Kristin Scott Thomas: 'My childhood was chaotic and catastrophic'

The actor, 57, talks about how her childhood stopped at 13, how she’s changed her mind about retiring, and why she’s happy doing DIY

Youth is a terrible weight to carry. Once it’s gone there’s such relief. I no longer have that panicky need to accumulate experience. I feel more detached from people’s idea of me.

I used to feel like a foreigner everywhere – that’s changed. I’m just… here. My children are all over the place, Belgium, Switzerland, Paris, but now I feel perfectly at home wherever I am.

The first time I took my grandchild in my arms, I saw absolute trust in her eyes. It was so moving. She looked at me, and suddenly, I’m “Granny”.

My childhood was chaotic and catastrophic. I was navigating quite traumatic events [her father, then her stepfather, both died flying planes]. My childhood stopped at 13 and became something less happy. But I made the most of things.

Funnily enough, I like flying, hurtling through the air in a tin can. I like it.

We’re learning women can’t be lumped together. The generational difference between people like Catherine Deneuve and younger actors is interesting for me, as I’m stuck in the middle. The scandalous thing is that, since the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1970, we assumed we were being paid the same as men.

Outrage sometimes means we can’t think things through satisfactorily. Once it settles I hope there will be justice. My worry is that we’ll get splintered up into too many factions first.

Despite saying I was retiring, it turns out I like making films. Life is about changing your mind. You don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know where I’ll be next year, and that’s OK.

I’m not good at lying, even though it’s my job. All my sins relate to cars. I learned to drive in Paris, but within one week of driving in London, gaily taking bus lanes, I’d accumulated £1,000 of tickets. Big Brother is definitely watching us, which is probably a good thing when it comes to me and traffic.

I’m very good at DIY. I mended the lock on the door, and recently fixed our boiler, too. I’m constantly under a sink with my toolbox, and I’m pleased not to have to always call a man in.

Space is the secret to any happy relationship. It’s good to allow the other person to be different. You don’t have to be a mirror image of the person you love. But I’m only just learning that now.

When I did Electra on stage, which was very physical, somebody asked me if I was too old, which shocked me at the time. But now I’m seeing the result of throwing myself on the floor every night. Maybe they were right. A body is only meant to last a certain number of years.

I long to talk to people who really know the facts of politics. When I talk, I’m just repeating what I read in the paper.

Kristin Scott Thomas is in Sally Potter’s comedy The Party, which is out now on DVD and Blu-ray


Eva Wiseman

The GuardianTramp

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