Date: 22 November 1996
Originally published in: Daily Mail (UK)
Written by: Anne de Courey
Although his collection of six short stories is being mailed to publishers this week and his film Brylcreem Boys is being shown at the London Film Festival, nothing in his life is, or ever will be, as important as his marriage, says Hal Fowler.
‘If your marriage is all right, everything else will be. With a good marriage you can face anything.’ He speaks with the fervour of one who has been married all of two-and-a-half months – in September he married pop star Kim Wilde. Both have a showbusiness background: Hal’s father runs the Central School of Speech and Drama in London; Kim is the daughter of singer Marty Wilde and Joyce Baker, of the Vernon Girls. More obviously, Kim, who had her first hit record at 20 (Kids in America) and a series of romances with younger men, is 36 to Hal’s 28 – and considerably better known.
So does he mind the gap in age and fame? ‘With a strong marriage everything else slots into place. I don’t even think about Kim being older. As for her being better known, I’m not particularly ambitious and it simply doesn’t worry me. I come from a very strong family background and so does Kim’, he says. ‘Both our parents are still with each other, we both have brothers and sisters – Kim has three and I have two – and we grew up in a warm, close family atmosphere. Yes, we both long for children – I think it’ll be the first thing on the agenda once Kim’s Tommy contract is over.’
Mr and Mrs Fowler live in a huge and glamors 16th-century barn bought by Kim in 1990. Its high, 100ft living room is all rosy brick and ancient timbers arching into the roof; a wood-burning stove stands in the stone fireplace and picture windows give a view of the rolling Hertfordshire countryside. Outside, scarlet-berried pyrocanthus and climbing roses fan out in neatly pruned arcs above well-raked gravel. They met nine months ago, on the first day of rehearsals for the musical Tommy – Hal was cousin Kevin and Kim Tommy’s mother. ‘Soon afterwards I asked her out to dinner. We’d not really spoken much but I thought it would be nice to talk outside work. We had a glorious, glorious dinner. When I got back home I wrote a little poem for her, which I thought I would give her as a thank-you for a marvellous evening. I put it in my bag ready, then I though: ‘What on earth are you doing that for? What a ridiculous thing to do.’ So I got out of bed, ripped it to piece, put it in the bin and went back to bed. Then I got up, wrote it out again, got into bed – then ripped it up again. This happened three times until I finally thought ‘Right, that’s enough’, put it in a sealed envelope, wrote ‘Kim’ and gave it to the stage door man next day. Not that I entered into the relationship thinking there was any pressure. We started seeing each other and for months we just had a great time together. Then after about six months we had a few days off and I persuaded a newly-qualified pilot friend to fly us over from Elstree airport to France for lunch. It was meant to be a surprise but I had to tell Kim first in case she had any worries about going on the trip. The pilot left us in the little square in the middle of Calais. Then it just kind of came on both of us that this would be a great place to get engaged. So we ra up the road to a little jeweller’s, bought two silver bands and went to our restaurant. We ordered champagne, ate chicken liver pate and coq au vin and proposed to each other over the table. It was wonderful – absolutely wonderful’.
There was a white wedding on September 1 at Kim’s village church, St Giles, in Codicote, Hertfordshire, with Marty giving his daughter away. But just before the day, Hal had a bad fall during rehearsals for Tommy. ‘I smashed all the ligaments in my knee. I managed to make it for the opening night, heavily strapped up in one of those carbon-fibre ski braces. But after four months it became obvious I’d have to have an operation and leave the show.’
This has been a hard year, he says, because knees have a slow recovery rate. ‘But it ties in very well with the writing and the marriage. I have all evening in my little study and I’m here for Kim when she gets home – there can’t be many better things than to come home to a fire and a cup of tea or glass of wine. I’m about 400 pages into a murder story set in the theatre – I’ve crucified all my friends and all the directors I’ve ever worked with. Writing full time would suit me down to the ground and suit the marriage.’
If the story collection, In Search Of Rest, goes well, Hal would be happy to switch to writing. ‘Basically I’m very easily satisfied. I live for the minute – it’s part of enjoying marriage. If you’ve got a beautiful place like this, you want to spend as much time as possible in it. I love my home, I’m even fairly domesticated. I cook Kim’s dinner. I love gardening. I love tending the little fish in our pond. I’m a bit of a house-husband, really.’