When MKP met Dexter
For those of you that don't know Dexter Fletcher, take one Matthew Broderick, add a smattering of Guy Ritchie and a whole lot of sex appeal and you're halfway there. He starred as Soap in the cult Brit flick Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, he's playing Jack in the stage version of When Harry Met Sally and he's gone all Simon Cowell on us in Acting Idols. But Dexter still found time to flirt with MKP in the back of a dimly lit theatre. Oo-er…
Tell us a bit more about Acting Idols and Kids Week. Why did you decide to get involved?
I was asked whether I'd be interested in talking to the kids about acting. So I sat on a panel and criticised their performance! No, I gave constructive criticism to young people who were interested in getting on stage. I wanted to get involved as it's a good way of giving something back… if that doesn't sound too pretentious.
You're judging the competition - what are you looking for? What makes a good actor?
That's not an easy question to answer. All of them have something going for them. For me it's about whether I'm engaged or not and whether I think that that person has gone on some kind of emotional journey. If I get emotionally involved in what's being said, that's the sign of a good actor. It can come from technique, voice or instinct. That's the wonderful thing about it - it's an art and it's not definable.
Who inspired you to get into acting?
My own need to show off as a child! I got into it very young, at 6-years-old. [Dexter starred in Bugsy Malone alongside Jodie Foster in 1976] So I wasn't thinking in terms of career at that age. Maybe some people say at 7: "I want to be a policeman or an astronaut." But for me, it was just that my mum took my brothers and me to an acting class. It was what I did. Some kids played cricket; I acted.
Do you have any rituals that you perform before you go on stage? What happens in your dressing room before the curtain goes up?
I'm a bit of a coffee and biscuits man. I also do jigsaw puzzles. We rehearse round the corner from the National Gallery and I went in there and there was this wonderful picture by Titian. I finished the jigsaw puzzle of that one and I'm on to a Caravaggio now. It's very civilised. I'm getting long in the tooth, you see! I'm into more sedate activities!
In When Harry Met Sally you play Jack. Tell us about his character.
Jack is Harry's best friend. Harry's corporate but he's also quite wild. He's a lawyer but in his personal life he's a bit more easy-going. Jack is a writer for New York magazine, he's media-orientated but in his own life he's a bit straighter. He's like the flipside of Harry. Sally's got a friend called Marie who's her flipside. I go on a double date with Harry, Sally and her friend Marie. I'm supposed to be set-up with Sally, but I fall in love with Marie.
The film is a real classic. Were you nervous about bringing it to the stage?
No no no, it's just another version of a story that people know very well and that's to our benefit. They know the jokes and they know that the orgasm scene is coming up. [A scene in the film where Meg Ryan proves to Billy Crystal that women can fake orgasms… in the middle of a crowded diner.] The film sets a really high standard for us to meet.
The big question in When Harry Met Sally is: can a man and woman have sex and still be friends? Can they?
Personally speaking, I don't think so. It's never happened to me, put it that way. You either have one kind of relationship or another. If there's an emotional attachment when you sleep with someone, then you want to go out with that person. If it's only a one-night stand or fling, there's no attachment and it doesn't matter if you never see them again.
But then again, I can't have a friendship with anyone I've had a relationship with because there's a lot of baggage with it. I would know that my wife wouldn't want someone around who had possibly hurt me in the past. And vice versa I wouldn't want to know some ex-boyfriend of hers who made her incredibly unhappy because to me that person would be an asshole. Horrible question. Very complicated. What about you? I should turn it round…
[Er, we ask the questions, Dexter.]
Have you ever had a friendship like Harry and Sally's?
There was a girl a fancied for a long time who I was working with. But then we were both going out with other people so it never happened. But we always fancied each other.
What strikes me most about the film is Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal's on screen chemistry. Have you ever had fantastic on-screen chemistry with a co-star and does that mean that you fancy each other in real life?
It's something you CAN act. I know some people who go on stage and absolutely loathe each other and everyone thinks - oh they're so in love. It helps if you like the person. Women are easy things to find attractive - there's always something to work with. You drag up these feelings from somewhere so there is a spark there, but you can switch off and say goodnight at the end of the night.
Some people say if you are in a relationship when you act together, it's flat and there's absolutely no chemistry (like with J-Lo and Ben Affleck).
Well, I'd agree. I did this film when the girl and I couldn't be together and as soon as we did sleep together, that's when things got flat. Bob Hoskins was the director and he said to me: "Whatever you do, DON'T sleep with the leading girl because as soon as you do, all that energy, attraction, magnetism… all that tension will disappear." The tension comes because you want them, but you can't have them. As soon as you do, the allure is gone. Bob was right. [Thinks a moment.] Oh my God! This interview's only going to appear on mykindaplace.com, isn't it? I think this is going to come back and haunt me! I'm going to read about it in The Sun. Oh my God!
Date: summer 2004