Arthur Miller told Warren Mitchell: ‘You’re precisely how I usually imagined Willy to be.’ Photograph: Reg Wilson/Rex
In 1975, Warren Mitchell and I, playing father and son, have been rehearsing a scene from Moss, a BBC Play for Right now, by Bernard Kops. Throughout a black comedy moment, I had to mouth off in a horribly lairy manner to Warren, who was lying on a bed semi-comatose with guilt and grief. He sat up, began laughing in the middle of it, and, when the director Philip Saville asked him why, blurted out: “Him … He’s just like me when I was a young actor.”
It was an affectionate moment and one particular that was to pay huge dividends for me just a couple of years later when the National Theatre announced the revival of Arthur Miller’s masterpiece Death of a Salesman, with Warren playing the fantastic tragic hero Willy Loman.
Without my realizing, Warren had suggested me to the director, Michael Rudman, for the component of Loman’s troubled eldest son Biff. I was summoned to the National to study the portion with Rudman, which went nicely sufficient for us to go to his office exactly where he telephoned Warren at house and asked if he would come in proper away and read with me. I heard his familiar voice crackling by way of the earpiece in unmistakable fashion. “Right away? You will be fortunate, I’m having my fucking lunch.” “Alright, when can you get right here?” “When I arrive.” He hung up. “He’ll be right here within the hour,” said Michael.
We fell into the scenes as if we had been rehearsing them for weeks and, during 1 of them, Michael named out: “All appropriate Stephen, that’s adequate.” I looked over at him in confusion. “You’ve got the component.”
Warren was chuckling, but also extremely emotional. He knew what this meant for me, just as he knew what it meant for him to be playing Willy Loman. We all had a renowned, satisfied and productive run in Rudman’s fine production. Arthur Miller came more than from Connecticut to work with us and on meeting Warren for the very first time in the stalls of the Lyttleton Theatre remarked: “Amazing. You’re specifically how I constantly imagined Willy to be.”
The show became one of the National’s all-time winners with Warren deservedly carrying off each main theatre acting award going, such as the coveted Laurence Olivier award. Rudman and I have been also nominated for one particular of those, but lost out. Warren wandered back to our table brandishing his award in 1 hand and a flute of fizz in the other. He took one appear at our faces and proclaimed, in a glass-shattering voice: “What’s the matter with you two, cannot you even win a fucking award?”