“I’m trying to retire.  I’m not doing very well at it though!” confides actor Bob Hoskins, aged 69. “Every time I say ‘Nah I don’t want to do it.’ They say: ‘Bob I know you’re trying to retire but I’ve got a little swan song here, which is the business and I think ‘Oh Gawd!’  And I get talked into it. It’s a truism, the more you don’t want to work, the more work you get offered. But these days most projects I turn down. I’m really trying not to work so much. I want to be home with the wife. I want to be with my missus.”

“My perfect day is a totally appointment-less day. No dentist. No seeing the doctor. No seeing anybody. It’s lovely. I just potter about with Linda - although she’s usually busy. I read. I listen to music, and to the radio: I’m a big Radio 4 man. ”

We’ve met many times over the years, and Bob Hoskins always refers to Linda, his second wife, as “the love of my life”. Does Mrs Hoskins ask you to turn the work down? I wonder “No, she don’t want me to retire, she wants me out the house.” bob Hoskins guffaws.

Bob Hoskins in Outside Bet

Despite his protests to the contrary, Bob Hoskins has recently been persuaded to act in several films. The first is “a little British gem” called Outside Bet (see trailer, right) about the print worker strikes in the Eighties. This is swiftly followed by his performance as Muir one of the seven dwarfs alongside fellow dwarfs Ray Winstone, Ian McShane and Toby Jones in a reimagining of the brothers Grimm’s classic titled Snow White & The Hunstman.

Outside Bet is a story close to Hoskins’ heart. Co-starring Jenny Agutter – “she’s a sweetheart” – it’s the story of a group of newly-redundant 80s print workers pooling their payoffs to buy Mumper, a race horse. Set against the true story of the print workers unions being “done over by Murdoch” in the mid 80s, the subject matter, of the unions, is one which Bob Hoskins feels strongly about.

The Wapping Dispute was, along with the miner’s strikes, a turning point in the history of the trade unions. Over six thousand newspaper workers went on strike after negotiations with Murdoch’s News International failed. Unknown to the unions, News International had built, and secretly equipped, a new Wapping-based printing plant. When the print unions announced a strike it swiftly moved its operation to the new plant. “They just didn’t stand a chance,” says Hoskins with feeling.

The film has inadvertently become topical with the current fortunes of News International. “It was a big blow, the Unions thought they stood some sort of chance against Rupert Murdoch but they didn’t. He just moved the whole business, took it out from under them.” Shot before the closure of the News of The World, Bob Hoskins says, quite genuinely, that “It came as a surprise that Rupert Murdoch could be so ruthless. “

“The print workers had been pulling strikes for years. It was an incredible job to have [in the Eighties]. It was very secure – a soft job.”  So was Murdoch right to fight them? “You could see the era coming to an end. But no. He wasn’t right in the methods he used. There’ll always be a role for unions. There’s always got to be a voice of the people.”

Bob Hoskins talks about his family

Bob Hoskins' empathy with the unions and civil rights – his previous film Made in Dagenham featured the fight for women to have equal pay – is certainly drawn from his working class childhood and the influence of his parents. Raised during the Fifties in Finsbury Park, Hoskins’ early memories were of poverty and avoiding gang violence. 

“We never had any money. My dad was a clerk. My mother was a school cook. Everybody wishes they are rich but you just got on with it, didn’t you?” He went to Stroud Green Secondary Modern.  “I was a useless student. I just didn’t work hard. The teachers didn’t like me very much and I didn’t like them. There was a lot of crime in the area. "

What they lacked in money, the Hoskins family made up for in creativity during evenings spent in their one-bedroom flat that had a bath in the kitchen and a camp bed for Bob Hoskins in the front room. Indeed, had their lives, or class, been different perhaps his parents might have ended up on the stage. “My dad used to tell me stories every night when I used to go to bed. But he never read them, he used to make them up off the top of his head… about little animals and adventure stories. He was very creative. He was also a good painter  - he wasn’t any Picasso, - but he could paint straight stuff, animals, scenery, people. My mum used to make all her own dresses, they were very chic, she was immensely talented. When the grandchildren arrived, they used to make them Batman and Robin outfits and firemen outfits with little helmets out of papier mâché. They were great artists."

Bob Hoskins’ dad worked for the removal firm Pickfords. Each year the couple would take their son to the annual dinner dance. “They were great dancers. There was an orchestra and each year they did the tango. My mum and dad would stand up and do the tango and everybody would watch. It was brilliant,” he says with feeling. “I was incredibly proud of them; my Dad was George Raft [an actor and dancing contemporary of Rudolph Valentino]!”

Bob Hoskins still misses his parents. “Mum died 17 years before my dad. She was 73. My dad at 93. I was looking after him [financially] but the problem was after my mum died he developed dementia. He tried to stay in his house for as long as possible but he couldn’t cope so I put him in a small block of flats.  I said dad you’re laughing here - all these old ladies - you’re going to score here!  He said: ‘Do leave off - they’re all old!’  Bob Hoskins laughs fondly as he recounts these stories. But it’s obvious that the experience of witnessing his father’s dementia saddened him. “You got the old stories from him but you never knew how real they were, because by that time he was into fantasy.”

When Bob Hoskins first told his parents that he wanted to try his hand at acting, they cautioned him against the idea.  “I was 25 when I said I was going to be an actor. They said  ‘Are you sure, are you going to be able to get work and keep yourself? Because we can’t keep you!” I said: ‘We’ll see what happens. I can always get another job.’”

Bob Hoskins talks about his career

As events turned out he didn’t need to. After being spotted by an agent when he attended an audition in a pub with an aspiring actor friend in 1972, roles in television swiftly followed. A very young Bob Hoskins appeared in household favourites like Crown Court, Softly Softly, Van Der Valk and Rock Follies.  His career accelerated into film after his critically-acclaimed TV performance as the whimsical Arthur Parker, a sheet music salesman, in Dennis Potter’s Pennies From Heaven. Two of his best performances came as the ruthless and prosperous gangster Howard Shand in the Long Good Friday and in 1986 Oscar nominated and BAFTA-winning for his role of ex-con George who become driver to a high class call girl Simone in the Neil Jordan’s classic Mona Lisa.

While Hollywood came knocking, luring Bob Hoskins into bigger budget films like the Peter Pan story Hook and Who Framed Roget Rabbit, (reportedly he earns £5 million per movie) Bob Hoskins insists his day-to-day life changed very little. “I didn’t rush out and buy clothes,” he insists, “I just put it in the bank.” 

This proved a wise move, when, just before he made Pennies From Heaven, his first marriage ended acrimoniously and the ensuing divorce left him financially ruined.

Bob Hoskins talks about marriage and children

“None of us may know what we need and none of us may know what we want. But my first marriage was everything I didn’t want,” says Bob Hoskins quietly. In what way?  “Everything. In terms of behaviour with a partner; everything was wrong. I started to think marriage is not for me: kids are not for me. I’m not the type.”

Today, however, Bob Hoskins and his second wife, Linda have been happily married for 30 years and have two children together and two from Hoskins’ first marriage. What is the secret of a happy marriage? “Linda’s a sweetheart, that’s why,” he chuckles. “My son Ross lives up the road. My oldest daughter lives in Cyprus at the moment.”

As he works less, he looks forward to having grandchildren. “I keep saying to my oldest kids from my first marriage if you don’t find someone soon, I’m coming out with you looking. Can you imagine me as a grand dad? I’d love it. I would absolutely adore it.

“Getting older is not for sissies,” he tells me quite seriously. “I have to take care of myself more because Linda has made me. I’m very healthy now. Diet, booze... I’ll have a couple of glasses of wine with dinner and that’s about it. I don’t like getting older: backache, leg ache, knee replacements. I’ve had to have all sorts of operations. But I’m okay now. I’m an atheist you know, so family is everything, I’ve got money, yeah,  but it’s my family that I care about.”

 

Read more great interviews like this every month in Saga Magazine. Subscribe today, or try three issues for just £1.

Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter to get regular film reviews, interviews, recipes, gardening tips and much more.

Related

  • Liza Minnelli in Cabaret © SNAP/Rex Features

    Liza Minnelli talks to Saga Magazine

    It’s 40-odd years since Liza Minnelli burst onto the big screen in the film Cabaret. Marcelle Bernstein catches up with the legend ahead of a rare appearance in the UK.

    Read on

  • Bill Bailey © Rex/David Fisher

    Bill Bailey

    Musician, actor and comedian Bill Bailey defies categorisation in the best possible way. Now he’s peddling his qualms about modern life.

    Read on

  • Emma Thompson at this year's BAFTAs © REX/David Fisher

    Emma Thompson

    Never shy of voicing her opinions, the feisty and forthright award-winning actress and writer Emma Thompson is back – after several Nanny Years raising her daughter – with a feelgood comedy caper, The Love Punch.

    Read on

  • Angela Lansbury © Carolyn Contino/BEI/REX

    Angela Lansbury: the Murder, She Wrote star on career, family and being made a dame

    A fixture on Broadway and a TV ’tec legend, after nearly 40 years Angela Lansbury returns to the West End as the madcap medium Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit. And she’s being made a Dame at Windsor Castle while she’s here.

    Read on

  • Singin' in the Rain

    Encore theatre tickets

    Great deals and exclusive offers for Saga customers on West End theatre tickets, including matinee club offers, meet the cast events and 2 for 1 deals.

    MORE DETAILS

  • Platinum thumbnail

    Platinum credit card

    Low rate and 0% foreign currency fees on transactions.

    MORE INFO


COMMENTS

Type your comment here


 characters remaining.

Saga Magazine

For more fascinating stories and insightful articles, why not try Saga Magazine for just £1 for 3 issues.

Saga Magazine e-newsletter

Sign up to our free newsletter today

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter for all the latest recipes, gardening tips, prize draws, interviews and more delivered to your inbox every Friday.

Saga Magazine app

You can now read your Saga Magazine on a huge range of mobile devices - from the Kindle Fire to an iPhone or iPad.

Win with Saga Magazine

It's our birthday, but you're getting the presents!

To celebrate Saga Magazine's 30th birthday we've pulled together 30 wonderful prize giveaways worth £30,000 in total, including a holiday to India's Golden Triangle.

Saga Platinum credit card

The ideal travel companion for the over 50s, offering great benefits whether you spend at home or abroad

Representative 11.9% APR (Variable) 

Saga Puzzles

Free daily puzzles to play online. Choose from crosswords, codewords and sudokus with new puzzles added every day.

Saga Connections

The over 50s dating website from Saga

  • Set up your FREE profile today
  • Browse more than 100,000 profiles to find your match
  • When you're ready, choose a subscription package that suits you