Feature: Ben Whishaw for The Guardian

written byMouzaonFebruary 04, 2022

Ben Whishaw, quite apart from being one of the best British actors we have, is an expert dunker of his biscuits in tea. I’ve seen it: he’s a McVitie’s ninja, with a method all his own. We meet one afternoon in the offices of a London film company and I get the chance to observe his distinctive work first-hand, as digestive after digestive gets taken up by Whishaw, then dipped (sometimes double-handed) into a cuppa that he props on a table in front of him. Each biscuit gets submerged for so long, you suppose there’s no chance of it ever coming out whole. Each biscuit later re-emerges, sodden, milliseconds from ruin, still intact.

“I’m no good at interviews,” Whishaw, 41, apologises, right away.

He has played Hamlet, Sebastian Flyte, Ariel, Paddington, James Bond’s gadget man Q; all manner of bold fictional characters behind which to hide an innate, real-world shyness. In February, Whishaw will appear in the BBC’s adaptation of Adam Kay’s bestselling medical tell-all, This Is Going to Hurt – another cocksure character, another place to hide. “I find it hard meeting people for the first time,” Whishaw shrugs. “I find it anxiety inducing. I get a shaky, unsettled feeling in my belly. Just warning you now!”

And it’s true that the actor, with his wiry limbs crossed at sharp angles, the focus of his green eyes often darting away to the middle distance, comes across as socially nervous. Even so, he’s compelling company, and before the end of our conversation he’ll have spoken with careful thought and bracing honesty about sexuality; self-knowledge; LGBTQ+ casting in the film industry; his frustration with the Bond franchise, all sorts. Along the way I start to notice that, actually, there are telling parallels between the way Whishaw approaches a one-on-one interaction such as ours and his perilous technique for dunking biscuits. Whenever the conversation takes a turn, he’ll start out strong. Ideas. Confessions. Then he might lose faith and check himself (“God. I’m waffling … I have no idea what I’m saying, Tom”). Then, right when all looks lost, the biscuit doesn’t break apart, he regathers his efforts, he comes at some idea anew, and often winds up making a point that is richer and subtler than the one he started with. [More at Source]

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