Robert Stephens, 62, won the 1993 Olivier Award for his portrayal of Falstaff with the Royal Shakespeare Company. He has been married three times - most famously to the actress Maggie Smith from whom he was divorced in 1975. He has four children and one grandchild. He is currently starring as King Lear with the RSC in Stratford. For 17 years he has lived in London's Primrose Hill with actress Patricia Quinn, who played Magenta in The Rocky Horror Show and the film, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Born in Ireland, Patricia Quinn has been married once and has a grown-up son.
PATRICIA QUINN: The night Robert came backstage at The Rocky Horror Show, he was only interested in talking to "Mr Transvestite" Tim Curry. It was so cramped he couldn't have slipped through unnoticed but we were never introduced.
Later, when I was filming The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Michael White, the producer, gave me a script of Murderer, a new Tony Shaffer play he was casting, with Robert Stephens in the lead. When I read my first line it didn't sound like me at all. I was going to cancel the audition when my American au pair started laughing. She was reading Murderer. "Is it really that funny?" I asked her. "Yes," she said. "You should go for it."
The audition was at the Fortune Theatre. I knew I was the last one on the heap - they'd seen every actress in town and I hadn't even read the play properly. Mr Stephens was already on stage. He had a habit of looking at you over his spectacles. At the time it was quite intimidating. I was obviously no good and afterwards, I thought how silly I'd been to be so casual about it. I really wanted that part - which probably had something to do with having just met Mr Stephens. Michael and Robert were so desperate, they hired me on the strength of The Rocky Horror Show.
When we met, Robert was entirely free. I was happily married with a wonderful son of five, and a lover. I was about to embark on a romance with Meatloaf who told me he'd been voted the best kisser in his Texas high school. The attentions of Robert Stephens were the very last thing I needed. I was exhausted. How would I fit him in? During rehearsals, Robert told me a lot about himself. We'd have a drink over terribly intimate conversations. He talked about how his marriage to Maggie Smith had broken up and his different romances. I thought, why is he telling me all this?
When the play closed, he went to New York and I had work at the Royal Court. He wrote and phoned and kept asking me to come to New York. I'd never been before so I decided to go for a week. By then, our relationship was out in the open. I was terribly in love with Robert. He was a glorious, wonderfully wild and glamorous man who certainly knew how to show a girl a good time.
I came home to play Lady Macbeth in Bristol, while Robert was working in Canada. He phoned all the time and warned me that he'd come to Bristol. One day the bad penny turned up. Who was I going to live with? Looking back, it was all quite potty. You went from job to job, you were young, foolish, but you really knew you were alive. Fortunately, my director husband had fallen in love with a girl in Bristol so Robert moved in with me in London. It was quite a commitment for him, after his broken marriages, to live with the mother of a five-year-old boy.
I was upset when he had to go to Los Angeles to do Pygmalion, so this time I kept phoning him. The day before he came home, he asked me to meet him at the airport. After hugs and kisses I saw that he'd got quite fat and unattractive in California and said he could only stay with me for a few days. I was trying to protect myself because I'd had to get on with my life without him and was frightened of him coming in and out of it and hurting me. I was working and earning money and the first night he came home, I had a dinner date. "That's all right," he said, "I'll come to the pub for a drink with you after the theatre." If Robert wants, Robert gets, so there we were, in the middle of summer, sitting outside the pub waiting for my American gentleman of 6ft 8in who used to be a football player. Robert nearly died when he turned up. He presumed he'd just see him off. My date, a sophisticated man, said, "Why don't the three of us have dinner?" I never saw him again but Robert and I have chugged along together ever since. You can't help but feel alive with Robert. Of all the men I've known he's by far the best of the bunch, the cleverest, wisest and the best actor. I just adore him. I love his voice on the telephone. Robert phones in, from wherever he is, at least three times a day. Sometimes he rings so often I run out of things to say. He's very homey and likes to sit down and chat. Robert could sit yakking to me all day long.
He often said that living and working with Maggie Smith 24 hours a day was impossible, but it's never a problem for us. Agents are talking about them doing Antony and Cleopatra but Maggie said she's too old to go up the Nile again. It wouldn't bother me at all if they did it - it would sell out in minutes.
This is a golden time for us. Having been
married once I never wanted to be married again. If the need arose, I always wanted to be able to say "Get out". I've said it to Robert but he always comes back.
I feel married to him but somehow I've begun to get quite broody about being properly married. I'm not entirely sure why I want it. I've put too much into this relationship for it to end. Every time I see him my heart gives a little leap. I love him to death.
ROBERT STEPHENS: Christopher, a great friend, who was my dresser for years, said he was taking me to see a play and that if I didn't like it he wouldn't be my friend any more. It was the cult Rocky Horror Show, in the King's Road. I knew absolutely nothing about it. There was a terribly pretty girl in the cast with curly hair who played an usherette.
It was a touching, very amusing performance of someone who was madly in love with all the film stars. I went backstage to see Tim Curry. Everyone seemed to be using lavs as dressing rooms, and I was vaguely aware of the charming usherette in the background.
A year earlier Michael White, the producer, had given me a new Tony Shaffer play, Murderer, to read. Everyone hoped it would turn into another Sleuth, but it didn't seem to work. Michael said, "Don't worry, Tony comes to rehearsals and rewrites as we go along. He's brilliant at ingenious twists - it'll be fine." We started auditioning for the part of the young girlfriend. It was imperative that we found a very good young actress - someone quite flighty with a light comic touch. It wasn't an easy part. We needed someone with a lot of style. Every actress we auditioned was wrong. Just before Christmas Michael, who, like me, was fairly desperate by then, said there were only three more actresses to see. If none of them were any good we'd have to postpone the rehearsals.
The audition was on a freezing cold December morning. The first girl was no good and the second one didn't even turn up. The last one arrived in a raccoon coat buttoned up from neck to floor. She had all this thick, amazing hair so I couldn't even see her face. Her audition was dreadful. I couldn't hear a word and the director said "thank you," before she'd even finished. When she'd gone, Michael White suddenly announced, "I don't know about Patricia Quinn. She's a very clever actress you know. She's got a great future." I told him I didn't know what she looked like, but in any case, she had a flat, boring, dreary voice. None of us could understand why he was pushing her. "Did you see The Rocky Horror Show?" he asked. "She was the usherette."
"Give her the part," I shouted. "She was enchanting."
The day before the audition, Patricia had finished shooting The Rocky Horror Picture Show. There'd been a party in the evening. The poor girl arrived at the audition with a giant hangover. During rehearsals, she told me that if it hadn't been for her au pair she wouldn't have bothered turning up to read for the part.
After splitting up with Maggie I'd had a long time without anyone and I was just ready to fall in love again. Patricia was like a little doll. We
were thrown together for seven months including a tour which
took us to the Royal Crescent Hotel in Brighton for two weeks. Pat's very amusing and extremely good company. The Irish don't allow themselves to bear grudges. They just get everything over and done with and then situations are resolved.
When I was making a film in Nice with Gerard Depardieu we had to go to Paris to see five hours of rushes. I was longing to see Pat who was flying in from London. I was so happy when she walked in. Afterwards, 10 of us, including the director's wife, went to this grand restaurant where Jean-Paul Sartre used to go. Pat was sitting opposite me. We were talking about the film and Pat said there was one scene which obviously didn't work. I was furious with her. "Visitors don't criticise," I told her. "You've ruined my day." Pat just got up, walked over and slapped me at the table, in front of everyone. I don't think it had ever happened in that restaurant before. Nobody said a word. The next day it was as if nothing had happened, until the director's wife told me she'd give 10 million francs for the courage to do to her husband what Patricia had done to me.
After we'd been together for about two years, Pat said she was fed up with being referred to as my girlfriend. I told her, as I have regularly ever since we've been together, that we could get married any time she wanted. She's always said: "No. Let's not. Being married doesn't really make any difference to me." I hate being apart from her. When I started the run of Lear and had to rent a flat in Stratford I was very miserable if she had to be in London. I phoned her all the time.
If we're both working on new roles, we help each other. We shut ourselves up in different rooms and then go over each other's lines. Patricia and Maggie are quite different. Maggie tended to be very depressive. She jumps up and down on stage a lot but she's really a curiously solitary person. Pat's very contented and has a sunny quality, which I love. We enjoy simple things like going to the pictures. I wish we worked together more, because she's a wonderful actress with a real energy and pizzazz.
The two of us share a likeness of spirit and laugh at the same things. We're terribly happy together. If Pat wakes up cross, she has a good shout and then it's over. The relationship has lasted a very long time. I think her au pair, who came from Mexico, must have been a seer.-…