Although he is a close listener and always weighs his answers deliberately, he claims to have a short attention span.‘I’m only really interested in taking a part if it’s nothing like me,’ he says. My auditions for drama school were miserable, but one thing I had on my side, although I had no experience or skill or training, was that I wanted to learn everything.’ His restlessness took hold in childhood. More frightening, the held down bit, because you can’t escape.’ In recent years – roughly the five years since he met Knightley on the set of Pride and Prejudice and they started to date – he’s been reminded of that feeling of pursuit and entrapment. ‘As soon as there’s a group, suddenly it becomes a competition: who can push the limit of what you can do?‘I didn’t want him to feel like I was an emotional vampire,’ he says, ‘and I didn’t want to be Jeremy Paxman, but I did have to understand him as a person.
He relished this initiation into a new, frightening craft.
‘When you first walk into a boxing gym you see the ring in the middle and there’s this, “holy s---” moment: that’s the danger zone, I’ll stay over here.
But the trainer was insistent every day that you have to make the ring your home, and outside scary.’ When Friend went to New York and Canada he located suitable gyms to keep up his regime.
But now Rupert‘s found love again too and it seems his relationship with inspirational Aimee couldn’t be anymore different from his past high-profile romance.
Since she had her legs amputated when she was just one year old, Aimee loathes being described as ‘disabled’ and has gone on to become a famed public speaker, top athlete and successful model, even becoming a muse for the late Alexander Mc Queen.