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Photography by Mr Neil Gavin. Styling by Mr Mark Anthony
Words by Mr Mansel Fletcher

Mr Edward Fox, 74, is one of the great men of English acting. He is probably best known for having starred in The Day of the Jackal in 1973, Edward & Mrs Simpson in 1978, Gandhi in 1982 and The Shooting Party in 1985. Mr Fox was once the young scion of an acting dynasty; his father was a theatrical agent and his grandfather was a dramatist. Now, however, it's his son, Mr Freddie Fox, 22, who's at the vanguard as he teeters on the brink of great success having, in his first year as a professional actor, appeared in two critically plauded television dramas, and two plays at London's revered Old Vic theatre. MR PORTER talks to father and son together about their respective careers, what style means to an actor, and why it pays to polish your shoes.

How did you get your break?

Edward - The times were different - I started in repertory theatre; not much else existed. And I was in quite a lot of films in very small parts.

Freddie - I was lucky that I got ill at the right time. I was doing a show at drama school when I got tonsillitis and they told me they couldn't have me infecting other actors. That gave me a week to get better and meanwhile I got a part in this Boy George film called Worried About the Boy. All the jobs I've done have come from that one.

How important is a character's wardrobe to the success of a production?

Edward - It's an entertainment first and foremost. You've got to make the audience want to see it, you've got to make them want to look at the characters and listen. It's the indefinable thing that's subliminal in an audience, they either go warm or cold on the look, on the demeanour.

Freddie - It doesn't need to be attractive, you just have to find the character fascinating and the clothes are a big part of that. As an actor you have to be comfortable with what you're wearing and believe in what you're wearing.

You've both played extravagantly dressed characters, the Duke of Windsor in Edward's case, and King Louis XIII from The Three Musketeers in Freddie's case. Did you enjoy the experience?

Edward - The Duke was well dressed, and if the character was well dressed then be well dressed.

Freddie - King Louis had extraordinary taste and wore this stuff every day, so you can't wear it like costume - even if it takes an hour to get dressed - you have to wear it as if it's jeans.

Between The King's Speech, the forthcoming Ms Anne Sebba biography of Wallis Simpson and the Madonna biopic W.E., there's a revival of interest in the Duke of Windsor. What's your view of him?

Edward - He was many sided. He could be very tiresome, of course, but he was royal. He became king when there was a whole British empire, and he went through a traumatic childhood.

Freddie - It's very easy to see what he did as irresponsible, but the brilliance of the series [Edward & Mrs Simpson] was that you had so much time to invest in him as a person.

How do you like to dress?

Edward - If one's in London you wear a London suit. I like seeing other men properly dressed, but that's pretty out of date now; you dress to suit yourself really. This is the newest suit I have and it's 25 years old, from [Savile Row tailors] Johns & Pegg. You look after a suit - I never have them dry cleaned - you sponge and press it yourself. I either wear dungarees or a suit, I haven't got anything in between.

Freddie - I don't wear suits as often as dad does, but I'm working on it. I've got a couple of his suits, which I wear a lot. And there's a suit he wore in The Day of the Jackal that I'm eyeing up.

What other fine clothes will Freddie inherit from his father?

Edward - Well these shoes [the pair Edward wore to the shoot] are more than 100 years old, they were made in the reign of George V for my grandfather. These are so comfortable and good looking, and to think of these uppers still holding out, it's incredible.

Freddie - I'm very fortunate that I can inherit my father's clothes. Dad has taught me by the way he keeps his wardrobe.

Who was responsible for the clothes in The Day of the Jackal?

Edward - The costume was superbly designed by two ladies, Joan Bridge and Liz Haffenden, who had worked with the director, Fred Zinnemann, many times. It's asking the audience to look at a figure for two and a half hours, it needs to be appealing and the clothes are amazing.

Freddie - Even though you spend a lot of time in the film in just a shirt and trousers it's always a very crisp shirt and crisp trousers. They make the character - what you are is what you wear.

mr edward fox in the very stylish The Day of the jackal