Film

Simon Amstell recounts his lonely teenage years ahead of 'Benjamin' release

Filmmaker and comedian Simon Amstell recalls his teenage angst and reveals why his teenage self would be so delighted by his relationship and creative career in his Letter To My Younger Self

Comedian, TV presenter and filmmaker Simon Amstell has spoken exclusively with The Big Issue about his quest for fame and acceptance in a Letter To My Younger Self.

On his new film Benjamin, TV comedy series Grandma’s House, and most of his stand-up to date, he said: “I think everything I have ever done has been an attempt to reach a hand out to my teenage self and tell him he is ok. As a teenager, I found a lot of courage through people on the television being funny or subversive. I felt that in the television there was safety, there was a place where you could be entirely yourself and be celebrated rather than put in prison.

I understood my younger self. A kind of healing happens.

“Whether I am doing stand-up or writing a film, it is trying to figure out what is or was wrong with me,” he continued. “I wrote my new film Benjamin to figure out what happened in my 20s. When I finished, it felt like I had shot my 20s out of me and I understood my younger self. A kind of healing happens.”

He also spoke openly and frankly about his teenage angst over his sexuality. Amstell, 39, said: “I had to lie about who I was between the ages of 13 and 21. Or I felt I did. Because I liked boys. I felt very alone, I didn’t think it was possible to like boys without ruining my entire life.

“I went to Paris on my own when I was 18 to kiss somebody and see if I really did like boys. It is a romantic notion, but didn’t feel like that at the time. It felt like the desperate act of a terrified child. Only recently did I think about how brave that teenager was. But he achieved his mission.”

As his new film, which stars ex-Merlin actor Colin Morgan in a role based very closely on the writer, opens, Amstell says he has come to terms with his younger self’s single-minded ambition to get ahead in showbusiness – “where equality exists” in the audience for Oprah and Eddie Izzard’s sartorial style bucks societal norms. But he admits fame did not solve all his worries.

Happily, Amstell concludes: “What my younger self would be most thrilled about is that I am creatively free and I have a boyfriend. He would wonder how that is possible: You have a boyfriend, in real life, living with you? Good for you! And he’s hot? He would be really pleased having felt so troubled and ashamed and alone.”

Benjamin is released in cinemas and on digital on March 15.

Read the full article in this week's Big Issue.
Find your vendor
The real legacy of Amy Winehouse

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
From The Iron Claw to Opponent: How wrestling films began grappling with real issues
Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson and Zac Efron as the tragic Van Erich wrestling family in The Iron Claw
Film

From The Iron Claw to Opponent: How wrestling films began grappling with real issues

Civil War director Alex Garland on ChatGPT, 28 Years Later and why Britain is like a 'pet cat'
Civil War, Alex Garland
Film

Civil War director Alex Garland on ChatGPT, 28 Years Later and why Britain is like a 'pet cat'

Gillian Anderson, Billie Piper and Rufus Sewell on recreating Prince Andrew's car-crash interview in Scoop
Rufus Sewell as Prince Andrew and Gillian Anderson as Emily Maitlis
Film

Gillian Anderson, Billie Piper and Rufus Sewell on recreating Prince Andrew's car-crash interview in Scoop

Io Capitano director Matteo Garrone on why a refugee's journey is so much more than small boats
Film

Io Capitano director Matteo Garrone on why a refugee's journey is so much more than small boats

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know