When I was a little boy I had one hero – one hero, that is, before Roger Bannister ran the sub 4 minute mile – and that hero was Superman.
As soon as I set eyes on the serial my little boy's life changed.
I got all the comics and remember him going back and meeting Helen of Troy and not believing her when she said she came from the fifth century before Christ by asking how she would know about Christ if she died before Christ was born; loads of other stuff I learned which I have forgotten about now, but I was such a young little lad that I didn't realise that Lois and Clark's names were based on - Lewis and Clark, the pioneers that discovered America by land and claimed the North West for the United States – or something like that.
In fact, who knows, Lois and Clark might not have been based on the great 19th Century explorers at all, but I didn't care; I became Superman and I told my brothers.
They didn't believe me till one of them asked where my cloak was and I told them; under the bed, of course.
I showed it to them; there was a dark thing under there and they might have believed me. Our bedroom window was over a bay window so I could get out quite easily, walk along the ledge and shimmy down before they made it to the window to see where I'd gone.
I never actually tried to run along the garden and fly; that surprises me now thinking back on it but maybe in my heart of hearts I knew I wasn't really Superman at all and didn't want to face up to reality.
When he was old enough I took my son to see Superman at the movies and when I took him up to bed each night after that I would hold him out so he could fly up the stairs with his fist clenched like Christopher Reeve; his son likes Superman too and flies to bed each night in the same way, I should think.
But I dreamed of flying; I dreamt loads of times about it and I still do; I don't fly like Superman I lift up from the ground and I can travel but . . . I always have a problem landing.
When I saw Birdman – the film – the other day, it all came back to me.
He lifted up and flew at one point.
And I wondered how he was going to land!!
And I wondered how he was going to land!!
Now this is strange because the film appeared to be shot in one long continuous take – it wasn't, I know, but it appeared to be; at the beginning of the film he is sitting in his dressing room (Michael Keaton brilliantly plays an actor in a play) levitating.
It is a film about the production of a play – when he leaves the dressing room to rehearse a scene, he says to his assistant (played by the brilliant Zach Galifianakis) 'try and stop so and so acting' which is one thing the Americans always try to do as they don't like overacting.
There was also a lot of script improvising in their play – why say three lines when you've already said it in one – theories about art: what it is and isn't etc.
A terrible woman, wonderfully played by Lindsay Duncan is the critic of the New York Times who can, and threatens, to close the play.
"I'll kill your play" she says.
A lot of it's fantasy mixed with reality but I would recommend it to everybody especially actors so when I got home and went to bed and slept I . .
. . . didn't dream about flying at all; not yet in any case.
Someone once told me that if you fly in your dreams you have illusions of grandeur – well maybe I do; I mean why else am I an actor? Sometimes I do wonder.
If I am doing my one man show – either of them – I just go on and do it, but when I'm not doing it, like now, I wonder where I get the audacity from; I have been doing solo performances for fifteen years and each time I get involved I still wonder if it will come off; maybe it has something to do with my flying dreams where I fly like Birdman. Not like Superman who goes head forward; maybe I'll fly like Superman in my dreams one day.
Sometimes when I can't get to sleep I think about a tall building in North Acton; I worked there plenty of times for the BBC years ago, and the canteen was on the top floor.
If it was sunny people would sit outside to eat and looking over the wall we could see, through the mist, Greater London.
I lie in bed sometimes and think of that building; walking over to the door of the veranda, getting on to the wall and floating across London.
I can feel the wind in my face as I fly like Superman; I can see the tube train below, the A40 road before it became a motorway and I head west over green grass and winding traffic.
But I don't go very far as Superman; I doze off and go into another world; another world where I no longer fly like Superman but like Michal Keaton in Birdman.
Up right and proper wearing an overcoat.