Tom Hollander

Gosford Park

Interviewed by Tom Dawson

Having starred in "Enigma" and "The Clandestine Marriage", Tom Hollander is no stranger to period dramas. Now, in Robert Altman's widely acclaimed "Gosford Park", he's involved in a 30s murder-mystery alongside a who's who of Brit actors...

Was there any particular preparation for your role in "Gosford Park"?

I was so excited to be in a Robert Altman film and to be working with one of the all-time greats that I did quite a lot of research. I read stuff about the navy, because my character was a former naval officer, and I read about the major news events of 1932. I also read an Evelyn Waugh novel because it was full of stupid, madcap business schemes, and that came in useful for an improvised dinner party scene when my character starts talking about shoes for Sudanese soldiers.

What was the atmosphere like on set, being surrounded by so many illustrious actors?

English actors are essentially 'muckers'. There's an old theatrical tradition of nobody getting above themselves and everybody pulling together, and that was the spirit on "Gosford Park". Michael Gambon would jokingly go around, saying, "Who's the star in this film? Is it me? Is it Alan Bates? Is it Derek Jacobi?" But the star was Robert Altman.

What was it like being directed by Robert Altman?

He always encourages you to try out new things. If you ask him, "Bob, should I do it like this?", he'll say, "I don't know, have a go." He'd come on to the set in the morning and say, "I don't care what happens as long as we have fun today." You feel like you're in a huge playground with a bouncy castle, in which you can try anything and you have the right to fail - which you don't have most of the time. He knows how to handle actors like nobody I've ever come across - he know their insecurities, he massages everybody's ego, and he has this extraordinary personal charisma.

"Gosford Park" opens in UK cinemas on Friday 1st February 2002.