Here’s a fun, odd question… about Classics, as you read Classics at university. The Classical world both historically and mythologically is full of great stories and great characters. Do you harbour any secret ambitions to play a particular character from that canon?
Oh my god, that’s a great question, man! Wow. Gosh. I’d need about three hours to go back and look at my notes. My two favourite characters, I think, are Odysseus from the Odyssey and Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and song.
Odysseus is, I think, the greatest hero in any story, because he spends ten years in Troy, and then it takes him another ten years to get home. And when he gets back, of all the Greeks who fought in Troy, he’s the only one whose wife is still faithful, Penelope. And the journey, just the journey of it! I remember someone told me the story of the Odyssey in a picture book at age seven, and those monsters, the Cyclops!
The fact that Odysseus’ men are told not to eat the cattle on this island, because they belong to the sun, but they’re so hungry that they eat the cattle of the sun, and then they’re punished by the Cyclops. Or the sea god, Poseidon, has this massive vendetta against Odysseus, and doesn’t want him to get home.
Or King Aeolus, who had all of the adverse winds in his command. He loved Odysseus, he thought he was a good guy. He said, “I’m going to help you get home. I’m going to give you a bag, and inside this bag are all the adverse winds, which means that you’ll have a favorable passage back to Ithaca, and you’ll be home in three days. Don’t tell your men, and don’t open it, and don’t sleep.”
So they sail for three days, and on the morning of the third day, as the sun’s coming up, he sees the shores of Ithaca, only five hours’ sail away. And he’s so happy, that he sits down at the prow of his ship, and with tears in his eyes and the sun on his face, he falls asleep.
His men on the ship think that he’s got a bag of money that he’s not going to share, and they’re whispering between themselves, saying, “Look, Odysseus has clearly got this bag of money and loot, and he’s not going to share it out, let’s nab it before he wakes up”. So they take the bag, and they open it, and all the adverse winds blow around the sky and blow them all the way back to where they started.
The moral of the story is, be careful at the finish line. It ain’t over, ‘til it’s over. This is one of the great metaphors. If you’re undertaking a job, whether it’s cleaning a kitchen or finishing a movie, or writing a book, or going to the gym, or running a race, be careful at the finish line.
And you’ve got Scylla and Charybdis, and Calypso, this crazy witch who falls in love with Odysseus and keeps him on her island for two years… I could just go on with that story, I think it’s amazing.
And then Dionysus would be great, because I think that Dionysus is such an interesting character, because he’s the god of so many things. In Athens, one of the very first theatres, the formal theatres of performing arts in Western civilisation was a festival in Athens called the City Dionysia, which was dedicated to him. And they had this competition, it was a bit like the X Factor. All these playwrights came together and competed for who had the best play. And they were dedicated to Dionysus, and Dionysus was… I guess he was the god of performing. Without him, there’d be no actors.