Andy Nyman (above) talks to Jo Reynolds about acting, writing, directing – and magic.
You were born in Leicester in 1966. Are you a football fan?
No, but my dad was the dentist for Leicester City Football Club.
How long have you lived in the area?
I moved here in 1987 and have lived in the same house since.
Some describe you as a genius. Agree?
I strongly dispute that. I’m a good bluffer. I am interested. And lazy. So, no.
You’ve had huge success with the play ‘Ghost Stories’ (which opened at the Lyric) which you co-wrote and starred in. Were you offended that so many people were so scared they had to run out?
I loved it! That was the whole point. It’s coming back (to the Arts Theatre in Leicester Square). I can’t wait.
Do you believe in ghosts?
Have you ever seen the Brackenbury Ghost?
There’s a ghost? Where?
We’ve read that you’ve sold your play, ‘Ghost Stories’ to Hollywood. Will you star?
All I can say is we’re hoping to make it next year.
What are your 3 must-see horror films?
‘Dark Water’, the Japanese original, ‘Dead Of Night’ (1945) and ‘Switchblade Romance’.
After run of the mill roles in ‘The Bill’, ‘Birds Of A Feather’, ‘Eastenders’ and ‘Peak Practice’, you landed the more bizarre roles that are your trademark: Frank Oz’s ‘Death At A Funeral’; playing The Tumour in ‘Kick Ass 2’; Churchill in ‘Peaky Blinders’ with Sam Neill; Charlie Brooker’s ‘Dead Set’, a fictional take on ‘Big Brother’ with Zombies; and ‘Severance’ with Danny Dyer. One of the more eccentric was the sketch show ‘The League Of Gentlemen’ set in the disturbing town of Royston Vasey. Is Brackenbury Village anything like Royston Vasey?
No, thank god. Except that fancy dress hire shop.
What happened to that?
What do you like about acting?
I like creating, making something that wasn’t there before.
Why do you need to create?
I don’t know. I’m incredibly content. I’ve learned to be content. But I’m drawn to extreme roles. I like stretching reality. Actors don’t have much to work with except their decisions and their looks.
What new looks have you got coming up?
I’ve just finished a sci-fi movie called ‘Automata’ with Antonio Banderas. And I am about to go to LA to do a part in a movie (‘ABCs of Death 2’) because the director, E.L. Katz, is amazing; the new Tarantino.
You’ve written books including ‘The Golden Rule of Acting’. What’s your no. 1 rule?
Be happy. You’ll work more. And don’t just do it for the money. Though a Weetabix advert did pay for my wedding.
Do you make your wife laugh?
Yes. And she makes me laugh.
Was your wedding speech funny?
It wasn’t as funny as my dad’s.
What’s your favourite acting performance by someone else?
I grew up worshipping DeNiro but the standout performance for me is Tony Curtis in ‘The Boston Strangler’. I met him once and had the chance to tell him. Even better, I could tell my mum I’d met Tony Curtis.
You’re excellent with accents. Do you enjoy voice-over work?
I love it. I go into town, do some silly voices (‘Sarah & Duck’, ‘Chuggington’), and go home. Love it.
As well as your acting, you’re respected in the world of magic as co-creator and writer for Derren Brown’s TV and stage shows. How do you come up with the shows?
Derren’s brilliant – now, he’s a real genius – but we sit in a room till our ears bleed trying to think things up.
Why aren’t you centre-stage as a magician?
I was offered it, but I’m not remotely interested. I like the tricks – I’ve invented tricks that I sell all over the
world – but I see it as a hobby really. Acting is my first love. I’ve wanted to be an actor since I was 12.
Do you get stage fright?
No. I tell myself I’m excited not nervous.
What do you think of David Blaine?
Brilliant. There’d be no Derren Brown without Blaine and without Derren, no Dynamo.
You’ve said before that you don’t believe in the soul. Are you religious at all?
I’m not religious, but I love being Jewish. I love the cultural heritage. I like the idea of a moral code, but I don’t like the idea of a punitive system with some greater being that’s threatening you.
Do you think Jesus’ miracles were tricks?
I did a show once for Channel 4 where we recreated the miracles. You’ve got to love the Bible: the greatest story ever told.
Have you ever tried to turn water into wine?
No, I’ve never even been drunk.
Have you ever charmed a snake?
No, but I’d like to.
Do your kids prefer your acting or your tricks?
They’re 19 and 16. They love the magic but prefer the acting. They both want to go into the business.
Given all the possible rejection, does that scare you?
Why should it? They’re following their dreams. I’d be scared if they didn’t have dreams.
Are you a practical joker?
I love practical jokes and have to rein myself in sometimes.
You launched an iPhone app that reads minds. Have you used it to read your own mind and was it right?
Yes and yes.
Have we enjoyed meeting you?
Thank you, Andy Nyman. It was a pleasure to meet you.
You can learn more about Andy at www.andynyman.com