Playing the angel faced Oliver Twist in the film 'Oliver!' propelled this young 10 year old to extraordinary fame, with luck in film roles that would last for several years. Yet as he appeared in his first TV commercial, who would have suspected the things that were in store for this young man...
Mark Lester was born in Oxford in July 1958, the son of actors Michael and Rita Lester. Mark made his professional debut when he was only 2.5, playing in a TV commercial with his father, who was the featured player. He was later enrolled into the 'Corona' Stage School, where he studied acting and mime, and began, from the age of 6 to appear in small roles on the television and in films. The roles increased in size, and in 1967 he was seen playing a stuttering schoolboy in the film 'Our Mothers House' the first role that brought him fame. By the time producers were auditioning for the lead role of 'Oliver!' in 1968, Mark was already a seasoned professional.
Many roles for TV, Stage and Film followed, including the critically acclaimed 'Run Wild, Run Free' in 1969, where he played an autistic child. By the time he was 14 years old he was starring in an average of 2 films, and earning £100,000, a year. Once he started puberty however, his screen appeal began to wane, and the roles began to dry up.
On his 18th birthday, Mark was handed a cheque for the money he had earned, and there seemed little else for him to do, than go wild and spend it all.
"I bought myself a Ferrari and it was party, party, party" he is recorded as saying, "it was terrific fun at first. I tried everything that was going, drink, dope, acid - whatever was on offer. For a teenage boy, it was like a dream come true". Things soon turned sour, however, since the money disappeared fast. It took a short two years for the money (and friends) to finally disappear, and for his girlfriend of 3 years to tire of his dissolute lifestyle, and the relationship to decline. The films ended with his role in 'Crossed Swords' ('The Prince and The Pauper' in the UK), and Mark was left with little but a sharp wake-up call to re evaluate his life.
He ended up in re-hab, began to keep fit, and at 28 years of age, he went back to school to get the A levels he needed to study his new interest, Osteopathy. He married, and now is the father of 4 children and runs a successful osteopathy and acupuncture clinic in Cheltenham. He very occasionally makes an appearance in a TV programme or short film, but would rather leave his past behind him. When approached by Notapushymum to see if he would like to make any comment for other parents, he told us:
"I don't think I would like to say anything because although I was one of the lucky ones who was successful there are plenty that don't make it. I certainly would not let my children perform, their school time is precious and it would certainly encroach on that time".
We wish him continued luck in his new life, and fully understand his desire to maintain his privacy, and put the past behind him. We thank him for taking some time out, at least, to reply to our letter...