Stephen Fry (with Wilde co-star Jude Law)
Comedian, successful novelist, star of the silver screen, raconteur and wit are all emblazoned upon the dazzling curriculum vitae of Stephen Fry.
But it seems this giant of a man is not content to leave it at that, for he is about to embark upon yet another role in life. We caught up with the Gosford Park star for a chat about Robert Altman's Oscar-winning film - and his newfound role of film director - almost by chance, at a star-smattered, flower-festooned launch for BBC television.
While various fly-by-night soap opera divas grappled for the limelight, Fry was seated almost out of sight, but his dark-rimmed spectacles framing that instantly recognisable face caught my eye.
In comfortable everyday garb, sipping on a glass of red wine and smoking the occasional cigarette, the soon-to-be film maker spoke about his new venture - and an awful lot else besides.
The 44-year-old's formidable reputation as a man of sparkling, well-honed conversation flourished forth in front of me. Yet for someone who has commanded a lead role as demanding as 1997's Wilde, this man is endearingly approachable.
Fry the film actor is best remembered for his characterisation of Oscar Wilde - a part which he seemed to fit perfectly. It earned him a prestigious Golden Globe nomination.
He was also the eponymous hero of Peter's Friends (1992), a quintessentially British piece with a host of home-grown stars. Staying true to this theme, Fry has a small role in Stephen Fry, Robert Altman's tale of murder-mystery set on an English estate.
Altman is a renowned director, and Fry admits to being a little daunted by his new role. He has also plumped to turn an exceedingly English novel into a pearl of the silver screen.
"It's a frightening and exhilirating thing to do for the first time." - Stephen Fry on directing.
"The film is based on Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies," explains Fry. "It's Britain's Great Gatsby and will have an entirely British cast. I have been in the process of casting, and Dame Judi Dench has already agreed to take a part in the film," he adds.
"It's a frightening and exhilirating thing to do for the first time, but going into cinema seemed a natural progression for me," Fry says, his rich tones cutting through the cacophony of the packed press launch.
Evelyn Waugh's novel is set in Britain of the 1930s, and chronicles the ups and downs of London's social elite during that fraught period. At the heart of the story is a destitute writer who has an all-consuming quest for the daughter of an aristocrat.
At the moment we have to wait and see who will land this plum leading role.
This promises a lavish period piece with an English seam running through its middle - with the very essence of an Englishman at its helm.
Stephen Fry was also keen to talk about another plunge into the unknown for a man who has accomplished so much.
He turned adventurer for the small screen, travelling to Peru to rescue a doomed bear.
Paddington - The Early Years was aired on BBC1 during the Christmas break, and seems set to provide Fry with another new string to his bow, aside from film direction.
"I get an urge, like a pregnant elephant, to go away and give birth to a book." - Stephen Fry on his bestial tendencies...
"I thrived on the experience, which has given me a taste to do a lot more. And it has changed my fear of making such journeys. I like to think of myself at home in the armchair, writing, smoking and occasionally wandering down the shop," muses Fry.
He may have the task of directing a feature film on his hands this year, but Fry also divulged that he is planning another "enormous" voyage - the fruits of which will be featured on the small screen some time in the future.
Fry is also a prolific writer, with a series of novels and autobiographies under his belt. He has also written for the small screen, which begs the question, will he write a screenplay for Hollywood? In any instance, being a wordsmith comes as second nature to a man possessing such staggering writing power. But he has a far more engaging way of putting it.
"I get an urge, like a pregnant elephant, to go away and give birth to a book," he explains to much amusement, and then says that his publishers are urging him to slope off into the savannah and have many a literary baby.
Movie director and international globetrotter or not, but Stephen Fry eventually had to be gently reminded it was time to go. No matter whether this or future film projects find him nominated for awards, he was extremely polite and said that it had been a pleasure to chat. The perfect English gentleman.
This interview was published in 2002.