James Leavey's Sharing An Ashtray With... Tom Courtney

Sir Tom Courtney

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James Leavey's Corner
  By James Leavey
At least the non-smoking British film and stage actor is,thank God, not an anti-smoker.


JL: When did you start smoking"

TC: I used to a bit, a long time ago. But I only ever liked itafter meals, and I could only smoke with coffee. I never couldsmoke with tea, I didn't like the taste. And then I got a heavycold, once, and it did put me off it. And I stayed put off it. Now I just, you know, bite my nails instead. Actually, I stoppedthat, as well. 

L: Have you"

TC: Yeah. So I sort of just go like that (mimes biting hisnails), hand tomouth, that's all it is.  I mean, I'd quite like to smoke, if itagreed withme.  It just doesn't agree with me very much. There was a timewhen I triedto smoke a pipe.  I used to buy all these expensive Dunhillpipes in thehope that one would have the desired effect.  I loved all thebusiness, withthe fiddling about.  But smoke doesn't agree with me very much.

JL: What about using cigarettes, cigars and pipes as props inplays andfilms"

TC: Oh that's all right.

JL: What films have you smoked in"

TC: Just the odd one.  I did one in Czechoslovakia in which Ihad to smoke.But I just made sure that I didn't smoke till the 'take', youknow.  I don'tlike it very much.  I think I've done it in the odd film, but Iprefer not.And also on stage, I don't think I've done it much.

JL: What's your worst experience of smoking"

TC: I don't mind my friends smoking, and, you know, I'm verykeen on jazz,but Alan Plater took me to Ronnie Scott's and I couldn't breathbecause ofthe low ceiling and everybody smoking. So that I can't copewith.  Butpeople smoking is fine, live and let live.

JL: Do you find that's a problem with a lot of jazz clubs,because they'reusually very smoker-friendly places"

TC: Well, that's the only one that I've ever been to.  I've notbeen to anymore. I listen to records.

JL: Your good friend Albert Finney, is he still a big cigarsmoker"

TC: Yeah. He was at our house on Sunday, but he usually smokesin theconservatory with the window open.  It's no bother.  He cansmoke wherever,it's all right.  As long as there's plenty of space, that'sfine.

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