Thursday 17 January 2019

'Bowie brushing my hair was the most erotic thing ever', says Patsy

Patsy Kensit
Patsy Kensit
Patsy Kensit with David Bowie

It's somehow astonishing to think that Patsy Kensit was only 16 when she played the female lead in one of the most ambitious British movies of the 1980s - Julien Temple's musical adaptation of the Colin MacInnes 1958 cult novel Absolute Beginners, her co-stars including David Bowie, Sade and Ray Davies.

Although, on the film's release in 1986, Kensit was already a veteran - a child actress with a number of BBC costume dramas under her belt, including Silas Marner, Richard III, and as Estella in a 1981 adaptation of Great Expectations (opposite Miss Marple's Joan Hickson, then aged 75, as Miss Havisham; now that's got to be worth tracking down).

"I've worked every year of my life since I was four and navigated my way through the industry," said Kensit when we meet to promote her latest role - in ITV's biopic Tina and Bobby, which tells of the "epic love story" between the West Ham and England legend Bobby Moore (played by Lorne MacFadyen) and Tina Dean (Michelle Keegan).

Kensit is Tina's mum, Betty, a twice-divorced dressmaker, in the three-part drama and the 48-year-old could not be more thrilled. "To transition my way into these sorts of roles is heaven," she said. "I'm here for the right reasons, because I can act."

Lauren Klee's drama follows Bobby and Tina's relationship, from meeting as teenagers outside the Ilford Palais dance club in 1957, through Moore's successful treatment for testicular cancer, the triumph of 1966 and onwards through the post-World Cup glamour, blackmail plots, and to their divorce in the 1980s, after Tina discovered that her husband had an affair.

Betty's own story ends tragically, dying relatively young from cancer - as did Kensit's own mother, Margaret, who died of breast cancer at the age of 48. The similarities brought a special poignancy to the deathbed scenes.

"The scene in the hospital," said Kensit. "I'd been thinking about it a week before we were going to shoot it and I asked John [McKay], our director, if we could just speak for five minutes, sharing something that my mother had said to me literally days before she died. John said 'I think you should bring that to the scene'."


Kensit's father, James, who also died relatively young, in 1987, was an associate of the Kray twins, known as 'Jimmy the Dip' for his pickpocketing proclivities.

Kensit has likened parties at her childhood home to The Sopranos, and remembers once going on a cruise to the Caribbean when her father was on the run. When he was finally jailed, she was told to tell friends that her dad - supposedly an antiques dealer - was away in South Africa on business.

It was her mother, a publicist, who put Kensit on the stage - or at least, at the age of four, in a television advert for Bird's Eye peas. Other juvenile roles included the 1974 movie The Great Gatsby, with Mia Farrow, whom she would later portray in a 1995 TV biopic, Love and Betrayal.

She credits her mother for helping with the difficult transition from child to young adult actor. "It's not an easy thing, but I managed to do that," she said.

"The reason being that my mother would never let me do interviews when I was growing up, going through the teens and the gawky phase when you've got zits.

"That made it easier because people in the industry knew that I was an actress they could hire and would deliver, but the public wouldn't necessarily recognise me."

That all changed with Absolute Beginners, where Kensit found herself sharing the screen with her teenage crush, David Bowie.

"I had these childish daydreams, 'oh my gosh he's going to fall in love with me' - I was a super-fan," she said.

"One day I was sitting in make-up and the make-up artist had gone to the men's room and Bowie walked in. He didn't say a word, he just picked up a hairbrush and started brushing my hair. He probably only did about three strokes but it felt like the most erotic thing I'd ever had in my entire life."

It was a stipulation of our meeting that we didn't discuss her exes, while she said that her sons with Jim Kerr and Liam Gallagher - respectively James (24) and 17-year-old Lennon - don't like being mentioned in interviews.

"My oldest son is a businessman and loathes anything to do with showbusiness," she said. "He's like 'I'm a civilian... don't discuss me in interviews'. My youngest son, he's on his own path [studying to be a theatre actor]. I spoke about it once and I got into such trouble... I got the hairdryer treatment."

Concentrating on motherhood - along with the now thankfully less iron law of screen acting that said roles for women start drying up at the age of 30 - has meant Kensit's once blooming movie career (with Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon 2, the protagonist in Don Boyd's Twenty-One, opposite Dudley Moore in the rom-com Blame It on the Bellboy, the object of Mark Rylance's passion in Philip Haas's Angels & Insects) has given way to the regular pay provided by television soap operas - for two years as Emmerdale's resident "uber-bitch" Sadie King, followed by a further three years in Hollyoaks.


"I loved it," she said. "But my eldest son was about to turn 16 and I was always rushing to get to football matches, or I just couldn't go because I was filming. So I just decided to downsize our lives and get on with these precious few years I've got left."

That has been it, apart from a stint in Celebrity Big Brother, in which she shared the compound with Katie Hopkins and Perez Hilton and which she compared to being in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and coming seventh in Strictly Come Dancing.

She is a warm if initially nervous interviewee and, despite the odd lurid headline about "falling out of nightclubs" - she is apparently clean-living, practising yoga each morning after a jog on Hampstead Heath ("running like a gazelle... not; more like a fast trot from a pretty little donkey".) Her ambition now is for more supporting roles and to see the world.

"I'm 48 now, there are places I would like to see. I think there's another 10 years in me and then I shall go."

Tina and Bobby begins at 9pm on ITV this Friday

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