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Sixty Seconds with Ben Miller


The actor and comedian, 52, on his role in Johnny English Strikes Again, showbiz parties and bad manners in shops

How was it being back in a Johnny English movie?

It’s action wish-fulfilment on a giant scale — it’s the closest I’ve got to playing James Bond. It’s like doing a Bond film without the pressure of having to look cool.

Which scene was the most hilarious to film?

I loved the restaurant scene at the beginning, when Rowan Atkinson and I have to dress as French waiters. We had all these extras in a studio and then set it alight — very good fun.

When fans approach you, can you tell what TV show or film they love?

If they’re in their forties, Armstrong And Miller. Anything over that, it’s Death In Paradise. In the middle, it’s Johnny English. Quite often people in their twenties come up and say Johnny English. For some reason, London taxi drivers can’t get enough of The Worst Week Of My Life. They say things like, ‘Every Christmas we play all the episodes, all our family and friends come round and watch it.’

Spy partner: Rowan Atkinson

What else are you up to?

I wrote a children’s book called The Night I Met Father Christmas. I’m in a drama about bullying called The Man on ITV — I play the boss. My wife, Jessica Parker, also produces short films and made Leading Lady Parts with Gemma Arterton. It’s a very, very funny film — it’s gone completely global.

Oh, the Time’s Up film, that’s so great!

So good, isn’t it? They all clubbed together. My wife has a company and said we have to do something about this and get some mates together. Jess Swale, who’s a brilliant writer, went out with Gemma for a drink, wrote a sketch on a napkin and sent it to my wife. Comedy can tackle those subjects, it’s a really good tool.

What’s the starriest party you’ve ever been to?

Oh, I went to the most amazing party in the ’90s. It was an art dealer’s called Martin Summers, who lived in Chelsea. It was literally the weekend I came to London. An actress friend said, ‘I’m going to this party in Chelsea, would you like to come?’ I turn up and the place is full of the most incredible art, and Mick Jagger is there, Jerry Hall, Bryan Ferry, it was full of megastars. I remember chatting to David Bowie, he was really friendly, and we go up to this amazing roof terrace and there’s this beautiful sculpture up there and I’m chatting to people, and at this point I’m really jaded — it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s Paul McCartney.’ And I go downstairs and leave this party thinking, ‘London’s amazing!’ I’ve never been to anything like that ever again.

What were you obsessed with as a kid?

Music. I played guitar and I still keep thinking: could I still have a band? I bump into someone at a party and they say, ‘Oh yeah, I play drums… let’s start a band!’ My fantasy is I’ll start some sort of pub band. I don’t think it’s ever going to happen.

Chelsea party: David Bowie

It sounds fairly achievable…

Yeah, I know, I don’t think I’m going to play Wembley! I’d love to have a regular gig in a pub. You can play blues at any age.

Do you believe in ghosts?

When people say they’ve seen ghosts I believe they have but do I believe that human spirits with unresolved emotional issues walk the earth until they’ve resolved those, then return to some sort of underworld? No, I don’t.

Do you have any recurring dreams?

Yeah, it’s the weirdest dream ever. I’m with all my family on a long bicycle with several seats and we’re cycling round a car park and we need to cycle faster — probably, if you’re a psychologist, you will start laughing at this point — and if we cycle faster we will take off, we will fly off the ground. Any ideas?

Well, I’m sure you can begin to figure that out. Don’t they say you’re your own best analyst?

I think the dream means I should become a psychoanalyst.

What are your pet hates?

I’m overpolite as a person so it’s bad manners. The classic example is: you’re in Boots, there’s one till with a light on, you’re all queuing. They open up another till and someone from the back of your queue goes straight up to the till. That kind of thing drives me insane. I just think, ‘What sort of world do you live in?’

Do you pick people up on it?

Yes, I’ve got to that age now, you suddenly don’t have a problem. It starts in restaurants, sending food back, then you’re on a slippery slope, telling people off for jumping the queue. You’re appointing yourself as some sort of public ombudsman.

Any last message for the Metro readers?

You missed your stop!

Johnny English Strikes Again is available on digital download, Blu-ray and DVD.