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The analogy is fitting: like Firth, Penry-Jones has swashbuckled his way through period dramas, playing, in his time, Captain Wentworth in ITV's Persuasion.We meet, for lunch in the pub garden next to the pollen-rich field, to talk about his most recent period piece, although sadly, for his female fans at least, it airs over the radio waves rather than on television.When you find yourself in a show, when you're doing love scenes with some beautiful girl, and you're there and you're miles away from home and you spend the day in bed together, and then you go home from work, and it's just you two and you go out for dinner that night, and yet you've been kissing all day ... Dervla and I try not to spend more than a couple of weeks away from each other." Although his Minogue days were eons ago, and he hates bringing them up out of deference to Kirwan, he does give me one clue as to why they might have split up. And, once, I stupidly said to her, when she played me 'Can't get you out of my head': 'Yeah, it's good.But I'd rather hear you do some sort of rock, acoustic thing.' I was in the studio with her when she was recording it. And then – obviously – it turned into this huge hit." Whether the song would be one of his Desert Island picks, if he ever gets asked on the show, remains to be seen.Curriculum vitae 1970 Born in West Norwood, south London, to Peter Penry-Jones, a Welsh actor, and Angela Thorne, an actress.1982 Attends Dulwich College, south-east London, where he deliberately flunks his exams in favour of training for the stage at Bristol's Old Vic Theatre School. 1991 Needs his mother to step in and help find him an agent after realising working as a runway fashion model in Milan isn't helping him to get on the stage.And this was despite initially considering turning down the job as he hadn't wanted to work with the actress. I said to my agent: "I don't want to do anything with Dervla.

A course at the Old Vic Theatre School in Bristol followed, although he screwed that up as well, getting thrown out after two years.

He readily admits that the adulation that comes with big parts was what got him into acting, aged 13, in a Dulwich College production of The Tempest.

"A teacher, Jan Piggott, told me (he puts on deep voice): 'They're auditioning for The Tempest.

This makes it somewhat poignant that his most recent role, Peter Kyle in Sir Terence Rattigan's wartime hit Flare Path, about a Bomber Command squadron, is a Hollywood hotshot who has returned to the UK to try and snare his one true love.

"My desire to be on a film set is quite large," Penry-Jones says, adding that despite not regretting any of his previous roles, the six films he has done to date haven't quite cut it.

Some serious partying later, and aged 21, he was getting nowhere, so his mother stepped in, as they do, with a call to an agent she knew.