Interview with Esther Freud

It′s impossible to interview Esther Freud without broaching the subject of her famous family. So, I dive right in. What does it mean to be Sigmund Freud′s great-granddaughter. “It′s quite an abstract relationship really. Because he′s famous in so many parts of the world, it doesn’t feel like he′s my great-grandfather. Instead, he just seems to be the grandfather of psychoanalysis. I don’t feel much of a relationship to him.. No raised eyebrows when she signs a cheque. Or her kids’ school permission slips. “It doesn’t impact on my everyday life, except for being asked questions I’m not really able to answer,” she laughs. The way Esther handles the question, one I’m sure she has answered a million times before, is a good indicator of her attitude: open and animated. She is refreshingly genuine and chatty.


These days, the 46-year-old author splits her time between a house in Highgate, London, and a holiday cottage by the sea in Suffolk, and is married to actor David Morrissey. They have three children, the oldest 16, the youngest just six. It is clear that her role as a mother is hugely important to Esther. Despite her high-profile family, her early career as an actress, six published novels and her marriage to an actor, it′s only when she talks about her children that a spark really ignites. “I always wanted to be a mother. And interestingly, my daughter, from a really young age, always said she wanted me to have [another] baby. In fact, she once stopped in the middle of the street and said ‘I just can’t wait any longer!”

Anyone who has read her debut novel, Hideous Kinky, a semi-autobiographical tale of two sisters’ journey around Morocco with their bohemian mother, knows some of Esther′s back story. [A brief aside: you can check out Kate Winslet in th. 1998 film adaptation, pictured below]. Her mother was from Cork, where Esther enjoyed happy times – “I still have relations in Cork, the Fahys. As a child, I spent every summer on their farm near Youghal, it was wonderful.. Her mother left home early, “Mother was rebellious, she moved to London when she was 16”, says Esther. Her father is the renowned artist Lucian Freud, so perhaps it′s no surprise that, when she was a child, Esther wanted a career in something equally artistic, and chose the stage.

“Our life, in a way, was so changeable. There weren’t many discussions about the future and I felt slightly anxious about that. From a very early age, I decided I was going to be an actress and there was some security in that [decision].”

An education at The Drama Centre in London led to a career in theatre and some TV and film. She remembers those days fondly: “One of my favourite parts of being an actress was sitting in a dressing room, when the show was up and running, so you’re not too nervous, and your good friends come in and you chat and laugh as you get into your costumes.”. But her attention was soon drawn elsewhere. “I enjoyed creating the characters, developing their back stories.”. She started writing seriously at the age of 26 and, in 1993, was named one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists.

She revisits the sense of camaraderie and passion of her acting days in her latest novel, Lucky Break. Set in the early 1990s up to the present, the novel follows the fame and (mis)fortune of a class of English drama students. It’s funny and tragic in equal measure. Anyone in the world of theatre/film/TV is sure to recognise the inflated egos and crippling insecurity experienced by the cast of colourful characters. And for those outside the fray, it offers a sharp, honest insight into the life of an aspiring star. As does the desolation of the unemployed actors left disillusioned after years of training or the vacuum felt after the striking of a set. “It’s such an intense journey. When a show ends, you think you’ll never be able to bear it.”. But you do.



One Response to “Interview with Esther Freud”

  1. Vitro Nasu » Blog Archive » Esther Freud says:

    [...] Esther Freud′s novels have long reflected her family – but not her artist dad, Lucian. Jasper Rees hears why that has changed (Read more here) [...]

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