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Question: How has geography shaped you?

Michael York:  I was born in England near Oxford and grew up in, mostly in southern England.  So that very much shaped the way I speak and my culture.  And went to school there, went to Oxford University and then you know, in the profession I chose, I very luckily got to work in the States.  I married an American and have lived here since the early '70s.

Question: What inspired you to become an actor?

Michael York:  Well you know, I keep puzzling about this, the actor's role.  As a young person I was enormously impressed reading things that Lawrence Olivier said, that the actor's function in society was as important as a psychiatrist, because he took it back to the old Shakespearian thing of holding the mirror up to nature and allowing people to understand what made people tick and how they related and so on, in a very user-friendly way of the drama, you know.  And then if you want to be really pretentious you take it back to you know, to Ancient Greece, what was happening there.  And this impressed me, also the fact that I found I had a facility for performing and enjoyed it.  And then in particular I was very lucky to live near London, in the suburbs.  And in the late '50s when I was about 16, a remarkable man called Michael Croft started the Youth Theater, which became over time, the National Youth Theater of Great Britain, very well respected and an integral part of English culture.  And there's hardly an actor of note, who hasn’t been through the Youth Theater.  I think of contemporaries Dame Helen Mirren and there's Daniel Craig and Derek Jack-- I mean everyone.  And this was important because at the age of 16 I was performing Shakespeare in Paris.  I was representing my nation, you know.  And so this, it became very heady and as I said, Oxford University was a great unofficial drama school because it was happening on every level from classical you know, culture to experimental theater to also comedy, particularly up in the Edinburgh Festival up on the Fringe.  You know, there was a great tradition of taking you know, a show.  And my contemporaries at Oxford were one half of the Monty Pythons, Michael Palin and Terry Jones.  And so we were doing that kind of comedy stuff.  They had the genius to take this and put it out into the wider world.  And God bless him for it.  So even at university I wasn’t sure that this was you know, what I wanted to do.  But I'd met so many academics who I felt had somehow had this interest in the drama, but had sort of stopped short of plunging into the unknown world of show business and had stayed in the familiar territories of academy and somehow were vicariously fulfilling their interest in the theater through their students.  I didn’t want that.  I thought well, I'll do it.  I don't want to live my life knowing I could have done it and hadn’t dared.  So I became an actor and I thought I'd see what you know, what happened.

 

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