Richard Curtis, the writer, director and father of four on his own school days, and the words of wisdom he gives his children
What was school life like for you?
I feel hugely lucky that I can honestly say those school years were, on the whole, happy. That said – as throughout the rest of my life – I wish I’d worked a little less hard and fooled around a little more.
What subject did you enjoy the most?
Definitely English. I always loved the books and poems – so much so that I rather wore myself out when I was studying and have read very little since.
What is your earliest school memory?
It’s my first memory of all, and extremely traumatic. My mother took my sisters into school in Manila, the Philippines, and the headmistress spotted me, aged three, and said, “What about him too?” And I was left there, abandoned, that very day.
Did you always want to be a writer?
No, when I was younger I wanted to be an actor. I gave what was felt to be a very touching Hermione in The Winter’s Tale at age 13, but perhaps my talent was more for wearing wigs than it was for actual acting, so I ended up doing the writing thing.
Did you go to boarding school or day school?
We lived all over the world when I was a child, so when I was younger I went to day schools in Manila and Stockholm, then to boarding school in Ascot before ending up at Harrow.
Did this influence what you chose for your own children?
Retrospectively, I can’t understand how I was allowed to miss seven whole years at home with my family. As a parent myself now, we couldn’t take losing our kids for that long, so they all went to London day schools. They leave so soon anyway.
What advice for life would you have given to yourself when you were school age?
Gosh. Such a huge question! Relish the laughing bits. Don’t worry – you’ll grow. Don’t eat the fish. And no one is ever going to ask you how many O-levels you got.
And what words of wisdom do you give to your children?
I tell my children, the things you do outside of the classroom, they might not just be a hobby, they might be a sign of what you should actuallly do. Most people I know from school were doing so much of what they’re doing today back then, like writing or making films.
What does 2018 have in store for you?
School-wise, for the kids, lots of thinking about what Charlie, my sixteen year old, should do for A-levels. Lifewise, a new movie – but will it be as good as Where Eagles Dare starring Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton, my absolute favourite film at school? I doubt it very much.