Mark Strong: My absent father made me incredibly independent

Mark Strong: My absent father made me incredibly independent
Olivier Award-winner Mark Strong (Ian West/PA)

Mark Strong has said his father being absent when he was a boy made him an “incredibly independent” person.

The stage and screen actor, known for roles in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the Kingsman films and TV series Our Friends In The North, said a lack of “authoritarian figure” meant he had to learn important life lessons on his own.

Appearing on Desert Island Discs, the 57-year-old recalled how his Austrian mother had come to London to work as an au pair in the early 1960s where she met his father, an Italian man who has played no part in his life.

Mark Strong with the Olivier Award for best actor (Ian West/PA)

The Olivier Award-winner, who was born Marco Giuseppe Salussolia, told host Lauren Laverne that some good things had emerged from the lack of father figure in his life.

He said: “He left when I was a baby so I didn’t really have an awful lot to do with him.

“I am not sure where he is now. The thing perhaps that we have in common is that neither of us seem to have needed each other particularly, which is sad on one hand but on the other what it managed to do was make me incredibly independent.

“I think having no authoritarian figure or figure that you had to feel you had to please or look up to meant I had to make it up myself.”

Looking back at his childhood in north London, he explained how the local community had helped care for him while his mother was working.

Desert Island Discs host Lauren Laverne (Ian West/PA)

He said: “I remember we lived in a one room in Stoke Newington and, bless her, my mum hung a washing line across the room and put a blanket over it so we would have two rooms, that was the idea.

“She was working two jobs. She worked in the rag trade in a factory in Islington and then would come home and have to work in a bar in the evenings.

“So I spent a lot of time with neighbours and just being taken care of. The kind of community spirit of Islington around that time was really strong.”

Strong, who has starred in more than 60 films, said his childhood had been partially responsible for his passion for theatre, film and TV.

“I love it because in the absence of family as a kid and doing cod psychology on myself,” he said.

“Probably being part of a theatre group or being on a film set with a group of people, it is like family.

“In that time you are incredibly close, you see each other at their best and their worst. You wake up with them, you say goodnight to them. It is an all day every day.”

He said he had always enjoyed saying goodbye to the cast and crew because it meant he would soon get to have another “family”.

His musical picks included Police And Thieves by The Clash, the live laughing version of Are You Lonesome Tonight? by Elvis Presley and Heroes sung in German by David Bowie, who he described as his “idol”.

For his book he chose one featuring photography of cities and streets and his luxury item was a wind-up radio.

Desert Island Discs is on BBC Sounds as well as on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday at 11am.

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