At 16 I’d just had the best summer of my life because I’d joined the National Youth Theatre. I found my tribe. I never felt I fitted in very well then I found these people from all over the country, all different backgrounds, united by passion. I think I gave the illusion of being quite a happy teenager but inside I’d been craving to find that passion. Until then I was surrounded by this idea that it was cool not to care too much or try too hard.
I got a scholarship to go to school and my parents said, you’re going to be around a lot of people who are a lot better off than we are. Hold your head up high. They drove me in to sit my exam and the exhaust pipe fell off our old car at the school gates. The whole time I was doing the exam I could see my mum in front of the car with the bonnet up and all these other parents were cruising in with very modern cars. I remember people talking about jet lag and thinking, what on earth are they talking about? I didn’t experience jet lag until I was in my 20s and I got the Bond film and had to fly to LA. That was my first trip to America and suddenly it was first class travel, cars to the airport. It was the magic carpet ride.
If you grew up without money your attitude to it never changes, no matter how well off you are. So I will still get in a cab and think, my God, it’s £8. Even though I can afford that now, I still feel that rising panic as I watch the meter go up.
I don’t think I was ready for boys. I just watched other girls and thought, maybe that’ll be me some day
When I was growing up and going to parties I was not the girl boys were interested in. I wasn’t the one. That’s the truth. But it didn’t bother me too much. I don’t think I was ready for boys. I just watched other girls and thought, maybe that’ll be me some day. I remember one day at the Youth Theatre, I was going up the stairs and this boy I knew shouted: “Hi gorgeous!” I looked around, I had no idea he was talking to me. I probably did change a bit when that happened. But inside, I can still see that awkward girl covering her embarrassingly rosy cheeks with corrective green make-up.
I was rejected from a number of drama schools before I went to university. It was devastating at the time. But I knew what I was. I was an actress and they could knock me down but they couldn’t knock that out of me. I wanted to prove them wrong. I made a film with Christian Bale over the summer and he told me he didn’t go to drama school either. I thought, here I am, sitting next to one of the greatest actors in the world and neither of us went to drama school. I thought back to all those people who rejected me and thought, well there you are, I’ve shown you wrong. Or maybe not – maybe they’re sitting thinking, why on earth is she getting all those roles, she’s shit. But they never managed to crush me.
Last year, 27,000 people worldwide earned an income selling street papers, making a total of £23.4 million.
That sudden change of life – being in a Bond film [in Die Another Day], flying first class – it can make you feel giddy. You feel shaky – the ground isn’t solid any more. I remember afterwards I got a play at the Royal Court and I was on the 137 bus going over Chelsea Bridge. And I was thinking, thank God. I know how to do this. I know how to take the bus, go to a grubby rehearsal room, eat my sandwich. I felt very rooted again. The magic carpet is great but you have to know you’ll come back down to earth again. I still get that feeling.
I would really contest the idea that I’ve had this rocky-road love life [as diagnosed by the Daily Mail]. I think I’ve had a pretty normal road. Most people are heartbroken at some point in their lives [Pike’s fiancé, director Joe Wright, pulled out of the wedding with just weeks to go]. I was about 28 when my marriage was called off and I remember all my friends gathering around inviting me to things – but they were all in couples. It was so hard. I remember feeling that I couldn’t face Christmas because it was all about family and I felt so alone.
I was madly in love with people who hurt me, yes, but I’m happy now. And I wouldn’t change anything. I’d still love the people I’ve loved. You have to live. Love is always a risk. God, if you could fast-forward me from that sad time and say, in a few years you’ll have two little boys and you’ll have this amazing family, it’s going to be okay. It makes me feel a bit teary now to think of it. A couple of years ago my agent gave me two dog tags with my sons’ names on. I remember sitting on my own in LA – I’d just been nominated for an Oscar – not long after I’d given birth to my second son. And I was looking at these dog tags thinking, my goodness, here is the fact of my two children, here are their names and their dates of birth. I made these people. It’s extraordinary really.
Being a Bond girl was very intimidating. I remember when I was doing the play in London after that film, feeling I was letting everyone down because they weren’t getting the Bond girl, they were just getting me. A huge letdown. But I did get over that, juggling the image on the screen with the real me. It occurred to me some people might prefer to see the real me, the imperfect me.
I remember when I was doing the play in London after that film, feeling I was letting everyone down
If I could tell my teenage self that some of the men who were posters on my wall I’d end up working with! That I’d have Tom Cruise round for dinner. It’s insane, right? In terms of recognition, Gone Girl [above] completely changed my life. I was in my local store recently buying nappies and the woman behind the till said: “Oh my goodness, you look exactly like what’s her name, you know the one, she was in that film with Ben Affleck.” The other teller nudged her and said: “No, I think that is her.” And she said: “Don’t be daft, she’s from Hollywood!”
If I could relive any moment in my life… there was the moment when I went into my agent’s office to look at some headshots I’d had done. And he was down in the lobby with his arms open and he said: “Darling, you’re the next Bond girl!” And I knew that taxi meter wasn’t going to be so scary any more. But the best-ever moment was when I heard the first cry of my first child and I felt like my heart, I’m going to cry now, I felt like it leapt across the room.