Alfred Molina takes the Grown-Up Test

Caroline Hutton / 12 June 2018

The 40-year career of the award-winning actor has included Raiders of the Lost Ark, Chocolat, Spider-Man 2, and The Da Vinci Code. He turned 65 in May – but, asks Caroline Hutton, how old is he in his head?

What was your childhood pet?

I had a budgie called Robbie, but sadly he didn’t last very long. My mum thought that the cuttlebone we put in his cage was food, rather than something for him to simply gnaw at. RIP Robbie.

Best childhood holiday?

My mother was Italian and we’d stay with her mother – my Nonna – in Italy every summer. When I was about seven, Uncle Mario took me for a ride on his motorbike. Perched on top of the petrol tank, it was the most exciting and wonderful thing I’d ever done. But when my mother saw us she was furious.

Naughtiest thing you did at school?

 I needed a couple of ring-binders for a school project and I shoplifted them from the local Woolworths.

What did your parents teach you?

My dad was Spanish and had left Madrid to settle in London. He was a waiter and worked really hard. He told me ‘real men don’t get into fights; real men pay their bills’. Luckily, I’ve never been in a real fight – well, not one where there was any chance of me winning. I was a gangly and uncoordinated kid.

Who did you have a teenage crush on?

Sophia Loren. My Nonna used to send my mother Italian magazines and I remember seeing a photo of Sophia just at the age when I was waking up to all sorts of manly feelings… Many years later, I was introduced to Sophia at the Venice Film Festival. Wow!

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First car?

I didn’t learn to drive until I was 36, when I needed to get a licence for a film I was in. Afterwards, I bought myself a dark brown Ford, but I can’t remember much about it.

When was the last time you broke the law?

Probably when I was 16 and lied about my age in the pub and then got very drunk. I didn’t know anything about beer and ordered the first thing I saw at the bar – Mackeson Stout.  

What makes you grumpy?

Other people’s untidiness. And yet everyone I’ve ever fallen for has been messy. I think that’s quite common actually. I put it down to the fact that very tidy people subconsciously don’t want to care about everything being perfect – deep down we know it isn’t that important.

Spring, summer, autumn or winter? 

I live in LA and our seasons are more subtle than Europe, but spring is my favourite. I always enjoy my birthday in May and the promise of things around the corner is exciting. I’m enjoying being in the UK for spring and summer while I’m playing Mark Rothko in Red, a play I first starred in back in 2009.

What makes your heart sing?

The people I love. When I see family and friends doing well and enjoying life it gives me a thrill. You want your kids to feel as good about themselves as you feel about them, and when that happens it’s the best feeling in the world.

What is the best thing you’ve ever done?

This year I sold my house in LA and, after I’d paid off the mortgage, I split what was left between my two stepsons and my daughter so they could pay off their own mortgages. It seems a sensible thing to do now rather than leave it to them when I pop my clogs.

When was the last time you laughed until you cried?   

Yesterday! We were rehearsing a scene for Red and it started to go terribly wrong. Alfie Enoch, who plays my assistant Ken, and I got uncontrollable giggles – what Judi Dench calls ‘exquisite torture’. I’ve never lost it for real on stage, but I love to laugh.

What single thing would make getting older easier? 

Good health. I’m not a crazy keep-fit fanatic, but I’m active and go for long walks. I’ve cut dairy and sugar from my diet and I’m feeling a lot better, more energetic. In the old days, I’d cut myself a chunk of cheddar and have it with crackers as a bedtime snack. I don’t miss it.

What did turning 60 mean to you?

A time to pause and reflect on what was and wasn’t important to me. I reached the conclusion that it’s not worth sweating the small stuff. By the time you get to 60 the people who love you will always love you and it’s fine to just enjoy the person you are rather than trying to be something different. I wish I’d understood that when I turned 40.

Could you run a mile?


A life changing moment?

My world turned upside down and everything changed the day I become a dad to my daughter Rachel in 1980.

When did you last forget what you went upstairs for?

I hope I’m like lots of people who do that all the time? I spoke to a neurologist and he said, ‘Relax. Not remembering where you left your car keys is one thing, but finding them and not knowing what they are for is
a whole other thing’.

What would your preferred epitaph be?

He was funny. Or perhaps, ‘You can take it from here…’

Verdict: Fit and amusing, but still a grown up, Alfred Molina is a young 50 in his head.

Alfred Molina is in Red at the Wyndham’s Theatre, London until 28 July. To book tickets, visit

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