In a Taxi with. Ben Miller; the Sky's the Limit for This Astrophysicist Turned Comedian, Actor, Director, Producer
Byline: Interview MAUREEN PATON
If there's anyone who can rescue the public image of scientists from eternal geekdom, it's Ben Miller. Although he studied astrophysics at Cambridge University, this impressive all-rounder was seduced into performing instead, becoming one half of comedy double act Armstrong & Miller (speciality: nude vet sketches and cross-dressing). Alexander Armstrong is the plummy-voiced, privately educated one, while Ben is the highly strung one from a comprehensive school with a sexy glitter in his green eyes that makes him, Alexander insists, the better of the two at transvestism. Add to that Ben's solo career acting in TV dramas Primeval, The Worst Week of My Life and behind-thescenes satire Moving Wallpaper, as well as a burgeoning career as a director, and it's clear that I have a multitasking Renaissance man in the back of the cab.
Our driver, Colin from Hampstead, picks up Ben from Hat Trick Productions, maker of the TV show Armstrong & Miller, in Camden. It's a relief to find that in real life Ben sports Paul Smith candy-striped socks and Pied A Terre brogues rather than outrageous frocks. 'How does my wife feel about me dressing up as a woman? Like a lot of wives in that situation, she decides to turn a blind eye - as long as I don't bring it home,' quips Ben, 43, who is married to his Primeval co-star Belinda Stewart-Wilson, 39, daughter of former equerry to the Queen Sir Blair Stewart-Wilson ('slightly terrifying - though I suspect he's a softie at heart'). Having begun his acting career in student plays at Cambridge alongside then girlfriend Rachel Weisz, Ben seems to have been quite an actress-magnet ever since. 'Rachel was a lovely introduction to acting,' he says, adding, 'I've got lots of ex-girlfriends who are brilliant actresses and I'd love to direct all of them as well as Belinda - though I don't think I could afford Rachel now...' Belinda joined Primeval this year as Christine, an old sparring partner of Ben's character James Lester, a caustic civil servant. 'There's a certain charge when Christine and James look at each other - they've definitely got a history,' says Ben with relish. The role of James Lester is a relatively straight one for Ben, who will soon be seen as the Stalinist henchman who sends Emily Watson to a Siberian gulag in the forthcoming film Within the Whirlwind. …