VIEW Pigg’s Peak, Swaziland
I often think of the view of Pigg’s Peak, bordered by a blue-tinted mountain range to the left and pine forests to the right. There’s a squiggly road leading from the top of the mountain, down through countryside dotted with mud huts, cattle and wisps of smoke from the fires outside every hut. It’s the final image in my autobiographical film “WAH-WAH”. Returning to Swaziland as a middle-aged man, recreating my dysfunctional adolescence with a fabulous cast, was cathartic and fulfilling.
HOTEL The Ballyfin Demesne, County Laois, Ireland
I hosted a TV series on the secrets of extraordinary hotels and this was my favourite. It’s only an hour from Dublin, but 300 years back in time, to an idyll of unadulterated luxury – with 21st-century broadband and central heating, immaculate service and delumptious food. Each bedroom is decorated in fantastically maximalist style; I’d far rather that than fascistic minimalism torturing a row of flowers, angled and strangled in individual vases. There are open fireplaces, fresh scones and an enormous library of fabulous books.
BUILDING Sony Studios, Culver City, Los Angeles
This was formerly the MGM studios and the place where the great movies from the golden age of Hollywood were filmed. I played Dr Seward, sidekick to Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing in Francis Coppola’s version of “Dracula”, starring Gary Oldman, which we filmed here in 1991. The sumptuous set of Winona Ryder’s house was constructed in the emptied Olympic-size swimming pool that had been built for Esther Williams’s aqua musicals. “The Wizard of Oz” was made here too. In a city where history is an anachronism, it was a gold-plated pleasure to work on this memory-crammed site.
I emigrated here from Swaziland in 1982 and felt like Dick Whittington seeking my fortune. I was astonished by the variety of everything on offer: theatre, concerts – both classical and pop – food, museums, art galleries, architecture cheek-by-jowelling the historic with the contemporary. It couldn’t have been farther from Mbabane and I’ve loved everything it’s had to offer ever since: the Eurostar to Europe, Richmond Park’s 2,000-acre urban oasis, street markets, antique and junk shops, the cultural extremes from Brixton to Belgravia...and, most of all, its sense of humour.
WORK OF ART “The Bed” by Toulouse Lautrec, 1893
Two cabaret performers are in bed, only their heads peeping out of the rumpled covers. They’re having a snoozy yak. For me, this picture perfectly captures the intimacy of great friendship in the privacy of a bedroom. Probably the most memorable conversations I’ve ever had have been in bed – marooned and safely cocooned from the world.
BEACH Macaroni Beach, Mustique
No one has been able to tell me why it’s called that, but with great surf (without any undertow or cross currents), the perfect temperature, turquoise water, powdery white sand, palm trees and mountains covered with lush tropical vegetation, who cares? It’s also mercifully free of hawkers, sharks, jet skis and cruise ships – pure Robinson Crusoe-esque luxury. I’ve gone every January for the past decade, to escape the post-Christmas blues, and before the taxman scythes you in half at the end of the month.
JOURNEY To Grasse
It might be just a quick flight to Nice then a short car ride up to Grasse, but it’s a journey in a different sense. You can smell Grasse before you’ve even seen it. Having compulsively sniffed everything since I was a boy, I’ve been led by my nose all my life. I had a crush on an American girl called Betsy Clapp when I was 12, and tried to make perfume from rose and gardenia petals boiled up in sugar water and stored in jam jars. Four decades later, I finally made my own perfume, JACK. Visiting Grasse to source all the oils is an olfactory pilgrimage. The air is literally dense with whichever scent is being harvested; it’s Nirvana for the nose.