Daniel Mays On What Makes Treasure Island An Enduring Classic

The Line of Duty actor also tackled the idea of an all-female adaptation.

Actor Daniel Mays
Daniel Mays the voice of Ben Gunn Image Audible

Daniel Mays is fast becoming “one of those actors”. You know, the ones that seemingly pop up in everywhere in all manner of roles big and small.

You’ll have seen him in Atonement or Shifty or Made in Dagenham. More recently, he’s popped up in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and The Limehouse Golem while his TV credits include the Line of Duty and Guerilla.

All of which begs the question as to how he’s found time to star in Audible’s audio adaptation of Treasure Island, especially as he’s already starred in a TV version for Sky alongside Eddie Izzard as Long John Silver, no less.

“I just love Treasure Island. I’ve read it as a kid and I’ve read it to my kids,” the BAFTA-nominated star tells loaded. “I also played Livesey in the Sky version, whereas here I got to play Ben Gunn.”

It’s an adaptation that boasts a stellar cast alongside Mays too, with Catherine Tate, Owen Teale and Philip Glenister all lending their vocal talents to proceedings.

And while that cast and the chance to reunite with Life of Mars co-star Glenister was enticing enough, the challenge of performing for audio proved similarly strong.

“An all-female treasure island would be brilliant. I would love to see that.”


“Every time you do something for audio, you’re in that booth and all you’ve really got to draw on is your imagination,” Mays explains “It artistically frees you up to try out a lot of different characterisations for the role ahead.”

That characterisation included a Bristolian accent – something Mays manages to pull off with aplomb. Yet all joking aside, the Epping-born thespian reckons there’s something very special about Robert Louis Stevenson’s book and loaded is inclined to agree.

“It’s got a timeless story that centres of Jim Hawkins. That character resonates with the aspirations you have when you get to a certain age. It’s adolescence and that dream of embarking on an adventure.

“The story is about the corruption of that innocence. Suddenly Jim is on this voyage with this array of incredibly dangerous, cut-throat pirates. He isn’t aware of that straight away and as the story progresses, there’s a sense that the rug is pulled from under his feet.

“There’s something quite relevant about that. That idea that the older you get the more the you realise the world around you isn’t as safe as you think it is. It’s that core story of Jim becoming a man is what makes it so appealing.”

As adaptations go, Audible’s plays it pretty straight, but Mays thinks there is still a wealth of opportunity for anyone looking to take things in a different direction.

Actor Daniel Mays.
Daniel Mays trying out his Bristolian accent. Always a tricky one. Image Audible

There’s already been a couple of Treasure Island adaptations set in space, so why not tackle the one final frontier: an all-female version?

“Why not? We’ve got Jodie Whittaker on Doctor Who. There’s always scope. The great thing about reinventing classics is that there is always a take on something or slant that someone hasn’t thought of before,” Mays says.

“And when the source material is so good, like Treasure Island, if there is a different way of telling it then all power to those involved. An all-female treasure island would be brilliant. I would love to see that.”

Mays, of course, is as ridiculously busy as ever. He’s just wrapped on a comedy called “Swimming With Men” alongside Rob Brydon which he describes as “Full Monty-esque independent film about a male synchronised swimming team” that represents a shift away from some of his darker roles and he’s also set to star alongside Billie Piper in a film called Jump For Joy.

One thing continues to bug loaded though: why has he never popped up on Game of Thrones?

“Weirdly I’ve never had an audition for Game of Thrones. Some of these shows you just never get a look in.”

There’s still time, Daniel, there’s still time.

Treasure Island is available to download now at www.audible.co.uk/treasureisland

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