Tom Hollander, 53, was born in Bristol and raised in Oxford. He was a member of the National Youth Theatre and read English at the University of Cambridge. He has starred in films including Pride & Prejudice and Bohemian Rhapsody and currently appears in the BBC TV series Us. In 2017 he received a Bafta for his performance in the drama The Night Manager. He lives alone in Notting Hill.
I wake up generally at 3 or 4am. Not because I’m like Margaret Thatcher, but because I need to pee. I pee in the darkness using my phone screen to illuminate the target, then often take half a sleeping pill (antihistamine), turn on the World Service very quietly and try to go to sleep again.
Sometime between 6 and 8 I wake again, turn up the Today program gently. If my girlfriend is there we hold each other in different positions. If she isn’t I wrap my arms around a pillow and continue listening to the bad news. Whoever gets up first will go downstairs and start baking porridge. It’s like a savory flapjack and was recommended to me by a very healthy-looking nutritionist. It takes about 40 minutes to cook and we eat it in such large quantities with olive oil and salt that we negate any nutritional benefits. But we enjoy it. And while it’s cooking it gives us time to look at our phones.
Sometimes in this waiting period I try to do three slow sun salutations to stretch myself out, but often I don’t. I brew the first of many coffees. Which mostly involves heating up the stuff in the cafetière left over from the day before. If it’s a slow day I make it in one of those Italian alloy things that students always used to have that involve a lot of assembled parts and washing up. Owing to forces beyond my control, life has not been as busy as it used to be.
After we’ve eaten and my girlfriend has gone to work I look at myself in the mirror and try to see what others see. Examine my bald patch, weigh myself and pull my stomach in. Then let it out. Then pull it in again. If I’m feeling positive I might get dressed at this point and go for my second coffee on the street below. I’ve lived in the same flat for 20 years and one of the rewards for this loyalty is that I know all the shopkeepers and stallholders on the street, for whom I have become like a piece of the old furniture they sell.
Hello Glen, hello Kris, Ghino!, hello Brendan, hello Fati, wave at Ray, turn the corner, bonjour Raschid, ça va? (keep going ’cause I can’t really speak French), hello Hassan, hello Reg, morning Dave, yup still here Tony, hello Beatrice (she doesn’t notice), slide into Porto: “Maya four-ter take away please” (phonetic Portuguese). Then take it home and leave it on the sideboard with any post that has arrived from my stalker.
I look at myself in the mirror and try to see what others see. Examine my bald patch, weigh myself and pull my stomach in. Then let it out. Then pull it in again.
Then I might call my agent. “Isn’t she? No, no, nothing important… just checking in…”
Soon it’s time for my midmorning nap. Followed by the preparation of lunch, which I start at 12.15pm. And at 1pm I turn on the radio again to listen to World at One and hear politicians lying or reports of the world ending.
Whatever I make for lunch I eat too much of, which makes me feel a bit lethargic, so I make some more coffee and turn off the radio as The Archers starts so I’m ready to begin the second half of the day.
The afternoon is time for hobbies and extracurricular activities. If it’s sunny I might go for a cycle ride down the canal, if it’s raining I might masturbate and doze, or speculate on the extraordinary injustice of Philip Green’s knighthood, or look at that app that tells you which celebrity you most resemble (Tom Hardy). Sometimes I read long-form articles about the collapse of Western society and the destruction of the planet.
From about 5pm, assuming I haven’t mislaid my house keys or mobile phone, it’s possible to surf through the rest of the day on the news feed while preparing food, eating it and digesting through Newsnight.
Then it’s time to go to sleep again. Cracking a little sleeping pill in half in case I need it later, I turn on the radio very quietly. If my girlfriend’s there we hold each other in various shapes. If she’s not I put my arms around a pillow.
Us is a Bandstand/Drama Republic co-production for Masterpiece scheduled for the summer of 2021