Ray Winstone: What I've Learned

The uber-geezer talks skiing, feminism, and urinating on Ronnie Kray

More From What I've Learned
20 articles
Sacha Baron Cohen
Sacha Baron Cohen: What I've Learned
John Lydon
John Lydon On Trump, Punk And 'Selling Out'
Arnold Palmer: What I've Learned

I never had a lot to say to Andy Warhol but he seemed all right to me. It was these hangers-on all round him that were a bit weird, with the straight trousers, winklepickers and hair all over the gaff. It would have been around '78, '79 when I met him. That was in a New York club full of the best-looking birds who turned out to be geezers. A strange night.

Heaven is the happy things in life. Hell is the disasters. I believe in a god, but it probably has nothing to do with a church. Then again, it works for people. If you go to Italy, they have these festivals every now and then and it brings communities together. I like the idea of that.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

I'm from east London, though I live out in Essex now. My dad worked in Spitalfields Market and, before that, in the meat market. Then he became a greengrocer. He ended up as a cab driver.

Boxing teaches you respect, not just for your opponent but for other people. Hopefully you get that respect back. I boxed for England a couple of times as a boy. I remember the first match I had as a senior: the guy I was fighting had hairy legs and tattoos. I was only a kid. It's a different game.

Money can leave a bad taste in your mouth because it can make you forget why you started off doing what you do. Sometimes you learn that too late.

Certain girls you're shy of. There's always one. I was never a Don Juan. I'd loved to have been but it just wasn't me. For a little while I had a way of looking at a girl and then looking away at a certain point. You get your techniques and that seemed to work for me.

Raymondo's is my bar at my house. It's for family and mates. That's where we go to party and smoke a cigarette if we want. We've got a karaoke area. There are no fruit machines.

I once pissed all over Ronnie Kray, bless him. This was when I was a little baby. He picked me up and I did a wee.

When King Lear is done right it's a blinder. I thought about playing Lear a few years ago but something else was happening and I never did it. Then Tim Roth was going to make a film and I was going to be Lear in that but someone else got involved and they wanted Christopher Walken instead. So I got slammed to the side slightly. For Christopher Walken. OK. Sweet.

My music collection goes from classical all the way through to The Stranglers and Sex Pistols. Al Green, Marvin Gaye… all the Tamla [Motown] gear. Then I'll listen to Placido Domingo or fucking Puccini. If I like it then I like it. There's no ifs or buts about that.

I used to get my suits from Kilgour but I go to see Gresham Blake in Shoreditch now. He's very good. I like a nice, conservative kind of mohair.

If you want to get on in life get off your arse because it ain't going to come to you. And if it does come to you and you're not off your arse then you ain't going to keep it very long.

My mum died when I was 28. I don't think I ever got over it. It slowly dawned on me that I lost a certain emotion: for about a year I didn't have any patience. I wouldn't suffer fools. I will do now because it's easier.

I suddenly realised that I had to grow up because I didn't have my mum there any more. It seems that it is pain and bereavement that takes your youth away and turns you into… not the finished product… but it certainly puts you on the road to becoming an adult. I wish my mum could have seen my kids grow up, and my sister's kids. They've missed not knowing her. That would have been the icing on the cake. But you can't have everything.

I like to sing but I smoke too much now and I've probably lost what little voice I had. I was a bit of a crooner.

Sometimes you look at the human race and you think they're more barbaric than they've ever been. You try to teach your children that there is something better. Actually, your children teach you.

I've got a big derby at the moment. Derby Kelly — belly. I'm hanging out. That's just the way it is.

What's the secret to a happy marriage? Very rarely go home. No, we've had our moments — we have words — but there's no sulking. You have a row, you say your piece and that's it. Done and dusted.

I had a natural talent for skiing when I was younger but I never took it any further. Where are you going to ski in Plaistow?

I'm away such a lot and you can't go out and eat every night so I've learned to cook over the years. I do a nice puttanesca and I make a good stew and a roast beef. I don't do the washing up. I don't do the hoovering either. It just ain't in me to do that. I can't even say that I've attempted it.

If you're not handy and someone picks on you there's not a lot you can do. There are a lot of bullies out there. Kick 'em in the nuts or pick up a chair. Through boxing, you smell trouble and learn not to get into situations. You know what's coming so you can steer clear of it… if you want to.

In a lot of ways I would say I'm a feminist. Then again, on the other side of it, I've got old values. A bit schizophrenic there, I guess. I'm surrounded by women: I've got three daughters and a wife and a mother-in-law; I've got two pigs at home — big 'uns — and even they're girls.

"I'm the daddy now." I don't get it so much these days. I get the bet365 stuff now, which is fine. "Have a bang on that!"

I got nicked for a bank robbery in Leeds where two policemen got shot. My face was on Crimewatch! I first got pulled coming through Jersey after doing a Bergerac [Eighties' BBC detective show]. Later, they came to my house and I got banged up for 72 hours on a terrorist charge. I think they'd been watching too much TV.

Sometimes I think I've got worse as an actor. What happens is you're working in some great stuff and then, all of a sudden, you're doing certain films that come along and they ain't so great and you lose interest. You need something good to come along to get your juices going again.

Little things like West Ham scoring and winning make me happy. I like a cuddle, too. 

Young Winstone, published by Canongate, is out now

Who's the daddy?


Alan Partridge
Ozzy Osbourne
Timothy Spall

Jeff Bridges
What I've Learned: Jeff Bridges
"I wouldn't mind if I was mostly recognised for being The Dude. That doesn't bother me at all"
Gary Lineker
Gary Lineker: What I've Learned
Wit and wisdom from the former England star and Match Of The Day stalwart​
Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey: What I've Learned
The musical comedy legend cracks some wisdom​
Wolfgang Puck
Food & Drink
Wolfgang Puck: What I've Learned
Wit and wisdom from a true icon of eating​
Ray Liotta
Ray Liotta: What I've Learned
​The Goodfellas icon on what life has taught him so far​
Jeff Goldblum
Jeff Goldblum: What I've Learned
"I'm 63 and I feel I'm on the threshold of the most delicious part of life. You're not going to hear me squawk."
Don Delillo
Don DeLillo: What I've Learned
"I don't want to learn too much, I want to be free to invent"
Mo Farah Nike running
Mo Farah: What I've Learned
The twice Olympic gold medal winner and holder of seven global titles sat down with Esquire to talk about how he gets in the zone for a...
Irvine Welsh
Irvine Welsh: What I've Learned
"Don't mistake writing what you know for writing about yourself."
Morgan Freeman: What I've Learned
"I've always thought that career comes first. Family is a support mechanism. It doesn't work the other way around."