Darren Day in Dubai

Brit soap star on how he shook off 'dreamboat' image

Interview, Hot seat, The Knowledge
Interview, Hot seat, The Knowledge

Have you been to Dubai before?
This is my first time in Dubai, and I’m really excited. A friend of mine lived in Dubai for a while – he’s only just moved back and he absolutely loved it. It’s great to be coming out with such a great play as well. I’m really excited about doing Misery. It’s a real challenge.

What drew you to the role of Paul Sheldon in the play?
I’m a massive Stephen King fan anyway and I read the novel quite a few years ago. I’ve probably watched the film five or six times. Every now and then a role comes up that you really want to do, and this was one of those roles that I really, really wanted to do.

Has the role given you nightmares?
Not really. I was a horror fan as a kid, so I scared myself stupid and I’m immune to it now. I was a massive Hammer Horror fan. But I think the Misery story [about an author who is imprisoned by an obsessed fan] could easily happen in real life. In my early career I had a stalker, and I had to get an injunction against her. Sometimes I’d get strange letters. I also starred in Brit soap Hollyoaks for six months last year and sometimes I’d get letters, but not addressed to Darren. They’d be sent to Danny, to the actual character, saying, ‘How could you do this?’ There are some pretty unhinged people out there.

Can we expect some knee-smashing torture in the show?
Yes. The novel and the play are much darker than the film – what happens to Paul physically goes far beyond what they did in the movie. It’s much, much more violent and more cynical. Hopefully we’re going to get some gasps and screams. Even if you’ve seen the film or read the novel, we’re still going to scare you.

We hear you’re looking rather buff these days. What is your diet and exercise regime?
As I hit 40 I started piling on the pounds. I was on a cruise ship with my wife – I shaved my head for a film role and I was four stone heavier than I am now. Unbeknown to me, I was papped; when I came back my mates handed me one of the tabloids and I saw this big, fat, bald guy on the front page – I got to page 12 or 13 and realised it was me. I got pretty depressed about it. They did an awful headline. They said ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreambloat’. They put a picture of me as Joseph from a few years earlier, captioned ‘Any dream will do’, then on the fat photo they put ‘Any cream cake will do’.

You remember it word for word!
I know. You never remember the good stuff! But you always remember the bad stuff. I realised that I’d started to avoid mirrors because I’d seen myself getting bigger and bigger. OK! magazine got in touch and said they’d like to put me on a three-month regime with a personal trainer. So that’s what I did. I was a bit of a party boy for a long time and I think it’s time for my body to be treated much, much better.

See Darren in Misery at the First Group Theatre, Souk Madinat Jumeirah on February 1-11, www.timeouttickets.com

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