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  • Interview with London Role Play Actor Ian Shaw

    November 10, 2015

    London Role Play Actor, Ian Shaw, talks about the job of acting, War Horse, and his fear of sharks.

    Was there a defining moment when you decided to become an actor?

    Yes.  When I was seven, rehearsing a school play with a brilliant drama teacher.  He encouraged us to really use our imagination, and I really felt challenged.  I made a vow to myself to stick with it for life.

    What is your favourite role to date?

    At the Manchester Royal Exchange I played a pompous oaf in George Bernard Shaw’s wonderful first play Widowers’ Houses.  He was just fun to play, a real character.  Greg Hersov directed, and he is so intelligent and subtle.

    And your trickiest?

    I’d have to say Larry in Patrick Marber’s Closer at the Birmingham Rep. You have to get into a misogynistic mindset.  It was very dark, quite draining to do.

    Did you enjoy recently playing Friedrich Müller in The West End’s War Horse?

    Enormously – possibly my favourite job of all time.  Working with huge, entirely believable puppet horses.  It was a privilege – my childhood dream to work for the National Theatre, and to be in a play that really touched the audience, many of whom were children, was incredibly special.  The subject matter – the cruelty of war – was just so beautifully expressed.

    What’s your dream role?

    I don’t know.  Anything by my favourite writers – Harold Pinter, Neil Simon, David Mamet, Anton Chekhov.  They write with light and shade.

    What makes a good actor?

    I don’t know!  I suppose the ability to concentrate is something I try to work on, and I certainly envy the actors who are able to focus properly.  Especially on a film or TV set, when there are countless distractions and very little flow.  But there are so many skills involved.  The best actor I ever worked with is Mark Rylance.  It was like watching Zinedine Zidane play football, a symphony of skills combining to make you gasp.

    How did being the son of two famous actors shape your view of acting?

    My father was Robert Shaw (Jaws) and my mother was Mary Ure (Where Eagles Dare).  I’m very proud of their amazing work, and I suppose I always felt that it was a job that was an option.  But my drama teacher (Michael Walsh) at school was actually the inspiring factor.

    Of fame?

    Difficult to answer.  We were mostly shielded from the fame aspect.  But we were very lucky to have money, of course, which is not always the actor’s lot.  Especially as I have nine brothers and sisters.

    Have you watched all of your parent’s films?


    Which is your favourite role of your Dad’s?

    He played a chauffeur in The Hireling, which won the Palme D’Or in 1973.

    Are you scared of sharks?

    Oh, yes.  And Jaws didn’t help.  Which I saw when I was a kid.  But I love it now.

    You look very like your biological father. Do people ever spot the resemblance unprompted?

    Not outside the acting world.

    Have you ever been approached to play your Dad in a film?

    No.  But years ago at a party in Los Angeles, Stephen Spielberg once asked me if I would consider playing a young Quint from Jaws. I don’t think he was serious.  I took him seriously, of course.  I’m still staring at the phone.

    Would you?

    I don’t think so.  I’d be worried about doing him a disservice.

    Were you ever tempted to make Hollywood home?

    Yes.  I spent a while out there, but in the end I was more comfortable in England.

    Are your siblings in the movie business?

    My sister Deborah is the secretary of BAFTA Los Angeles, my sister Penelope was an assistant editor who worked on films such as The Deer Hunter, my sister Katherine is an attorney at Paramount Pictures, and my sister Hannah was a subtitler. 

    Would you encourage your children to work in the industry?

    No.  The odds of success are against you.  But I hope they have a vocation, and if it’s to work in the industry, I will try to help.

    Which actors do you admire? (Top 3?)

    Mark Rylance, Anthony Hopkins, Susan Sarandon.

    How do you enjoy living in Brighton?

    I love it.  Close to the downs, the sea, London.  Lots to do.

    How do you regard the theatre scene there?

    I think it’s poor, needs investment.  A proper cutting edge theatre to compete with the rest of the country.   Although I was very impressed with the new open air theatre, BOAT.  Beautiful.

    Do you have any inclination to write or direct?

    Yes, I’m thinking about it.

    Who is your hero?

    My wife.  She works very hard so when I’m not working we can pay the mortgage!  And it means she doesn’t get to see the children as much as she’d like.  I think that is a heroic sacrifice.

    How would you describe your sense of humour?

    Irony-based, understated or very silly.

    What are your pet-hates?

    Litter drives me crazy.  I get annoyed when they reduce the size of the credits on TV.  Electric doors on trains.  No luggage rack on trains.  In fact, let’s just say shoddy British trains.  It’s a shame, seeing as we came up with the idea, and used to do it so well.

    Favourite Dinner?

    Lobster.  I’m salivating just thinking about it.

    Holiday Destination?

    I guess somewhere in South America as I have never been there.  If it was somewhere I’ve been, probably Italy.


    Wild World by Cat Stephens.

    Do you have any burning ambitions?

    I’d quite like to set fire to a malfunctioning electric train-door. 

    Which is the best role-play company?

    The London Role Play Company, of course.

    What makes London Role Play so good?

    I think we are very well prepared, and highly experienced.

    Get in touch
    Phone: +44 (0)1273 208502
    Email: info@londonroleplay.co.uk
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