Danny Dyer reveals theatre panic attack after night taking drugs

By Bonnie McLaren, Culture reporter

grey placeholderBBC Danny Dyer stood in front of a white wall. He is wearing a black top, jacket and hat.BBC

Dyer also spoke about going to rehab in 2016

Danny Dyer has spoken about having a “major panic attack” after forgetting his lines on stage following a night taking drugs.

The former EastEnders actor played a waiter in Harold Pinter’s Celebration, which transferred from London to New York’s Lincoln Center in 2001.

Speaking on Elizabeth Day’s How To Fail podcast, Dyer said he was “very excited” because he had never been to New York, and “took a lot of drugs out there”.

“I’d heard about people that had dried on stage because it’s a massive thing, and it never happened to me,” he said.

“Anyway, I thought that I could sit up all night smoking crack and then walk on stage, and of course you can’t do that. It’s a ridiculous idea.”

He said he froze when it came to one of his lines, and he “didn’t have a clue what to say”.

“And the worst thing was the other actors, who knew I’d been out, looking at me… Their faces were [turned] away from the audience, and it was just their horror,” he said.

‘I was going to cry’

“I just remember being very aware of what I’m doing for the first time ever, questioning it, going, ‘Oh my God, everyone’s looking at me, waiting for me to speak’.

“I’d never had that feeling before. I love showing off. And then my lips started to go, because I was going to cry.”

Dyer said he managed to continue the scene after somebody shouted out his line to him, before he made his exit.

“I come off stage going, ‘I can’t go back on, I can’t’. I just had a major panic attack, but I just had to get on with it,” he said.

“I thought, you put yourself in this situation, now get on with it.

“And then Harold came up to me after and he sort of gave me a cuddle and that made me worse, made me cry… And he went, ‘If ever there’s an ensemble piece, it’s this, Danny’.”

‘Wake-up call’

Dyer has frequently spoken about the influence the late playwright had on his life, and he hosted a documentary about Pinter in 2020.

The actor said the incident was a “wake-up call”, and made him rethink his drug-taking “for the duration of the play”.

“I thought, I’m not doing that again. Of course I had still quite a tricky many years of it after then.”

In the podcast, Dyer spoke about eventually going to rehab in South Africa in 2016.

“It all just became too much for me. I just lost sense of who I was,” he said.

“And I think I just knew I needed to change something in my life drastically.

“And so I took it upon myself. And I think most people who do go to rehab need to take it upon theirself to go.”

He added: “If you’re forced into it or there’s an intervention, it doesn’t necessarily work.”

Dyer added that he needed to spend time “with other addicts [and] scrub toilets because they break you down completely and get rid of all my ego that I had going on at the time”.

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