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Paddy Considine: ‘I feel like my life is a series of beautiful interventions’

Paddy Considine’s friendship with Shane Meadows brought him early acting success – but he’s always forged his own creative path

Born in Burton-on-Trent in 1973, Paddy Considine rose to stardom in 1999’s A Room For Romeo Brass after a childhood home life he describes as ‘chaotic’. He has gone on to act in a string of television and film projects, many in collaboration with his friend Shane Meadows, and this summer stars in Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon.

Considine made his writing-directing debut in 2007 with the short film Dog Altogether, for which he won a BAFTA. Feature films followed, including the critically acclaimed Tyrannosaur (starring Peter Mullan and Olivia Colman) and Journeyman (in which Considine starred himself).

Considine also fronts the band Riding The Low, who have a new album out, The Death of Gobshite Rambo, and play live shows this month. Considine lives in Burton-on-Trent with his wife and three children. Here, in his Letter To My Younger Self, he recalls the drama teacher who threw him out of class for asking a question, and reveals that his favourite thing to listen to is the sound of his children singing.

I couldn’t wait to leave school. I just could not wait to get out of there – I thought about it like a prison term. When I was younger, I remember saying, “I’ve got three more years’ bird left!” I had been quite an unruly kid in the first few years of senior school, but in the fourth year I started to knuckle down. So I was a bit of a class clown – I remember one teacher saying, “It’s alright now, Considine, but when you leave here you won’t have your audience any more.” I thought, fuck, he’s right. You can be class clown, you can be the funniest guy in the factory or on the building site – but where is that going to get you? 

I was in danger of throwing my life down the drain. I won’t sit here and lie to you and say, “I would have ended up in prison”. Because that’s not true. I was terrified of that. My old man had been inside a few times when I was a kid and I remember going into Leicester prison as a little boy – going through the gates and just being terrified. I’d also watched Scum when I was about 11 years old and thought, “fuck that”. So I knew I wasn’t going down that path. I just didn’t know what I wanted to do – I wanted to perform, I wanted to escape the prospect of the factories. But I didn’t know what route I could take. 

I think that’s all I craved. A quiet corner so I could be myself.  

Paddy Considine

I did my first play at school when I was 15 because I wanted the ‘establishment’ – you know, the teachers – to know I wasn’t a waste of time. I showed a bit of talent and it was a very powerful thing to discover that through performance you could change people’s perceptions of you. When I was a teenager, I obsessively watched films like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Elephant Man and Rocky. One day a week you could go to the cinema in Burton-on-Trent for £1 so we watched whatever we could.   

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I could do no wrong in my mum’s eyes. There was never any pressure on me to do anything. And I don’t know, sometimes, if that is a bit of neglect. I was never asked, “what are you going to do with your life?”. So I just rolled with it. I don’t think anyone was expecting anything from me. It wasn’t until I did the school play that my teacher, Margaret Bolderson, took an interest. She enrolled me in a drama group, and I’m so grateful. They are such important people in your life. All you need is somebody to see your potential – it makes all the difference. I was looking for something to contrast with my home life.

Home was very chaotic. It was a loud house, very untidy, tumultuous – a lot of fun, but you could take your shoes off and return to find they were gone. It was like that. There wasn’t a quiet corner to do my homework. There was no rhythm or routine to my life. And I think that’s all I craved. A quiet corner so I could be myself.  

I did drama at a local college but left after a year. It was a very bitchy environment and I didn’t really learn anything. I lost interest. I got kicked out of class once for asking a question. The teacher said, “I want you to be a car engine.” And I just asked why. She said “Get out!” I mean, for fuck’s sake.
I went on the dole for a year.  

Paddy Considine and Shane MEadows
After winning his Empire Inspiration award, with Shane Meadows who picked up the Best TV Series gong at the ceremony Photo: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

Meeting Shane Meadows is a very big part of my story – and part of me struggles with it. I struggle with being seen for who I am. I’m not a part of a duo and haven’t worked with Shane for a long time. I think I’ve strived to try to break free, to say, I’m a talent in my own right, I’m a writer, I’m a director, I have my own voice, these are my stories. But the truth is, this thing happened when we were 17 years old. We met and there was a potency we shared, coming from the backgrounds we did. It was like two people that were on a collision course. We were pretty formidable – people loved us or they fucking hated us. But it’s one of those relationships that needs room because you can’t have two leaders.

I feel like my life is a series of beautiful interventions that have propelled me forwards. A lecturer called Colin Higgins, who was later in A Room For Romeo Brass with me, had been our film teacher. He said, “Are you coming back then, or what?” So in September I started rocking up every morning to art classes. But I wasn’t enrolled. Six weeks in, Colin asked what course I was actually on. I was like, fucking hell, I’ve been rumbled. But he looked at me and went, “Come on, let’s enrol you in Photography and Film.”

But to say I drifted is wrong – when I went back I put a lot of work in. I’d be there first thing in the morning and they would be switching out the lights, throwing me out in the evening. I practically lived there. Then I went to university in Brighton, applied myself, got a First Class degree – I found my voice through photography. I had no choice but to work hard at everything. I still don’t. I’ve had to be resourceful.  

While I went to university, Shane was very prolific, making lots of short films. He was fearless. We met up when I was coming to the end of my degree. He had TwentyFourSeven out. He asked me to audition for his second film and I went, “no, mate. I’m not an actor,” But he said, “I think you’ve got talent but that course we were on beat it out of you.” So I gave it a go and it just opened this door.

There was something very strong between us. He brought something out in me and hopefully vice versa. The culmination was Dead Man’s Shoes. By that time, I’d started to act in other things. Our paths separated. To not honour that with respect and love for Shane would be ridiculous, but it was a strange time. I think at some point we need to sit down and talk about it, me and Shane. It’s probably coming. It needs to come. 

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I’m still the same kid. The things I need to say to my younger self, I need to hear now. You can’t be so hard on yourself. You have this dysmorphia about how you perceive yourself and it’s so out of proportion. You’ve got to let that go. Fuck the negative voices. I still have to say those things to myself at 48. It’s crippling, and the tragedy is that I’ll go to my grave feeling this way.  

Riding The Low
Performing with Riding The Low in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral
Photo: Katja Ogrin/EMPICS Entertainment.

I would tell my younger self to trust his intuition. It will never fail you. If I told my 16-year-old self this was going to be his life, he would be most excited about making music. To hear he is going to release albums – no one is going to listen to them much, but to know he is going to be a frontman in a band [Riding The Low], perform shows, write songs? He’d be so excited.   

It’s hard to know what to tell my younger self about love because I found the love of my life when I was18. I was 17 when I first saw her, 18 when we started going out. I would tell my younger self, just be a kind man. I’m lucky. I’ve been with my wife for 30 years and I’m still in love with her. So I didn’t really need advice.  

I don’t crave that calm space now. I like to sit in my house and hear my son playing guitar, my eldest daughter in her room singing and my youngest daughter, who has just started guitar. And I love the noise. If I can hear them laughing uncontrollably, it’s just the best sound. I like that all around me. So it’s not chaos, there is comfort in hearing them in their own private worlds. When my daughter is singing, she doesn’t realise we can hear her – and it is the most beautiful thing.  

I feel lucky that I’ve gone under the radar. People perceive me to be more well-known than I actually am. I barely get recognised. My wife says it’s because I walk fast and have my earphones in and my head down. But I would tell my younger self, when it comes to fame, just try to block out the noise and don’t look for affirmation from other people. Your happiness and your talent do not reside in people’s opinions about you. Get your head down and just do the work.

My younger self wanted a wife and children and a quiet-ish life. He also wanted a creative life. I’m OK with how things turned out. Lots of aspects of my life would not surprise my teenage self, but if I’d told him he was going to do a Broadway play [The Ferryman], direct award-winning films [Tyrannosaur and Journeyman], put out albums, play at Glastonbury Festival – I don’t think he would believe it at all. 

Carapace of Glass is the first single from the new album, The Death of Gobshite Rambo

Riding The Low’s new album The Death of Gobshite Rambo is out now

@adey70

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