What makes a good James Bond? British? Of course. Scottish? Even better. Can he play brutish but vulnerable? It worked for the last one. Does he look sharp in a tux? See above. But what about a wry, natural humour? Because we haven’t seen that for a while. And yet far from the troubled action man he built for Bodyguard – and even further from the princes and pretty boys that was almost his typecast – it’s his knowing wit and bone-dry quips that explain why Richard Madden is odds-on to make Double-O status. Oh, and guess what? He even drinks Vodka Martinis.

Richard Madden has a habit of putting himself in situations that are, if he’s to tell you honestly, the worst possible situations he can possibly imagine himself being in.

For instance, he hates singing, says he can’t sing, says being forced to sing is pretty much one of his worst nightmares, says, “Thank fuck for autotune!” when I point out he’s in an upcoming Elton John musical, Rocketman, that requires him to sing rather a lot. And yet tomorrow, he says, he’s doing “Carpool Karaoke”, where he’ll be singing. When I say I thought that was only for actual singers, he corrects me. “No. Stupid people too.” By which he means: people who say yes.

People. That’s another one. Madden has an issue with them. He thinks, he says, that they’re all looking at him. Of course, he’s right about that. They are. We meet for lunch in The Wolseley in London’s Mayfair – a venue he selected, though one, you might argue, that’s not ideal for paranoid agoraphobics – and as Madden walks across the floor to me, wearing a chunky-knit navy rollneck and the expression of a man bracing for impact, the heads of diners left and right turn like spectators following a tennis point. Is that… Yes. It’s the bodyguard from Bodyguard, the man who a week ago was reported to have been offered the role of 007 to succeed Daniel Craig, the star of a show whose finale was confirmed by the BBC a few days earlier as the most watched drama episode since records began, an actor who was already TV famous after his star-making turn as Robb Stark in Game Of Thrones, but is suddenly Coca-Cola famous thanks to something everyone said had died: appointment TV, water-cooler TV, Twitter-trending-no-spoilers-please-for-the-love-of-God-no-spoilers TV. And that is all well and good and great and, of course, it is why we are here. But also: people.

“It does no favours to the old paranoia and general anxiety,” he says once he’s sat down. “Your paranoia is actually real.”

Another paranoia that’s actually real: photographers in the trees outside his flat. Photographers hiding underneath the cars outside his flat (“So you can’t see them”). But they’re there, he says. They’re really there. To combat them, Madden has set up various WhatsApp groups of friends and neighbours, who act as a spotter network, effectively papping the paps. You see: proof! (“They send me pictures of them and say, ‘This one’s outside. Here’s his car.’”)

“You can think that in your head,” says Madden, “and then there’s literally photographers in the trees. My biggest fear has become real.”

Fire. That’s another big fear. And he must keep entering buildings that could potentially catch on fire. So for every building he enters, Madden will first check where the fire exit is and only then can he settle down, safe in the knowledge he has an escape route. When he checks into a hotel, the routine is always the same: no sooner has he thrown his bags on his bed than he’s striding back down the corridor to find the fire escape. This is a habit, he says, that comes primarily from his father, who’s a fireman, but also, you suspect, from his nature as someone not particularly fond of long goodbyes or, indeed, goodbyes of any length. When he finishes a job, he refuses to say goodbye to the people he’s worked with and got close to, but rather, just says, “See you tomorrow”, even though he knows he won’t see them tomorrow and even though they know they won’t see him tomorrow. But “See you tomorrow” is what he says, because it’s just too painful for him to do the other thing.

And then, finally, there’s this interview, of which he says at one point: “I’m shit at interviews. I’m terrified. I’m terrified of myself, that I’m not interesting enough.”

Which, of all the unexpected and interesting and sometimes slightly strange things that Richard Madden will say to me, might actually be the most unexpected and most interesting and most strange, as nothing could be further from the truth. Madden is not shit at these things. He is actually great at these things. He’s candid and unpretentious and wry and speaks in paragraphs built to be quoted in full and possesses the kind of offhand wit only possessed by the genuinely funny.

But, as he’ll tell me, he is often terrified. So who knows? He might be right about that.

“How the hell did that happen?” says Madden, once we’re settled and he has ordered his lunch: an eggs Benedict where the poached eggs, once arrived, won’t so much be carefully sliced into as mixed, like a plasterer preparing paste, and spread like an eggy jam. It is, quite frankly, a heroic way to eat eggs Benedict. It is also a fair question.

Before Bodyguard first aired on BBC One, there was the kind of polite anticipation for it that generally comes with a Radio Times cover (it was, after all, from Jed Mercurio, creator of the popular Line Of Duty series), but hardly saw people stripping in the streets in excitement.

The setup seemed simple enough. Madden was to play Sergeant David Budd, a former Afghanistan war vet turned bodyguard for the home secretary, played by Keeley Hawes. It did not remain simple. Bodyguard crammed so much into each episode it occasionally felt like a series of newspaper front pages that all happened to one guy. Suicide bombs! Scandal! Sex! Assassination! Terror! Corruption!

The action was genuinely thrilling. The sex was genuinely sexy. The twists were tailor-made for Twitter. The home secretary’s speech could have gone better.

But at the heart of it all was Madden, a 32-year-old actor who, until that point, had been getting worryingly close to simply being known as “that guy from Game Of Thrones”, or possibly “that guy from Game Of Thrones who got killed”, or maybe even – and most worryingly of all for him – “that guy who plays a lot of princes”.

Fair to say that Budd – swapping tunic for suit, loyal armies for an estranged wife, PTSD replacing heroic jaw-clenching – was something of a departure.

Madden’s performance was brilliant, but it was the second episode that really kicked off the Connery/Bond comparisons, as a suited Madden blind-reversed a car out of gunfire, grabbed a semiautomatic weapon and went hunting for the assailant on a nearby rooftop. It didn’t hurt that he’s Scottish.

Bodyguard started with 14 million viewers and ended on 17m. And so, as Madden says to me now, “How the hell did that happen? I still don’t believe it in my head.”

Filming the six one-hour episodes took five months. As his character divides this time fairly equally between being shot at, wearing suicide vests and pondering suicide, it took its toll.

“We were just so deep in, you don’t really know what’s going on any more,” he says. “People will say, ‘Did you know it was going to be a hit?’ You go, ‘I was just trying to survive it. I’m just trying to get to the end of the week.’”

I tell him I read he had a few sleepless nights, but he corrects me.

“I had a lot of sleepless nights. When you spend all day in someone else’s clothes, saying someone else’s words, thinking someone else’s thoughts and it’s all grim shit, that can’t help but filter into your life, because you’re doing that six days a week. That weighs down on you.”

Is that… useful, I ask, for the role?

“Yeah. But not so useful for your health… It’s not fun to do it. It takes its toll doing it. You go home hollow. At night you’re dreaming about it.”

All of which could be interpreted as typical actorly talk about throwing oneself into a role and how deep the dive was. But it soon becomes clear it’s more than this. After he finished the shoot, he says, he felt so drained he genuinely wanted to quit acting altogether. Really?

“Yeah. I finished Bodyguard and didn’t want to act again. Really. It had taken so much out of me physically, mentally and personally. I didn’t see any of my friends for months, unless they came to set. It was just relentless. You didn’t get a day off. My character doesn’t get a second off. It took more out of me that anything else I’ve done.”

So… second series then?

He laughs. “I mean, I’m meeting Jed next week actually on that front.” He can’t, he says, imagine Budd going back to work the next week and saying, “Right, where’s my next principal?” After all: “He did walk through Central London with a bomb vest on.”

Though one change, he says, would involve the genuine (and heavy) bulletproof vest he was made to wear. Halfway through shooting, he says, a real bodyguard – one of the show’s consultants – said to him, “Why are you wearing that then, mate?”

“It’s what they do,” Madden replied.

“You wouldn’t wear that,” said the bodyguard. “They can see you’re a bodyguard then, can’t they?”

“And I was like, ‘Exactly!’ I tried to explain that to them at the start.”

He even realised his fellow actors weren’t wearing them either. Richard Riddell, who played a fellow police officer, said to him one day, “Just don’t put it on if you don’t want to wear it.”

Madden: “He got away without having to wear one for the whole thing! I should have been as smart as him.” Ironically, the part of Bodyguard that people assumed was the most unrealistic – the central plot point of a bodyguard having an affair with the “principal” they’re protecting – was actually anything but.

“It’s funny. A lot of people online were saying, ‘This is so unrealistic that they would have got together and ended up having sex.’ The bodyguards I spoke to, without naming certain names, were like, yeah, totally fucked their principals. You get really into it with these people. So those things definitely happen. There’s a couple of stories… unrepeatable stories…”

But maybe one repeatable one?

He laughs. “No. I want to tell you, but I can’t.”

He agrees to tell me one off the record. And he’s right: it’s unrepeatable.

When Madden finished his last scene for Game Of Thrones in 2012 as “King In The North” Robb Stark – a scene notable for starting off as a wedding but ending up with his mother’s throat slit, his pregnant wife’s stomach shivved and his own character crossbow-bolted and beheaded; Thrones never did have a laugh track – he didn’t, he says, hang around for the afterparty or even say his goodbyes to cast mates. This, I will learn, is his thing. Rather, he went straight from the set to the airport and took a night flight back to London.

When he first mentioned this to me, at the GQ cover shoot, I’d assumed this was because he had another job to get to.

“No,” he says now. “I just wanted to leave. I just wanted to get out.”

He didn’t even have time to change, he says, and so boarded the flight wearing a medieval tunic covered in fake blood. No sooner had he sat down than he was overcome with the emotion of it all and started crying.

“I sobbed and sobbed on that Friday. I was hysterical actually. I was so exhausted. I cried all the way home.”

The air stewardess kept asking if he was OK.

“And then people moved and the rows behind me moved. I was sobbing and covered in blood. I looked like I’d murdered someone and got on that flight.”

He never said goodbye then, just like he didn’t say goodbye after the last day on Bodyguard and on every other thing he’s ever done. I ask if it’s because he finds it too emotional, that if he’s going to sob, he’d rather do it alone, or at least at 40,000 feet with mildly terrified strangers.

“No. I don’t care about that. It’s just… I just don’t like saying goodbye. I don’t like things being over. I never have. And Thrones was such a big closing chapter in my life.” And so he did what he always does: he said, “See you tomorrow” and left.

Did he feel a bit cheated, I wonder, being unceremoniously crossbowed out after just three series when his more fortunate cast mates will finish next year after eight?

“No. I was ready to leave when I did. It was five years from the pilot until I finished filming. For any actor, five years is too long to play a part. I didn’t feel cheated at all. I was ready to leave.”

Which is not to say he was confident in his post-Thrones life.

“Terrified,” he says. “Terrified that you’re never going to work again. Terrified that you’re just going to be defined by one thing. That it was a fluke accident and that anyone who got cast as Robb Stark would have had the success of that. And it just happened that it was you when it could have been someone else.” And also, of course, “Terrified of just getting cast as Romeos, princes and young kings.”

The fear wasn’t exactly unfounded – he’d already played Romeo at this point and would do again. His first major film role post-Thrones was playing Prince Charming in Disney’s live-action remake of Cinderella. His major post-Thrones TV series: Medici: Masters Of Florence, where he essentially played the Robb Stark of the Renaissance.

Watching Bodyguard as a Game Of Thrones fan is interesting. Even if you’re a die-hard, it’s remarkable how little the character of Robb Stark – and by extension all the princes of various levels of charming that he’s played – comes to mind. I had to keep reminding myself it was the same actor.

Partly, this is simply talent, of course. But his accent – Madden used his native Glaswegian burr for the first time in a major role – sure doesn’t hurt.

Was that something he insisted on?

“Yeah. I said to Jed in the first meeting I wanted [Budd] to be Scottish. It just made it a bit easier to get a sense of him. I did work for so many years and not been Scottish in anything. I was like, ‘You know what? I just want to do my own accent.’”

I say it’s a compliment to his “Yorkshire” accent in Game Of Thrones that I wasn’t even aware he was Scottish.

“That’s funny. You know, the Stark family [in Thrones] weren’t actually supposed to speak with a Northern accent when we started.” What, really? “We were all supposed to be RP. Then Sean Bean came in and just said, ‘I’m not doing that. I’m just gonna be myself.’ So that’s when they were like, ‘Right, the dialect coach has to teach everyone to do this accent now…’”

If Madden was happy to leave Thrones and what he calls the Thrones “porno sex” behind (“Soft-focused and lying down on furs by fire. It was like Seventies porno. My wife kept her knee-high boots on. It was all about the Game Of Thrones porno sex”), it did mean leaving the money behind too.

Madden has previously said people think he’s rich because of the show, but that “when I signed up for it I was 22 with fuck-all on my CV, so I was paid fuck-all”.

That’s surely, I say, no longer the case with the new contracts his former cast mates negotiated. Did they get put on a lot more money after he left? “Fuck yeah.”

How much are we talking about? Three times more? He shakes his head and grins.

“Crazy much more.”

Ten times more?


Twenty times?

He raises his eyebrows as if to say keep going.

Fifty times?

“I know roughly what some of the leads get now,” he says. “And we’re talking changing the decimal place by a few. That would have been nice, but at the same time I look back at all the different jobs I’ve done since I finished and I look at some of the actors who I love on that show and they’ve not maybe had the opportunity to do those things, because they’ve been tied to the show, whereas I’ve played a lot more different parts.”

Which is both true and yet feels incomplete.

It was only with Bodyguard that Madden was no longer still tied to Thrones, six years after he left. As if to prove it, his next role – which he finished shooting the day before we met – is as Elton John’s manager/lover John Reid in biography-cum-musical fantasy Rocketman, which is about as far away from Robb Stark and the world of Thrones as it is possible to get.

He hasn’t met the real Elton yet, he says, who’s played by Taron Egerton. “I think he came in, saw sets, costumes, jewellery and stuff, and said, ‘All right, see you in Cannes!’”

He remembers having lunch with the director, Dexter Fletcher, who played him a tape of Egerton singing “Rocket Man”, “and that was the game-changer. I heard it fresh, but in a very Elton way, but it was Taron.” He went to Abbey Road to meet Egerton the next day (“which was exciting”) and read a couple of scenes. And that was it. He’d assumed he hadn’t got it. “It was supposed to be an hour-long meeting and I was out in 15 minutes.” He was so angry at this certainty (“I just thought I was shit”), he walked for two hours, annoyed with himself. He then got on a flight and after turning his phone off, decided he wasn’t going to turn it back on and didn’t for a day and a half.

“I didn’t even want them to tell me I didn’t get it. That’s how much I knew I didn’t get it.” Cut to his agent finally getting through, telling him he’d got the part and asking why his phone had been off for two days. “When I decide to do something, that’s it. I’m an extremist in that way.” Of the film, he says, besides being very thankful for autotune, he’s most proud of the fact that “We know Elton for all his flamboyancy and have preconceived ideas a lot of the time about gay relationships in film and television. But they’re just two men in a relationship and I’m really proud of that, that we’re not defining it by their sexuality.” But generally, he says, “I’m thrilled. Now Bodyguard works and you go, ‘Shit, I can act. Maybe it’s not just a fluke every time.’ Of course, saying that now I’ve jinxed it.”

If you want one explanation as to why Richard Madden finds it hard to have faith in Richard Madden, despite everyone else’s faith in Richard Madden, one explanation might be found in his childhood, which saw Richard Madden bullied relentlessly.

He grew up in Elderslie, a small village just outside the town of Paisley, around eleven miles west of Glasgow. “It was a difficult place to be,” he says. “There’s not a huge industry in that town any more. It was rough. My high school was really rough.”

He was shy, overweight, self-conscious and had no interest in sport. Or, to put it another way, bully bait.

Growing up, he says, “was just constant humiliation really”. He spent a lot of the time in the woods near his house, as it was always somewhere he could escape to. “Yeah. I liked the woods. I’d spend a lot of time in the forest to get away.”

He went to youth theatre “to try to get a bit more confidence in myself”, and while he did gain confidence in acting, it didn’t work out that way with his classmates.

“Yeah, in hindsight maybe not the best move to try and fit into a rough, very masculine kind of school to say, ‘Hello. Now I do song and dance!’”

So then they beat you up twice as hard?

“Yeah. Exactly.”

You got bullied a lot?

“Yeah. Who didn’t?”

Actually, I say, most people didn’t. I think bullied kids rationalise it by thinking it happened to everyone, but it didn’t really. It happened to the bullied kids.

“Yeah, well,” he says. “I definitely did.”

So he threw himself into acting. He remembers that his father, a fireman, would get up at 4am to drive him to an audition or to a set, while he slept in the back with a duvet (“I’m always very thankful for that”). His first ever job, at eleven, was in an adaptation of the Iain Banks novel Complicity.

“And I get raped in it by a big, mid-fifties ginger Scotsman. Now, when you’re eleven or 12 years old, kids don’t differentiate that that’s not real. So going into high school, here’s this big fat gay actor guy who got raped. That’s how you start off high school. So humiliation came from that really. And it rolled on from that too.”

On sets, where food was always available, he started overeating. He was always a tubby child, but he started to balloon.

“I was just eating too much. You’re constantly given food all day! Three meals a day. Stacked. When you’re 12 you’re like, ‘Yeah!’ And I didn’t have many friends, as I was on set, working with adults.” Plus, he adds, PlayStation got invented.

At 12, he says, “I had a 38-inch waist. I mean, Christ alive. I didn’t wear denim until I was 19 cos my mum couldn’t take jeans out. So I wore fucking chinos.” During his teens, he says, “I looked like an accountant.” The combo was not a happy one. “It went down like a shit sandwich.”

It still affects him, he says, to this day: the people looking at him. Back then, it was because he was big and bullied. Now, it’s because he’s handsome and famous. Yet he still finds it hard to separate the two.

“Every day. Yeah. You’ve got people looking at you. I think that did fuck me up as a kid and is still a huge hangover around me today.”

He only really remembers, he says, one proper fight. Or, at least, the start of one.

He was 14. During PE, one classmate “who used to bully the shit out of me” kept taunting him, “Just laying in. ‘You’re fat! You’re fat!’”

Madden thought that if he fought him, he’d doubtless get the crap kicked out of him, but on the other hand, “At least it’ll be done with and he’ll stop terrorising me.”

So Madden asked him, “Do you want to fight at lunchtime?” The other boy said sure, but when lunch came, decided he wanted to eat first – then fight. Madden agreed, before deciding, no: he takes his beatings before lunch.

And so, Madden marched over to Tasty Bites, where his nemesis was about to order a sausage roll, offered him outside and a crowd quickly gathered, something not uncommon at his school, as fights happened on a strict daily schedule. He remembers his friend saying, “Get the first punch in!”

Madden was just about to swing this punch when, out of nowhere, he suddenly felt a hand on his shoulder and found himself dragged backwards through the crowd and deposited on the bonnet of a car. The unseen assailant? His mother. “My fucking mum!”

A classroom assistant, she had been passing, got a flat tyre, got out, saw her son about to swing his first ever punch in his first ever fight and decided to save him. And that, he tells me, “was a whole new humiliation”. Still, he reflects, he never got into another fight after that, as “any time anyone would want one, they’d go, ‘Your mum will come, won’t she?’ My mum saved me, in a way. My mum was my bodyguard back then.”

Richard Madden lets out a groan when he clocks the question that’s coming.

So, I begin, the Mail On Sunday reported last week that you’re set to be offered…

And that’s when I hear it: the pained expression of the young British actor being forced to talk about speculation that they might be the next James Bond – a sort of hazing initiation for those who’ve done the Donmar.

“My first reaction,” says Madden, “is always the same reaction, which is the papers make up a story on a Sunday so they can discredit that story on the Monday so they can sell papers on both days.”

Sure, I say, but at the same time, the bookies aren’t making Jonah Hill the current favourite to be Britain’s favourite super spy, are they?

“They aren’t, no, but this is what happens with all these shows, like Tom Hiddleston in The Night Manager. Then there’s the next one. I’m the next one. Everyone just loves the rumour mill on that topic. I’m just the current one. There’ll be a different one next week.”

All of which is pretty hard to argue with. But still, I say, nice to be mentioned all the same.

“Lovely. I’m more than flattered to be mentioned, for people to consider putting me in that role. I’m very flattered and thankful. It’s a really brilliant thing to be in.”

Just for the record, then, you wouldn’t rule it out?

“I don’t want to curse anything by saying anything. I think that’s the curse of that. If you talk about it, you’ll curse it.”

He will admit, however, that he is a big Bond fan.

“Yeah. I love the movies. I’ve read all the books.”

You’ve read all the books?


From what age?

“Early teens, I think.”

Understandably, this is all Madden will say on the subject. So I conduct a mini straw poll of those close to him. Should Richard Madden be James Bond?

Lily James, costar in Cinderella and Romeo And Juliet: “He’d be great! It would be great having a Scottish Bond. There’s a cheekiness to him that works really well with Bond. That wryness and glint behind the eyes. You don’t know what’s going to come next.”

Jed Mercurio, Bodyguard creator: “I think the only thing more tedious than Bond rumours is people who actually give their opinion, which no one gives a shit about.”

Kit Harington, costar in Game Of Thrones: “I don’t want to curse him. Any time anyone starts to get rumoured for Bond, it becomes a curse on them. And the reason I don’t want to do that is that I actually do think he would make a very good Bond. He’s got this natural charm. He’s proven with Bodyguard that he has that muscle for it. And wouldn’t it be nice to go back to a Scottish Bond?”

I report back to Madden. “Very nice of them,” he says dryly. “Thanks very much for talking about that…”

I mention, also, that James let slip that he would regularly have a Vodka Martini after each evening performance of Romeo And Juliet, which feels like it’s making my job a little too easy.

He laughs. “I do like a Martini, yeah. Fucking hell, Lily. Will you keep your mouth shut? They do a really good one here actually.”

And he is currently, I say, driving around in a very Bond-esque car, a silver F-Type Jaguar.

“Well,” he says, “I met a guy at a party and he happens to run the Jaguar Land Rover things and he said, ‘Do you want a car?’ I said, ‘I’d love an F-Type.’ He went, ‘Great, I’ll get one over to you.’ I mean, it’s a rocket ship. I love it. It can’t be real. Perks of the job. I’m not complaining.”

After our lunch, I contact the Scottish novelist Andrew O’Hagan, a good friend of Madden, who grew up not far from him, in a similarly working-class suburb of Glasgow. They first met in 2008, when Madden, 18 years his junior, starred in Be Near Me, a stage adaptation of O’Hagan’s novel. “We clicked immediately,” O’Hagan tells me. They’ve been close ever since.

Despite Madden telling me he can’t imagine anything worse than public speaking (“I can stand in front of 2,000 naked easily if I’m in character, but standing up at my mate’s wedding, doing a speech, crushing”), he did indeed recently give such a speech, in Glasgow Cathedral, at O’Hagan’s wedding.

Bodyguard had started the week before, so the entire place was swarming with photographers, but, says O’Hagan, “Richard just stood for pictures with everyone and drank his share. It’s what I like most about him: he’s dedicated to his work, but he knows where he’s from.” O’Hagan remembers Madden’s mother and father were also there and he’d always liked this about him too: “That closeness to family and the idea that if the tide rises, we all rise together.”

Madden read Robert Burns’ first poem, “Handsome Nell”, mainly because O’Hagan’s daughter, Nell, would be in the front row and O’Hagan didn’t want her to feel left out. He says Madden didn’t need this explained to him and “used that voice of his and read the poem directly to Nell and she nearly fainted. That’s what you call a pal.”

Ask O’Hagan to share some of the main memories of his friend and he has a few. The one that springs most to mind, he says, was a house party that O’Hagan once threw in London’s Belsize Park.

“And the Italian novelist Umberto Eco was there demanding whiskey,” starts O’Hagan, in what must count as one of the great opening sentences of any anecdote. In fact, O’Hagan says, “several grandees” were in attendance, but O’Hagan was in the kitchen attending to stew, so Madden, then 24 and not yet famous, was tasked with attending to guests.

“The hilarity of it I’ll never forget,” says O’Hagan, “because, while being nice as pie to the self-important guests, he’d notice every terrible thing about them and report as soon as he arrived back in the kitchen. I stood at the stove killing myself laughing and when I came into the room they were all beaming. Richard was their favourite person ever. He’s great like that. He’s a natural comedian. And he knows how to live several lives at once.”

Another time, O’Hagan remembers the two of them were in Paris, in 2011, outside the bookshop Shakespeare And Company, and bumped into Ethan Hawke talking to the shop’s manager, who O’Hagan knew.

“Richard had just appeared to great acclaim in a play at the Donmar and had already got the job in Game Of Thrones,” says O’Hagan, “but he didn’t say a single word to Hawke about also being an actor. We were two single Scottish guys out on the razz in Paris and that suited Richard fine.”

They were staying, says O’Hagan, in adjacent Paris apartments and, true to Madden’s nature, almost as soon as they dropped their bags, he’d already located every escape. “He had the whole place scoped out.”

When I later ask Madden about it, he puts this down, simply, to practicalities. “Well, you know what it’s like in Paris. They’re like little rabbit holes. You need to know how to get out.”

As a fireman, his father had seen “so many horrific things, things that happened in buildings that people can’t get out of. It’s something he put into me and my sisters.”

O’Hagan says that he always looks for the fire exits too. But he puts the compulsion down to something else.

“In my opinion,” he says, “it’s less to do with fear of death than fear of not being prepared. He wants to know what his options are. If you asked me point-blank, I’d say he has a fear of not being free. And that’s quite a working-class thing.”

I later speak to Madden over the phone. He is in LA, doing American press for Bodyguard, which is about to land internationally on Netflix. It’s 31C, which is unfortunate, he says, as he’d packed several jumpers. “I didn’t plan this very well.”

I mention O’Hagan’s theory to him.

“I think that’s a good way to put it,” he says simply. “Yeah. I think so. Growing up, I always strived for my independence.”

Tomorrow, he says, he’s about to fly away to sit on a beach for a week with his girlfriend, the actor Ellie Bamber. But after that, he says, he’ll do what he always does after he’s finished a job. On his own, he’ll board a flight to Scotland, get into the wilderness and start walking. He’s under no illusions where this compulsion comes from. They’re the woods, or a version of them, that he went to as a child. The place he could escape.

“Yeah. That’s maybe where I get my wanting to be out. I feel like I should lie down and give you £100.”

But also, now, it’s something else too. It’s where the paps can no longer find him. “It’s not worth a picture that much!” It’s where people no longer touch him.

“You spend long days surrounded by people,” he says. “People literally touching your body and your face all day.” And so, he says, “I go away and I climb some hills – where no one is fucking with me.”

Interviews From 2018

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