“Hard man” actor Danny Dyer has just joined the cast of EastEnders. Here he reveals his affection for Helen Mirren, and why it’s tough having daughters…
Danny Dyer is not The Lady magazine’s usual interview fare. From Canning Town, the 36-year-old tends to play roles that are a little, as he would put it, “naughty.” Off-screen, though he’s not one to mince his words and his speech is littered with obscenities, he is rough and ready charm personified.
I met Danny in 2012 when he was promoting the film Deviation – a dark British thriller. The interview has never been published before, so as Danny returns to prime-time TV as landlord of the Queen Vic pub in EastEnders, we reveal what he had to say about his family and his future…
As a dad how important is it for you to set a good example to your daughters?
Very important, but it is so difficult. The older my daughter gets the harder I find it because, you know, I was a bit naughty as a teenager. Now I’m trying nurture her in the right way, but I got it all wrong as a kid and I think you only learn from your own mistakes but then I’m frightened of her making mistakes like with boys and getting her heart broken.
I think if you’ve got sons it’s a different thing. They sort of fly the nest and they go off and do their own thing. But with daughters I am still going to be running about at 70 with a baseball bat.
Are you quite an affectionate family?
I am very affectionate, always have been. And I am there for cuddles, kisses, that side of things. Whereas my missus is more the disciplinarian so when I try to put my foot down and shout at them, they laugh at me. I was brought up by women. I never had money as a kid, I was always in hand-me-downs but if I needed a cuddle there was always one there no matter what time of the day. I think that’s important.
Your nan was quite involved in your upbringing. Is she an archetypal strong woman?
Yeah. She is only 4ft 11″ but she runs the family. She always has, you know? I was brought up by my nan, my mum, my aunt, my cousins, a lot of women in my family. The men did not last very long to be fair.
Growing up, were you scared of your nan?
Yeah. I am still petrified of her. F*** me, when she has got the hump, she’s got the hump. She will let you know about it. She has not had the hump with me for a while though. She’s really proud of me.
She had that old school way of thinking I suppose and that aggression – she needed to have that. She had six children and bought them up on a tough council estate. I lost my grandad 17-years-ago now. And she had to fend for herself. She was working right up to 78. She had a cleaning job and she was devastated when they sort of laid her off because she was too old. It gave her a purpose in life. She was getting up five o’clock every morning cleaning the school. And now she does not really know what to do with herself. She’s a special lady. I am lucky to have had her in my life.
What are you most proud of and what do you think your family are most proud of?
You know in school I was useless and no one thought I would make anything of myself. But I actually went and got off my a*** and I created this career for myself and I had no one help me at all. And that is totally down to hard work and getting the work on merit as well as little bit of luck.
I was getting out there and trying be an adult well before my time and having the social skills I had at that age. Doing plays and stuff with really posh f******. It was really hard. I really struggled with it. I think people underestimated me a little bit because of the way I spoke and stuff and when it comes to what it was about which is acting and performance. People started to respect me a little bit. So I had to grow pretty quickly and I had a kid at 18 as well so again I had to grow up and try to be a man which I struggled with.
If you hadn’t become an actor, what do you think you would have done with your life?
F****** hell. I can’t do f*** all. Maybe I would have gone and worked with me dad as a painter and decorator. It would have been something manual. My dad’s a really good painter and decorator. So I would have learnt the trade from him like he learnt from his dad.
Will you ever get married?
I should do now really after 20 years. I was going to propose a little while ago but we had a big row and she said “I will never marry you.” And I was just on the verge of buying her a ring as well. I should do it really. I think we will do it a*** about t** in the fact that our kids will be grown up and then we will get married.
Would they like you to get married do you think?
Yeah. I mean they don’t really know any different do they? It’s more about the woman the marriage thing. It’s their big day isn’t it? You just run about like a lunatic going through everything. Yeah it’s something we will definitely have to do it. I mean it’s ridiculous.
In your eyes, what makes a woman a lady?
I don’t know. It’s difficult innit? It’s tough for men at the moment. Women want you to be a man’s man, you know, be a bit of a caveman but at the same time they want you to use moisturiser and do the washing up and do the hoovering.
Women are very independent now. The idea of the man being the breadwinner, those days are gone, but at the same time a woman wants to be looked after. So it’s quite tricky at the moment.
I like strong women who know what they’re about. Don’t take any b******, who can be quite sophisticated and sexy. Maybe I could have put it in a bit better way?
When you started out you were in Prime Suspect with Dame Helen Mirren, what did you make of her?
I was just in love with her. She is so sexy.
Do you still think she is sexy now?
Oh yeah absolutely. And she was so lovely to me as well. It was my first job and she really sort of helped me along and guided me through it, and my dad was chaperoning me because I was only 14 and she was really lovely to me dad. I mean, my dad was more starstruck than I was and she was so lovely to him and I will never forget that.
I did not realise how special she was which makes her even more special. I was a total hormonal teenage boy and I was just bang in love with her. Beautiful, beautiful elegant woman.
Do manners make a man? What do you like and what do you not like where manners are concerned?
It is tough for me because I don’t really got that many manners. I am learning as I get older. But erm.. I don’t know… you take on your manners from your parents really, don’t you?
I love my parents to death but they weren’t really ones for manners. I am trying with my kids with the swearing thing. But I swear so it is really hard for me. I have caught my daughter swearing a couple of times and then I sort of lose it with her but then I think she has been brought up with swearing around her. I think table manners are really important. And be nice to people. I really think that’s important, give everybody a chance, everybody a shot. Don’t judge people too much.
Do you feel you are always typecast? Do you enjoy it?
It’s tricky. I have got a job I love to do. And I have been doing from a very young age and it has just taken its own course. Because of who I am or where I am from it is helped me get roles but it has also it has hindered me in some respects. You can’t have it all your own way. I know there are some people out there who love me and really get me and there are some people who despise me and would never give me the time of day without even meeting me.
As long as I keep working and it is good stuff and I feel like I can shine in it then I am happy. But of course I want do period dramas and do things and go and play a gay aristocrat and do things that make people completely go ‘wow’. I am a serious actor and I am not just some cockney wideboy.
Would you ever fancy doing a show like Downton Abbey?
F****** hell sign me up! I am capable of doing it. I’ve got the talent to do it. Sometimes your reputation precedes you I suppose. That’s not a choice of mine, that is the choice of the BBC or whoever. But you know, SIGN ME THE F*** UP.
What is your dream job?
The obvious one would be Bond. A nice cockney Bond. I think it is time for a cockney Bond. But I also want to play a detective. I want go on the other side you know what I mean? I want to do that side of things. I would like to do a series where I play a really cool detective, you know, who does not really play by the rules but gets the job done…