Vanity Fair: Saved by the Sex Pistols -
Saved by the Sex Pistols

This beautiful photoshoot appeared in the Italian edition of Vogue Magazine (April 2007?). Sopra Wissuti means "survivor," a double reference to Lost, as well as Naveen's recovery from his heroin and alcohol addictions with the help of his friend, Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols. 

The English version of this EXCELLENT interview by Strawberry Saroyan was published in the UK in The Telegraph April 1, 2007.

We are losing our Naveen interviews. After so many years, they begin to be removed from the internet. I am going to start saving some of them. This one has a lot of interesting bits about Naveen in it.

A SEX PISTOL SAVED MY LIFE By Strawberry Saroyan The Telegraph 01 Apr 2007

He felt out of luck in England and out of place in India, but in America Naveen Andrews is doing fine. He talks to Strawberry Saroyan about his starring role as an Iraqi fighter - and the punk who got him off drugs

The blond, blue-eyed ladykiller. The dangerous, bad-boy criminal. The sensitive, skinny, loser-with-women guy. In a city where Central Casting rules - one sometimes doesn't see people in Los Angeles so much as 'types' - it's difficult to imagine what people initially made of Naveen Andrews.

An Indian actor by way of England, Andrews arrived in Hollywood eight years ago with credentials (he attended the Guildhall School of Drama) and experience (he'd starred in The Buddha of Suburbia for the BBC and in The English Patient on the big screen). But he was also 'a glorious hybrid', as he jokes - sexy but serious, virile but hardly macho, learned but no stranger to the school of hard knocks. What to make of him? What to send him out on auditions for? Actually, says Andrews, who is reserved and still has his south London accent firmly intact, it wasn't so bad.

'Let me say this - I've worked far more here than I ever did in England,' he tells me over lunch in a private dining room at the Sonora Café in West Hollywood. (He has arrived - that rarity among celebrities in Hollywood - on time, and is dressed nattily in a bright red sweater and black drawstring pants.) 'I've been able to work here and I'm tremendously grateful for that. But, um... to be honest with you, my lack of work in England was probably because I was a drunk as well. I was completely off my head most of the time.' Andrews's drug habit is well documented (we'll get to it shortly) and very much in the past; right now he is at the top of his game.

Starring in the third series of Lost, as the former Iraqi Republican Guard Sayid Jarrah, he has hit his stride in the series, for which he's paid a reported $78,000 a week, even if he isn't entirely happy with the turn it's taken. The first series he speaks of with near-rapture. 'When you're really doing something to change the way people view television - when you actually get an audience to think as opposed to when it's just entertainment - that's when you're doing great work. And I think the whole team of writers and actors were working towards that then.'

What does he make of the recent parade of new characters, the seemingly endless questions posed and lack of answers provided? 'It's not for me to say.' He laughs nervously. 'For obvious reasons.' He is less taciturn about the killing of Sayid's love interest, Shannon, played by the actress Maggie Grace, a good friend. 'When there doesn't seem to be any logical reason [for a plot twist like that], one is bound to feel disappointed and saddened.' But he admits he has no idea what's in store for the plot and 'there could be a golden age just about to dawn for season four'.

Andrews has two high-profile films on the go as well. Grindhouse, released in June, is a homage to the cheap but now chic, shock-schlock films shown at 'grindhouse' theatres in the 1970s. It's a movie in two segments, one directed by Quentin Tarantino, the other by Robert Rodriguez: Andrews appears in Rodriguez's Planet Terror section, as a scientist who discovers the formula to save the world and goes around shooting the bad guys with an M16. 'It's not naturalistic, put it that way,' he says. Andrews was thrilled to work with Rodriguez, because he's admired him since the director's El Mariachi days, and says he particularly enjoyed a popcorn and fun-filled night at Tarantino's watching original grindhouse films which had reels missing, so the screen went suddenly black - to the directors' delight.

Andrews's other upcoming film, The Brave One, co-starring Jodie Foster and directed by Neil Jordan, is a prestige project. He plays Foster's fiancé in the psychological thriller and tells me, with a glint in his eye, that the two have love scenes. So life is good. But, as one look at the actor's background might have suggested, it hasn't always been easy.

Andrews was born to conservative Indian parents in Wandsworth, south London, in 1969, and showed an early aptitude for acting when he and his classmates performed a group of Russian folktales. Young Naveen, his parents were told, had talent. They were not pleased. 'It was, "Where's the money?' '' he recalls. ' "How could that possibly be a career?" Because at that time in England, when they saw Indians on TV they were usually sort of fanning somebody' - Andrews mimes the act - 'or pulling a string for the fan.' They hoped that their son would become a lawyer or a doctor, but Andrews wouldn't - or couldn't - garner top grades. His parents became violent. 'Today it would be considered abusive, but then it wasn't. They were Indian parents,' he says. 'That's the way they were brought up. But even then, I thought it was unacceptable.'

Andrews left home at 15 and moved in with his maths teacher. The two embarked on a scandalous affair - she was married and twice his age. The coupling resulted in the birth of a son, Jaisal, now 15 himself.

Andrews became involved with drugs around the same time. 'I have to say, it was quite wonderful to escape into that world because you have an identity,' he says. 'I loved it. And I went to places and I had relationships, but with people who would not censor my drinking, people who drank like I did. I needed to do that.' His new life hit a glitch when traditional university looked out of the question; there was the problem of his marks. 'I had nowhere to go,' he recalls, 'but I'd heard that if you auditioned for drama school the government would pay for you. I thought, "There'll be girls there." You know, "It might be glamorous." Andrews smiles. 'And once you're there, they brainwash you into thinking that's what you might do for the rest of your life.'

At Guildhall he held his own with classmates including Ewan McGregor and Daniel Craig, and on graduation was cast almost immediately in Hanif Kureishi's London Kills Me. But then the rough patches began. The problem during the early part of his career, he admits, was that his drug use was spiralling out of control. 'I remember doing The Buddha of Suburbia and God, if I saw anybody else doing that kind of thing today, I would be seriously concerned for them.' Does he mean he was working high? (He has told me his substances of choice included not only alcohol, but heroin and pills.) 'No, I'm just talking about what kind of condition the person is in when the camera's not on. The state they arrive in, or at rehearsal if they're nodding off. I mean, that shouldn't be happening.'

By the time he auditioned for The English Patient, his condition was well-known in the industry. 'I remember going to see Anthony Minghella and him saying, "Look, you're my first choice for this part, but if you do get it, I don't want any drinking on set." Another person told him, 'If you feel like going and shooting up, come and talk to me first.' 'I sort of think I was quite lucky even to get a job, really,' he says of those years, but he also cites racism and class-ism in Britain's theatre and film worlds as hurting his prospects.

Part of the problem was just the nature of the profession, he says. 'Let's be frank. I can't go up for, say, Ralph Fiennes's part in Schindler's List and expect them to take me seriously when I say, "I'd love to play this particular character. I've read a lot about the Nazis. I know what Hitler did after 1943 and after Stalingrad. I can feel it." It's not going to work, is it?' But, he continues, 'I have to say that in a country like England, [prejudice] is very subtle. They're not going to come out and say what's on their minds when you walk into a room. It's not easily defined. But it's there, I guess. And I think anybody would agree with me on that.'

By the late 1990s, Andrews was looking for a change. The drugs had stopped working and Britain's preponderance of pubs didn't help things, he has said. That was when he met Barbara Hershey. The two played lovers in 1999's Drowning on Dry Land and fell in love off-screen. Andrews followed Hershey to Hollywood. So he continued his predisposition for older women, I remark (Hershey is 21 years his senior).

Andrews demurs, saying only of his relationship with the actress, 'It's going great, which I'm very grateful for.' (He has reason to be grateful: in 2005, it was reported that when the couple briefly separated, Andrews had a relationship with a 30-year-old student, who became pregnant. Their son was born soon after.)

But his drug problems persisted. 'I remember thinking, I want to at least stop drinking for a while. I don't know if it's forever, but I can't continue like this.' As if on cue, he had a chance meeting with the former Sex Pistol Steve Jones at a Los Angeles dinner party. 'We ended up talking,' Andrews recalls. 'Obviously I admired his band because they'd been on my bedroom wall.' But as they spoke, Andrews noticed something: Jones wasn't drinking alcohol. 'And on top of that, he wasn't smoking. Or doing anything. It was: "This can't be right. He's a Sex Pistol." And I sort of asked him, "Don't you even smoke a joint?" And he's like, "No. Nuffing, nuffing'',' Andrews says. The following week they attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting together.

Andrews has now been clean and sober for four years. 'We're not really allowed to talk about it,' he says of AA, 'but I will say that it's helped me. A lot of people think it's silly and slag it off, but I don't.'

Andrews says he's found a sense of belonging in Los Angeles that eluded him elsewhere. After all the years of escape - from parents, adult responsibilities, the difficulties of the profession - he seems comfortable. There are still moments of pain; clearly, his one mention of India is tinged with regret. 'Every time I go to India, they laugh at me. They look at me and say, "Oh, you're not Indian. You can't even speak your own f---ing language." It's sad to realise that I was actually a foreigner [there too].' But he seems happy, and much of that comes from pride in his work.

With Lost, he's had a unique experience playing Sayid - possibly the only sympathetic Iraqi character on television. 'I remember being in Vegas and coming out of a restaurant and this group of what looked to me like kids - like 17-year-olds - seeing me and coming over, and I thought, 'Oh, here we go.' But they turned out to be Army and they'd been serving in Iraq and they went, "You're my favourite character. We watch you in Iraq." I couldn't believe it.' It's one example, he says, of reactions that 'kind of reaffirmed your faith in people. Because it seemed to me that regardless of what the government was saying or the various bits of propaganda you get in this country in the media, people were responding to a human being rather than the so-called enemy.'

Andrews leans back and stretches in his seat. He has polished off a lunch of shrimp fajitas and sparkling water, and takes the packet of Marlboros he's brought along to the meal in his hands. Is he craving a cigarette? Yes, he says, but he can wait (smoking is forbidden in restaurants in L.A.). Since nicotine is his only vice now, does he find life less exhilarating? 'It's a lot safer, I have to say,' he says. 'But you can remember everything, which is really nice.'

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