Paul Bettany wishes he hadn’t been “such a waster” when he was younger.
The 42-year-old actor left school aged 16, following the death of his brother, to live on his own as a street performer. During his struggles, Paul turned to substances to get by – an experience he now regrets.
“I wish I had not been such a waster, with no sense of direction. And I wish I had never taken cocaine. I spent most of my late teens either busking to make money or sleeping in people’s gardens after a night out. There was too much booze and drugs and not enough action in my life,” he admitted to British newspaper The Sun.
“My main aim at 18 was to get the best pitch on Waterloo Bridge in London to play my guitar and busk to earn some money. I had been a school drop-out and did not know where I was going in life. So if any young person says to me: ‘I don’t know what to do,’ I know exactly how they feel.”
Paul’s career began on the stage after he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company. While it wasn’t the break he hoped for, the actor found this experience resulted in him getting clean.
“I got a job at the Royal Shakespeare Company, but was feeling under pressure. I was living in Stratford-upon-Avon, home of Shakespeare, appearing in Shakespeare plays. I did not live up to it. It was not helped by a review in a national newspaper which described me as the ‘blond and bland’ Paul Bettany,” he recalled.
“I was telling one highly experienced actor that I was thinking of leaving. This b*****d, who shall remain nameless, said something in Latin which I did not understand. I asked what it meant. He said: ‘Know your place.’ And when I left? I did not work for eight months. It was during this time that I finally gave up drugs, which I had taken on and off.”
His life took a positive turn when he met his wife Jennifer Connelly. The couple have two children together, along with Jennifer’s son from a previous relationship.
“I also got lucky when I met Jennifer. We met on the film A Beautiful Mind [in 2001], for which Jennifer won an Oscar as best supporting actress. We were both in other relationships at the time, so nothing went on during filming. I thought, ‘If something interesting is going to happen, then it eventually will,’” he recalled.
“When Jennifer came to London for the BAFTA awards, we realized that there was something special between us. It was a long, slow process. If anyone had told me at 18 that I would be married to a beautiful woman like her, living in New York with a lovely family and successful career, I would have said that they were on drugs!”
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