Interview: TATLER (2005)

September 09, 2005

The following article by Geordie Greig appeared in the September 2005 issue of Tatler magazine...

Trudie, madly, deeply - Every little thing she does is magic - as a mother and a lover and an actress...

The tabloids' holy grail is probably Trudie Styler's lost teenage-sex diaries, and she knows it. Sitting in her new London townhouse overlooking St James's Park, she recalls: 'I kept a diary of all the boys I was going out with and how far we went with each other. I had my own little code for what was going on so my mum wouldn't know.' She is talking after a light lunch on her terraced garden, where she and her husband, Sting, have been chatting with Mickey, their 21-year-old daughter, about their plans to go on a walking holiday in the Lake District. And frankness is often the key to Trudie and her family. 'Why should I want to be a gooseberry with you "two?' asks Mickey teasingly. Some 24 years after they first met, Sting and Trudie remain one of rock's most endearing and enduring couples, with a physical connection that is still charged.

As the conversation turns to what everyone would do on the last day of their life should a comet collide with Earth, Mickey says to her parents: 'I'd want to be with you two: Sting reaches across to squeeze her hand. Effortlessly super-cool in his hip-hugging pinstripes, he is immediately hospitable. Organic salads and grilled fish are whisked to the table within minutes by their Michelin-standard chef, who is wild-haired and handsome, like a young Marco Pierre White. Trudie's fantasy of her final day of existence would be a family feast at a long table at their villa in Tuscany, but for the moment she is far too busy even to think of impending mortality.

She has just finished a big role in the six-part BBC series 'Love Soup' and is winging her way to New York to direct a documentary about love. Trudie and Sting's Rainforest Foundation fundraiser is just three weeks away and this morning they have been rehearsing at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden for a one-night charity performance. In it they play the composer Robert Schumann and his wife Clara, a couple also united by love and music. Trudie declares to Sting: 'Whenever I play your music I am aware of your genius: A few moments later he replies: 'My life did not begin until I was aware of my life as an artist.'

As they read the surviving letters of the Schumanns in rehearsal there is an almost spooky sense of similarity to their lives ?although, of course, Sting does not go bonkers and die in an asylum with Trudie banned from seeing him in his final two years. In fact, his life could not be better. He has returned from a world tour to find Bob Geldof on the phone, badgering him into appearing at Live8. At 53, Trudie's husband is a loose and relaxed presence, with a Beckhamesque physique, a Tibetan mystique, the humour and timing of a dry Geordie comedian and the undersold intellectual charge of a quiet Oxford don. It's a lot to match up to, but somehow Trudie does. She is voluptuous, sexy, direct, open, glad-handing, open, out-there. She has the confidence of someone comfortable in her skin - the confidence of the assured actress, the professional producer, the can-cope-with-anything mother of four.

Trudie and Sting are both extremely comfortable with their lucky existence, fabulous wealth and fame. She is also engagingly restless, always questing, always trying to find the most fulfilling role. 'I am a sort of attention-deficit-disordered hyperactive nutter: she says disarmingly. She is open to anything if it sounds interesting: blindfold trance-dancing; yoga (but don't mention tantric sex: 'Nothing to do with me'); meditation; or going to the Burning Man festival in Nevada. Without any grandeur, she will order a helicopter to get Sting to their home in the country; call Tom Cruise to see a rough of a movie and get it distributed; or employ a butler. She has even had a treehouse built by a man who insisted on first living in the tree for two months so that he could get to know it. She is a sort of female Prince of Wales: heart and soul in the right place, eco-friendly, indulgent, often misunderstood - and she does far more good than most. She is a trier and tester of people, projects, food, places and sensory experiences. Sting calls her 'Imelda' because of her shoe collection. She has a taste for couture. She fancies the Prince of Wales, Bill Clinton and Hugh Grant, but not necessarily in that order. Her favourite drink is Montrachet '93, her favourite food spaghetti vongole and her nickname Snooky. It is a life well lived, with seven houses, six Irish wolfhounds and countless other blessings. And it could not have started from more modest beginnings.

She was born on a council estate in the Worcestershire village of Stoke Prior; her father was a packer in a lamps hade factory and her mother a school dinner lady. There were certainly no butlers about then: 'In my teens we weren't that mobile because my dad was really poor and had a very embarrassing Ford Prefect which was always conking out.' She gives her trademark snort of a laugh. 'It wasn't much of a sight to behold when I was trying to impress a boyfriend.'

The story of Trudie Styler is what in the US would be called the American Dream. She came from nowhere and hit the big time but gives a lot back. She thinks the impetus for her energy to succeed and escape her moneyless, pedestrian existence was sparked in her childhood. When she was two, she was hit by a van driven by an unlicenced 16-year-old and dragged underneath it along the road. She was in hospital for weeks and left with a scar across her face. 'When I was young, I was quite a cry-baby and looked very different with that livid scar. People would stop and stare; children would yell, "Scarface!" It was a lonely time.'When did she realise she wanted to escape that life? 'Probably when I was in the garden putting the washing out, holding my mum's clothes pegs. She'd say, "You're always crying, every day you cry. Why is that?" I looked at her and said, "Because I don't belong here." And to this day I have no idea how those words tumbled out of an eight-year-old's lips. It's not to say I felt that I would have belonged in Buckingham Palace, apparelled like a princess, but I just had this feeling of isolation and of not fitting in.'

Her intimacy and physical closeness with Sting and her children is also a reaction to her childhood. 'I never saw my parents hold hands or kiss, and they had a very hard, frugal life: she says. 'They both had two jobs. There didn't seem to be a lot of fun ?everything was just grey and brown.' Trudie has more than compensated, with her seven homes. And the buying continues. 'I am a shopper and love living in the lap of luxury: she says straightforwardly. They have just bought some more land in Italy and, ever the busy entrepreneur, Trudie has a new business: beekeeping (obviously suitable for someone with a sting in her life). 'We plan to sell honey and olive oil, launching in Harrods in August: she says.

Her early life was lived on a tightrope. She escaped the grinding poverty by leaving home to become a nanny with someone who worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company. She then scraped her way up the theatrical greasy pole and became an acclaimed actress. She was always in work - but that was to change after she met Sting. At the time he lived down the street from her. 'He had green hair the first time I saw him. He was locked out of his house with his son Joe, who was then two. I asked if he wanted to wait in my place and have a cup of tea. He was very shy and said no - he was perfectly happy sitting on the step. He was very beautiful to look at, but it was just a neighbourly act, I suppose.'

It was a neighbourly act with repercussions, eventually leading to Sting's split from his then wife, the actress Frances Tomelty. It also led to a bizarre boycott of Trudie by the theatre world, which sided with Sting's first wife. Trudie found that she could no longer get work. It is something she talks about carefully so as not to stir up anyone's pain. 'I was feeling a lot of guilt about the situation I'd put myself in, and that was compounded by having been a leading player at the RSC, going from playing good roles to nothing. I was told that I had done something not very smart or kind and then I started to feel very isolated. It wasn't easy for any of the people involved: All she really wants is to explain her love for Sting. 'It's been nearly a quarter of a century of that state of being in love. And it hasn't been any different. It's been through its peaks and troughs but we've never really broken away from this central unity that we feel for each other.'

Trudie's belief in the parallel worlds of an afterlife has made her unafraid of death. She is spiritual but grounded, too, and grateful for her security 'because I had days when I can recall always being so hungry. It wasn't that there was no food or that we were on skid row. But there was never quite enough. In my early days of dating I would only go out with someone if he promised to feed me well before we got up to anything.'

She is not a dweller on the past or on things that go wrong. And she is now so chic, successful and full of energy for life that it is difficult to imagine her as that scarfaced girl in her dreary surroundings, with her 17st mum who had a 48in bosom. But it's not all rose-tinted. 'There are some days when the bear bites me - or eats me. That's not much fun as I tend to shriek and yell and be very unpleasant to people who I have no business being unpleasant to. But you know what it's like when balls are being juggled and they've got some rhythm and you're on a high. I never really want to get personal with anybody and, yes, I do shout sometimes. But as soon as I've shouted I'm very remorseful: That frankness again.

What has kept her in love with Sting for so long? 'I think he is a mystery and that keeps me endlessly fascinated with him and wanting to nourish him, keep him safe: So he's vulnerable? 'Yes, and we're not getting any younger, so I watch out for his fragility: Excuse me: Sting, fragile? The man of rock who has just done 200 shows in 14 months? 'He doesn't feel vulnerable when he's performing - that is natural to him. It's the stuff in between, all the travelling: Talking of being on tour, how does Trudie manage without seeing him? 'I have got busier and busier and, frankly, a big portion of that is to do with the fact I get lonely, or have got lonely and filled in the gaps. But I don't regret it because I've kind of created me and all I do - and I love what I do.'

The former choir girl from Stoke Prior is now a producer (she was an executive producer on Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels - Guy Ritchie credits her with making the film happen) and, once again, an actress in demand. But on her way up, she has always explored her spiritual side. 'I still pray and meditate every day, usually as part of my yoga practice: And when it comes to prayer, Trudie is unapologetically open. 'I pray every night, always have done. I used to talk to Jesus and be very pally with him. I remember going to church one Sunday and this visiting vicar, or the Bishop of Worcester or some other church grandee, looked very sternly at us and said, "Remember, children, he is not God the all-mateybut God the Almighty:' I thought, "But I've been saying, "Oh, darling Jesus;' and being so pally.And I took this to heart, so my prayers became more formal- I'd say great swathes of learnt prayers. But now, with my yoga and all that, I have reverted to "God the all-matey" and I talk through what's going on and how I can be helped.'

She needs to be strong, as does every rock wife dealing with insane groupies and stalkers trailing her husband. 'I've lived in the world of rock 'n' roll for 20 years, with people always trying to run off with my oId man: How does she cope? 'Well, you know, I see a lot of women around him and they lose it a little bit. They're a bit too frantic and I find myself elbowed out of the way. They don't notice he's got a wife. They are not themselves and they project onto Sting this person they think he is. It used to make me angry and jealous - I would take it out on Sting and be outraged. It made me very miserable. Now I have a sense of humour about it. When you've got some years behind you, and you know your marriage is intact and strong, and you love each other, there is a calmer you. You know there is a certain pattern around famous people. But the Sting that is not on stage is a very different being and they don't have access to him - the real him.'

© Tatler magazine