Danny Dyer suffered ‘major panic attack’ after blanking words on theatre stage

Danny Dyer admitted he had a “major panic attack” after forgetting his lines on stage while he was performing a Harold Pinter play on Broadway – having taken drugs and stayed out the night before.

The former EastEnders star was cast as a waiter in Pinter’s Celebration at London’s Almeida Theatre, before it transferred to New York’s Lincoln Centre in 2001.

Dyer said he had never been to New York before and got “very excited”. “I took a lot of drugs out there,” the 46-year-old told the How To Fail With Elizabeth Day podcast.

Danny Dyer On Harold Pinter
Danny Dyer (left) and Harold Pinter (PA)

“I take it very seriously, my work, and I love it, and I strive to be better every night and I’d never got in a situation, I’d heard about people that had dried on stage because it’s a massive thing and all that, and it never happened to me.

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

Recounting the incident, Dyer said he “just didn’t have a clue what to say” on stage and realised he was letting down his cast mates who were in “horror”.

“I’d never had that feeling before. I loved showing off and then all of a sudden it’s like, so my lips started to go, because I was going to cry.”

Dyer said someone in the cast shouted the line to him.

Danny Dyer
Actor Danny Dyer in 2000 (PA)

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

“I thought, f***, 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’.”

Dyer described the experience as a “wake up call”.

“I have done many plays since (and) that fear has never left me”, he said.

“I think you need it because it makes you feel like you’re not bulletproof … I inflicted it on myself, but it was a major fail and it was something that I really did learn from.”

Dyer has previously spoken about the defining influence Pinter had on his life and career, and fronted a documentary about the playwright after his death in December 2008 at the age of 78.

How To Fail With Elizabeth Day is available wherever you get your podcasts.