Life of Peter Bowles

Peter Bowles was approached; he obliged; and the public have lapped it up.

He will be in St John’s Chapel, St John’s Street for the Chichester Festivities on Friday July 1, 6pm to talk about his autobiography.

“The chief executive officer of the publishing company came up to me at a restaurant, introduced himself and asked if I had ever thought about writing my biography,” Peter recalls. “I said no, and he said that he would be extremely interested.

“I got myself a literary agent and realised that it would be a very profitable thing to do so I just sat down and started writing it.

“I deliberately didn’t use diaries,” says Peter, who proceeded to merge colourful stories of actors such as Richard Burton and Rex Harrison with poignant memories of his own family and childhood.

“The book just flowed, and people who know me have been extremely kind about it, saying that it sounds just like me talking. When I sent it off, they sent it away to an editor and it came back and all the style had been changed. I said to them ‘I will give you your money back’, and they said, no, no they really liked it, that it was just that they thought that that was the style it should be.”

Peter’s response was that it was his book - and so it remained, published to wide acclaim. Not that anything makes any more sense in retrospect, he insists.

“But the interesting thing was that my first leading role wasn’t until I was 49 and then my whole life changed. I had played To The Manor Born, but I was not the star. That was Penelope Keith. I wasn’t even invited to the press launch or the BAFTA awards. I was simply a supporting actor, but obviously I had had a tremendous impact on the series.

“One of the things that happened was not so much that lots of offers came in, but that I was able to approach people with my thoughts and ideas. My first big starring role was in The Entertainer by John Osborne, with whom I became very good friends - though with that, I wished I had done more theatre work. I had been doing television work for years and then with really very few preliminaries there I was doing The Entertainer!”

Definitely, a turning point. And now the writing is taking off too. Peter has been approached to write a book on what an actor’s life is like: “I know what a dressing room is like; I know how it feels to turn up exhausted in a strange town; I know what audiences are like. Audiences think they know, but they don’t. I do!”