To mark the London revival of The Real Thing, Tom Stoppard recently gave a rare interview to Mark Lawson in the Guardian. Here are five highlights:
- On writing for the stage: My life feels, week to week, incomplete to the level of being pointless if I am not in preparation for the next play or, ideally, into it.
- On writing for Hollywood: The second reason for doing it is that you get to work with people you admire. The first reason, of course, is that it’s overpaid.
- On a planned play about Presidential bodyguards: I actually went and met the chief of President Reagan’s team of bodyguards. He told me they never, ever looked at the president: he wasn’t going to shoot himself.
- On political drama: I’m wary of taking a big subject – say, the Iraq war – head-on. I have . . . not exactly an instinct, but a bias to try to get in sideways.
- On his craft: Writing a new play shouldn’t be seen as a mystery belonging to a priesthood, but as a challenge, a technical challenge, just to get into it. The art pertains to the level you carry it off on. If I had been asked to write 1,200 words for a newspaper tomorrow, on any subject, I would just do it, rather than leave a white hole in the page. And I think it’s a very healthy attitude to take to writing anything. Just as a corrective – perhaps an overcorrective – to the opposite view, which I tend to flinch when confronted with: that it’s all rather deep and mysterious and special and precious. Sod that!