Upstairs Downstairs actor Neil Jackson on how Colin Farrell inspired him to stop his “destructive” boozing
Millions of fans know actor Neil Jackson best as chauffeur Harry Spargo in Upstairs Downstairs, however, prior to starring the drama, he achieved fame in a number of hit movies, one of which was alongside film star Colin Farrell…
However, in an interview with the Sun, Neil has revealed that he got into a “destructive” cycle of partying during the time he and Colin worked on the movie Alexander together.
Neil, who also starred in James Bond film Quantum of Solace, said, “Alexander was the most debauched period of my life.
“It was nine guys with a lot of money in their pockets being put in the finest hotels in Marrakech, Bangkok and London.
“We were actively encouraged — which I think the bosses started to regret — to band together like we were in an army.
“We had two weeks of boot camp where they bonded with us as we did drill, studied battle plans together and all that sort of stuff. Then we were dumped in hotels…
“Every night was drinking, a lot of girls, and a lot of mischief was gotten up to, combining the drink and the girls. It was a lot of fun.
“There were several nights where we’d be sitting in one another’s hotel room, you’d look at the clock and it’d be 5am and we were being picked up at 6am to go to work.
“You’d carry on doing what you were doing and go straight to work after that.”
Neil went on to say that Colin – who has of course famously battled issues with booze himself – developed an unhealthy relationship with drink at that time.
He said, “The way he dealt with the sudden meteoric rise to fame he had was by adopting the persona of the character he first created, which was the drinking, swearing, womanising Colin Farrell.
“Alexander was a tipping point for him where he was starting to believe he was that character.
“After Alexander, he did two films — the second being Miami Vice — then he checked into rehab and got himself clean.
“He cleaned up his act and was then respected for being an actor, which he should be because he’s phenomenal.”
It was Colin’s example that led Neil to reassess his own drinking. He said, “A few years ago, after I’d done a couple of films and some TV shows that got me some note, I found that all family and close friends seemed to want to hear about were the fun Hollywood stories.
“They wanted to, in some way, touch that world. I found myself adopting that personality, becoming the drinking raconteur and filling the necessity that I thought they wanted from me as opposed to being myself.
“I started to develop a bit of a drinking problem. I needed a drink every night, I needed a drink to get me to sleep.
“On an average night I probably had about five or six pints and a couple of shorts. Several nights I’d go out, then I’d have more.
“It was only through remembering the road that Colin had gone down, and the conversation we’d had about it when we were on set, that I was able to recognise it myself and stop it before it became destructive.
“I can see how you can quickly lose yourself in this industry.I think my situation began with Alexander because we all became so comfortable with drinking, and drink was so much a part of everything we were doing that my tolerance increased.
“When the party stops, no one wants to be the last person dancing. There’s an element of that being on film and TV sets.
“It’s a fun, close-knit family when you’re doing it but at the call of ‘Cut!’ on the last scene on the last day, you jump back into reality.
“After Alexander, and then going on to a couple more films, moving to America and getting good work there, it was easier to deal with if I put on the mask of happy-go-lucky Neil as opposed to allowing any of my own insecurities and natural self to inhibit.
However, Neil added, “We haven’t stayed in touch unfortunately. I stayed in contact with his sister, who was his PA. We arranged one more drink but he wasn’t able to make it.
“Then I moved to LA and we lost contact. I’d love to work with him again. My agent is a good friend of his and every so often I get little messages from him through her, just asking how I am and saying he’d seen something that I’d done. It’s lovely.”
And finally, Neil revealed, “I still like a drink, but I don’t drink anywhere near as much as I used to. I’ve become more of a sensible old man.
“Now I love going to a bar, sitting with a friend and having a decent chat — they’re the kicks I get today.
“I’ve gone through the partying phase and feel no need to dust off the shackles on that again.”
Upstairs Downstairs continues tonight at 9pm on BBC1.
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