Interview 40

Cosmetic Operations Are A Betrayal Of Age
The actor takes stock of his life

The open-hearted confession of a star Richard Chamberlain.

His fans have remained loyal to him. Month after month the 72 years old actor still receives hundreds of letters, cards and emails. For some time now his presence on TV and cinema screens hasn't been what it used to be. The unforgettable Father Ralph from the series "The Thorn Birds" lives now in Hawaii, he only does the things he gets a kick out of.

Things are quieter around you. Have you said good-bye to acting?

I still work in films and series, however these last few years I have been mainly focused on my personal development. Precisely my book that was published two years ago and that was a very important project to me was part of it. While working on my book I had the opportunity to review once more many events that had taken place in my life. Moreover I moved into a new house, painted a few more paintings and was often away for professional reasons. I was never bored and time passed by very fast.

In the book you describe your childhood...

My childhood was not always nice, sometimes there was suffering, especially because of my father. It is amazing though, when I now look back at my childhood I see things differently. I understand it better. These were different times, a different generation. I have the feeling now that my parents acted the right way. They could not act differently. There were nice moments too.

Did you reconcile yourself with your father?

We were never enemies and we kept in contact till his death in 1984.

What kind of life do you lead now?

I afford myself the luxury to live one day at a time. Normally I paint in the morning, in the afternoon I take care of the paperwork and spend the evening with dear friends having an exquisite dinner and a glass of good wine. I like to cook but I also know by now all the fine restaurants of the island. Apart from that my life is very quiet. I also have a strong interest in art and culture. I go to galleries and museums. I read a lot and listen to music, mainly classic. I also often fly to Los Angeles and New York to see friends and do some shopping, I also have professional commitments.

Professionally what are your plans right now?

During the second half of the year I will be touring the United States with a theatre production. I am looking forward to it, it is a challenge to be on the stage every evening. I prefer theatre to cinema. In each new play an actor has to prove his talent. This I like, it is precisely the essence of acting.

Cosmetic operations are almost taken for granted for Hollywood stars. What about you?

This is a matter that has often been raised with me. Important agencies and film studios put pressure on the actors for them to be eternally young and good-looking. The big productions in the US almost exclusively call for young and handsome actors. Age does no longer exist in the business. It is a pity, fortunately this is not the case in Europe. The great European actors continue being hired in films. In the US in order to remain active, an actor has to undergo surgery. I don't agree. It is perhaps one of the reasons why I hardly work in films any more, especially in big productions. I don't want to betray myself and let someone take my wrinkles away. They are proof that I have lived. In my opinion cosmetic surgery is a betrayal of age.

Your biggest success was playing Father Ralph in "The Thorn Birds" ...

Yes it was my most famous role besides "Shogun". It was a unique experience, an interesting show and its impact could not be anticipated. It was a highly difficult time for me. After "The Thorn Birds" no matter what agent or producer I was auditioning for, they always saw me only as Father Ralph and the heartbreaker. Professionally it was very tough. Moreover my private life became totally crazy. Every month I received 15,000 letters, everyday there were people waiting for me at the gate. I was constantly in the press. It was very trying for me since it was a completely new experience. I did not know how to handle it. Nobody had warned me. That is why the role of Father Ralph was both a curse and a blessing for me.

What are your plans for the next few years?

I hardly plan anything anymore. I let life decide for me. I had always planned my professional commitments two years ahead. Now I only plan six months ahead. I always like to leave open the possibility to do something else. My work is still an important part of my life. The possibility to change my mind and do something else at short notice is most compelling. I will remain active professionally during the next few years. Hopefully I'll stay in good health.

(This article is courtesy of Christel & Berit. It as been professionally translated from German into English and is © 2007 MC. This translation may not be reproduced partly or fully without the prior permission of MC.)