Andy Nyman: The news every day is full of horrors that you can't begin to let into your head

Andy Nyman reflects on his Origin Story with Yahoo UK

Watch: Andy Nyman reflects on his Origin Story

Andy Nyman is known for many things, for his acting, working on magic by himself and with Derren Brown, as a collaborative writer, director, and also a horror auteur.

The multi-talented entertainer has lent his expert knowledge on the latter subject for a new ARROW collection, titled Andy Nyman Selects. The bespoke catalogue features films like Oldboy and Ringu, Cinema Paradiso and several films from Dario Argento like The Cat o'Nine Tails.

Horror has had a huge impact on Nyman's life, shaping his life and career despite being a self-described "scared kid" in his youth. He's explored the genre in multiple ways, including through co-writing and co-directing stage show Ghost Stories with his regular collaborator Jeremy Dyson.

His interest in horror remains focused steadfastly on the fictional, though, as he admits to Yahoo UK that he feels "the news every day is full of horrors that you can't begin to let into your head". Reflecting on why this is the case, his varied career and more, Nyman shares his Origin Story.

Horror movies

Andy Nyman reflects on the moments that defined his life with Yahoo. (Getty Images)
Andy Nyman reflects on the moments that defined his life with Yahoo in Origin Story. (Getty Images)

What were some of your defining experiences with horror and how did your interest in the genre develop?

I can't overstate what horror has meant in my life, and that is a real surprise to me because I was a scared kid. I'd run away from it, anything that scared me, and so I can't quite believe that horror has become this obsession in my life. But it's funny as you grow and change because when you're younger, around the video nasty boom, you want to see the worst thing you can possibly imagine. The most violent [films], there are no taboos, you just want to see anything and everything you can.

But as you get older, and you become more aware of your mortality and you get married and have kids... your tastes change. I saw a film recently, Speak No Evil, I wish I'd never seen it. It's an incredible piece of work but it's so wretched and so profoundly upsetting and haunting. Well that would have meant nothing to me when I was a kid, by kid I mean 18, 20... you know back then you're just like 'oh well anything goes'.

So your tastes definitely change but if I look at Ghost Stories because that is the purest form of mine and Jeremy's horror writing, you're really writing about yourself. And I think we've written a couple of scripts since then and a novel, and I think the horror that we certainly end up tapping into is sort of the horror of regret.

British actor, writer and director Andy Nyman poses on the red carpet upon arrival to attend The Olivier Awards at the Royal Albert Hall in central London on April 7, 2019. (Photo by Niklas HALLE'N / AFP)        (Photo credit should read NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP via Getty Images)
An actor, writer and director, Andy Nyman is known for his work in horror and spoke about how he can't 'overstate' the impact the genre has had on his life. (Getty Images)

The news every day is just full of horrors that you can't begin to let into your head. I don't really watch the news, I don't really go on social media, it's just too much, especially as a Jew. It's just too much because it's not just about the terrible things that are happening, it's about looking at normal people behaving in ways that are bestial.

Whether that's coming out with attitudes that you just can't fathom, belief systems you can't imagine that any human being can believe in or condone. And so then it's how you take those horrors and try and work through [it], but it always ultimately has to come from 'what are you scared of? What is it that keeps you awake at night?'"

On his ARROW horror collection

In my ARROW choices, Dark Water is a film that absolutely devastated me when I saw it, devastated me. And then saw it again not long ago, same thing, actually maybe even more. I was more acutely aware of not only the terror of it, but the pain of it. It's so incredible. It's such an incredible piece of writing.

The protagonist of 'Oldboy' runs wild with a hammer in an unbroken take. (Credit: Show East)
Andy Nyman has lent his knowledge to a new ARROW catalogue, and Oldboy is one of the films in the selection. (Credit: Show East)

Oldboy [is] one of my other ARROW choices, there are choices that I made for different reasons really. It's really interesting, Asian horror is very akin to British ghost stories I've always found, because as culture there's nothing within Asian horror or the British ghost story that feels akin to America, or Americans, it is a completely different sensibility.

Because the sensibility of the Asian cultures, and I realise that's as a broad generalisation, but it's the same as British culture, which is terrible fear of embarrassment, terrible fear of being judged publicly, absolutely being buttoned down and private. You could epitomise both of those cultures like that as generalisations.

Consequently, a lot of the horror that comes out of those two cultures... if you look at Dark Water that could be an M.R. James story, Oldboy has Hitchcock's Britishness stamped all over it. Whereas, you know, if you look at other of my choices, The Burning, even the brilliant Get Out, there's something about the bigness of America — and again, sweeping generalisations — the bigness of American culture and the boldness of a society that is like 'here we are'... it's a very different sensibility. So, I think Ringu, Dark Water, and Oldboy have a real intensity to them.

Acting start

Andy Nyman as Professor Philip Goodman in Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman's
Andy Nyman as Professor Philip Goodman in Ghost Stories, which he starred in, wrote and directed. (Getty Images)

What first sparked your interest in acting?

I always loved doing sort of school plays and stuff so I always had that bug. I was lazy at school and it used to drive everybody a bit mad because I sort of had ability but never wanted to use it and my mom when I was probably 13, 14, had seen there was a little local drama group in Leicester. So she sort of said, look, why don't you go there and see if that suits you.

But the real change for me was when I went to see Jaws. As a little curly haired Jewish kid with glasses sitting watching this incredible film and seeing up on the big screen this little curly haired Jewish guy with glasses, Richard Dreyfuss, and I just saw that and thought 'oh my God, you can be in films and you don't have to look like Paul Newman or Robert Redford', as it would have been then or Brad Pitt or pick a ludicrously god-like human being now who stars in films. I suddenly realised, 'you don't have to look like that you can look like [Richard Dreyfuss] which I kind of did, so that was the moment then that I knew, 'oh, I want to be in films'.

Jaws  Year : 1975 USA Director : Steven Spielberg Richard Dreyfuss
Andy Nyman shared that seeing Richard Dreyfuss in Jaws made him want to become an actor. (Alamy)

How would you describe your early experiences on stage?

Stage is just thrilling. I'm very blessed to be an actor and I love it, and I always feel incredibly grateful that it works anytime I get to act, I just love it so much. Being on stage is so wonderful because it's such an immediate form... it's just the most amazing feeling. Walking through a stage door as an actor, it never gets boring. It's always a thrill, let alone being in the wings and walking out on stage and just feeling like, 'wow'. It's wonderful, I love it.

Is there any role you’ve played that you would approach differently now?

The honest truth is no, not because I think I've done them perfectly, but what's interesting is I remember when I left drama school —so I'd have been 21— and you sort of think, 'come on, I'm brilliant. Let me play King Lear. I can act, I know everything about life'. But the reality is as long as you're drawing from yourself, it's always the right time.

I think that it's easy to beat yourself up over things and look at them and think, 'oh, you blew that. You could have done it like that. Why didn't you do that?' And of course if you're forensic about things, you can do that. But I've tried to retrain myself to just be proud, only choose work that I think I can be proud of, and then work really hard and hope that the results show when you do it.


Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman of Ghost Stories (Photo by Michael Buckner/Deadline/Penske Media via Getty Images)
Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson have worked together for years, and a trip to a magic shop together helped reignite the former's passion for the hobby. (Getty Images)

When did you first begin being interested in magic?

I loved magic when I was a kid. My uncle bought me a magic set and got into that and practical jokes. The two sort of go hand in hand, often a magic shop would sell jokes as well, they've got jokes and tricks. So I always loved that, but then I really properly got into it about 30 years ago —about the same time I left drama school.

Jeremy Dyson, who is my co-writer, co-director on Ghost Stories and the novel The Warlock Effect, he's always done magic and he moved to London and said, 'let's go to this magic shop' and I was like, I'm 22, I don't want to go to a magic shop, I'm not a kid. And of course I walked in and it was like, 'oh my God'. So I just fell in love with it then and then I've done it ever since. It's a major obsession in my life, I absolutely love it. My son loves it and he's very good at it as well, so it's a great shared passion for us.

How did your collaboration with Derren Brown first start?

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 27: (L-R) Andy Nyman, Derren Brown and Andrew O'Connor attend the press night performance of
Andy Nyman has written with Derren Brown on his TV and stage shows for years, including 2013's Unbelievable. (Getty Images)

That first started 1989, 1999. I got a phone call out the blue from a guy called Andrew O'Connor who had a company called Objective. At that time nobody was doing mind reading magic, apart from like three of us it was not in fashion. So I was quite well known in the magic world for the stuff I was doing, and I got this phone call out the blue saying, 'we want to offer you a one hour special on Channel 4 doing mind reading magic'. To which I said, 'thank you, but no thank you. I'm an actor, that's what I love. I'm not interested in getting famous as a magician, but whoever you find, I'll work with them and I'll write for them'.

They came back about six months later and said, 'We found this guy, Derren Brown, have you ever seen him?' And I had, I'd seen him at a magic convention. He was incredible. And they said, 'well, we want you to work together' and that's how it happened.

That is 24 years ago, something mad like that. So we worked together, I wrote and directed with Derren [for] the first 10 years of the telly, up until the lottery prediction Derren and I wrote everything up until then. And then I've written and directed all of the stage shows apart from one, which was about a few years ago. I was busy and couldn't do it.

Andy Nyman: Quick fire questions

FOG THE FOG de John Carpenter 1980 USA  fantastique; fantastic; fantome; ghost; atmosphere; ambiance; brouillard; brume Prod DB © Embassy - BMG / DR
One film Andy Nyman says had a big impact on him was John Carpenter's 1980 horror film The Fog. (Alamy)
  • Movies you loved growing up: Jaws is an absolute banger... just because it's easy to forget that film changed cinema, literally. If you think cinema's only 100 plus years old, and that film is 45-50 years old now, so literally halfway through how long cinema existed here comes a film that transforms the way cinema is released and invented what a blockbuster was.

  • First cinema trip: We were a big film going and theater going family, so I have very, very fond memories of us all going to the ABC or the Odeon in Leicester to see whatever the big Disney release would have been. We went all the time, [one] absolutely massive [film] was John Carpenter's The Fog. My sister wanted to go see it but, as I said, I was a scared kid. So I'd have been 14, it was a AA, as the rating used to be and I didn't wanna go see it. She said, 'oh, come with me, it'll be fine. It's not scary. It has to be an X if it's scary'. So we went to see it and of course, it is an absolute roller-coaster ride masterpiece, [a] thrilling ghost story and I was terrified, but loved it.

Final thoughts with Andy Nyman

Andy Nyman as Hermann van Pels in A SMALL LIGHT. (Credit: National Geographic for Disney/Dusan Martincek)
Andy Nyman as Hermann van Pels in Disney+ series A Small Light, one of his many acting roles. (National Geographic for Disney)

Were there any mentors in your life or career that had a defining impact on you?

Obvious mentors [are] my parents, brilliant. My mum's still alive, thank God, my dad was fantastic [and] I miss him every day. Then actually work mentor is one of my great collaborators, Andrew O'Connor, who I write and direct the Derren Brown stuff with. We work a lot together on that and his work ethic [is impressive], I've learned a huge amount from him.

If you could go back in time and give young Andy any advice on how to change his Origin Story, what would it be?

I wouldn't change anything. I'd love to come out with some wise thing, 'I would tell him not to worry, everything will be fine'. But no, life is what it is, I've had a fantastic life, ups and downs like all of us, pain, happiness, like all of us. That's what life is, it's unavoidable. But I wouldn't change a f***ing thing, and I love that I still get to swim in the same sea that I have loved since I was a kid.

Andy Nyman Selects is out now, exclusively on ARROW. For more exciting titles, check out ARROW’s new trailer here..

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