04.03.98 THE TIMES


The following article by Garry Jenkins appeared in an April 1998 issue of The Times magazine...

Trudie Styler welcomed Rowan Joffe to her suite at the Dorchester wearing little more than a bathrobe and a matronly smile. "I'm about to be as nude as you were when I first met you," she told the painter as he arrived for their sitting. Styler was a drama student at the Bristol Old Vic theatre school when her friend Jane Lapotaire introduced her to her then baby son - Rowan. "He was about a year old, running around without any clothes on," Styler says.

Her attitude to nudity is as relaxed now as it was then. As a hard-up student in Bristol, Styler supplemented her grant by posing as a life model for the city's art college. "For me nudity is not an issue. I worked as a student in a life class to earn money," she says. "I know that artists, especially ones of Rowan's calibre, are really concerned about the art and not 'Oh, my goodness she looks like she's got cellulite."

In all Joffe produced around 150 sketches of Styler, whose character, Joanna Lascelles, becomes an object of obsession for the artist Jack. Joffe's graphic 6ft by 4ft nude canvas in oil is by far the most powerful of his images.

"Trudie's portrait was more explicitly sexual (Sian's was more focused on suffering, and Miranda's is a purer, more sacred representation of a wife), but she was terrifically relaxed, terrifically charismatic," he says. "The real key to her was her self-possession."

It is a confidence she has worked hard to acquire. As a teenager, Styler admits she harboured her normal share of insecurities. "I had a very large mum, she was very overweight and was constantly preoccupied with her figure," she says. "She was always on a diet, usually the Black Magic chocolate diet." Now a 41-year-old mother of four, she is happier than she has ever been with her body. "Funnily enough the older I get the happier I am. I suppose you don't expect perfection as you get older. You expect things to not work as well and your body not to function," she says. She spends at least an hour a day doing yoga and other exercises. "I work at it and the more I work the more satisfied I am with it. My yoga has improved and maintained my shape very well. I'm lucky that after four children my body is back to what it was before. Not quite, but I am the same dress size."

Her sense of well-being owes much too to the calmer existence she and her husband, the rock star Sting, lead at their home near Salisbury, Wiltshire. "The wild hedonistic days are over, but at least I can say, 'Been there, done that, got several T shirts'," she smiles.

As well as their Wiltshire home, they have houses in London, Los Angeles and New York. The artworks on the walls reflect the couple's eclectic taste - from Amazonian Indian Art to Renaissance masters. A portrait of Styler by Emma Sergeant takes pride of place in their London home. "She's also done a nude of me - it was a private commission."

Along with their children - Mickey 13, Jake, 12, CoCo, seven, and Giacomo, two - they have just returned from a holiday in India, where Styler and Sting indulged their passion for meditation.

"When you live in the fast track, your time gets eaten up. We have busy lives but we fight to find time for each other. 'The Scold's Bridle' marks one of Styler's rare appearances on screen. In the two decades since she graduated from the Bristol Old Vic, her energies have been increasingly directed towards her work as a producer, director and, in particular, activist. The Rainforest Foundation, set up with Sting in the late 1980s, has grown into an effective international charity. At the Xingu reservation in Brazil, an area roughly the size of Switzerland has been preserved from future exploitation. "There's a very close juxtaposition between the garden of Eden and the inferno," she says. "I don't want to leave a planet that is unfit for my children and grandchildren to live in and enjoy. Even though I was brought up in very modest circumstances I had good air to breathe."

Director David Thacker's offer of the role of Joanna Lascelles came at the perfect time. "David knew I had been doing a lot of producing for the past five years," says Styler, whose subjects as a documentary-maker have ranged from Brazilian male prostitutes to Tiananmen Square and who recently produced a movie, 'The Grotesque', with Alan Bates and Sting. "Funnily enough I had just told my agent that I fancied doing a spot of acting."

Even if the offers of more work flooded in, her multi-faceted career would leave little time for long-term acting projects. "Roles of this calibre would have to come thick and fast for me ever to say that I would commit myself full time to acting," she says. "But the great thing about being an actress is that you are not required to stick your oar in. All you do is turn up with, your lines and your performance. I spend my life working until one in the morning hassling to get money and to get deals and to create a product, and that's very hard work. I love it, but this was a very nice respite."

© The Times magazine
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