One of the great adventures of being an actor is filming abroad, when suddenly you have the opportunity not only to visit, but actually to work somewhere else; to feel temporarily part of another city’s fabric rather than floating along its surface. This, then, comes to you from glorious, sweltering Rome, or more precisely from the Cavalieri Hilton, whose view over this ancient, unreal city, is quite breathtaking.
I’m here doing costume fittings for The Red Priest, a movie shooting later this summer. Luca, my tailor at Farani, the historical costumiers, is clearly a genius but has perhaps something of the demonic about him. As he laces my 18th-century corset, my waist seems miraculously to have shrunk to the size of Keira Knightley’s, but at some point my eyeballs must be popping out of my skull and my face turning purple because the director Liana shrieks, ‘Luca! Loosen it!’ Luca looks dismayed. ‘But it’ll ruin my shape!’ he wails. ‘She can’t breathe!’ Liana helpfully points out. Luca grudgingly lets some air in, and wow, I can respire again. That evening, Liana, who refreshingly appears to have scant regard for the concept of size zero actresses, takes everyone to dinner in Trastevere. We eat like kings (it’s a few weeks until the dreaded corset has to go back on) and talk into the night about film, life and, naturally, Italian politics. Is this work? It doesn’t feel like it.
Still, I sleep like a baby in my palatial hotel suite. It was a manic last week in London, much of it spent hopping between broadcasting studios. To Sky News first, where I had the honour of discussing the papers on Adam Boulton’s show with Tony Benn. No sooner had the octogenarian legend, as sprightly as ever, pointed out that Labour, unlike the Conservatives, were not in the habit of stabbing their leaders in the back, than David Miliband launched his artfully transparent clarion call to wavering voters in the Guardian.