No, he's not a doctor. He just plays one on TV. But the dashing star of House' does love his motorcycle, both on screen and off.
By Dave Waldon
One thing that makes Hugh Laurie’s weekly performance as the lead of Fox’s hit medical drama “House” so extraordinary is how different the two men are. The character Laurie plays, Dr. Gregory House, is a cane-dependent American physician with stubby hair growth and brusque near-misanthropic manner. Laurie is an athletic British actor who is usually clean-shaven and has a generously warm and humorous disposition. Indeed, about the only things the pair have in common is that they are both quite tall probably ‘cause they share the same body and they both love their motorcycles.
It may not be that odd to see a guy like Dr. House, who favors monster-truck events over a jaunt to the opera, tooling around on a hog. During the show’s second season, he impulsively bought himself a Honda motorcycle: a 2005 Honda CBR1000RR Repsol Replica. Despite his bad leg, the motorcycle has become a semi-regular part of House’s routine he conveniently slides his cane into a slot along the side. In real life, Laurie prefers the company of a 2004 Triumph Bonneville “an absolute classic,” he calls his machine, which is, in fact, his primary vehicle when he’s in Los Angeles for the long months of production.
Laurie’s love of two-wheel transportation began in his teen years. “I started riding a two-stroke moped at 14, messing about in a field,” he says. “I was immediately hooked.” Two years later, his father, a doctor himself, bought his son his first actual motorcycle: a Honda SS50. “That’s where I spent most of my formative falling-off years,” says Laurie. He doesn’t do much of that anymore, though he admits that “House’s” aren’t completely at ease with his daily mounting of his vehicle of choice.
“I think they’re OK about it,” Laurie says. “They might have been a little nervous to begin with, but I kept telling them that nobody has a greater interest in not falling off than I do.” And the prospect of such doesn’t faze the Golden Globe-winning actor, even after the high-profile incident involving Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his ride last June.
“All accidents are upsetting, obviously,” says Laurie soberly. “I have sort of a superstition about saying this, but I have been riding a bike for 30 years God, I can’t believe I’ve been doing anything for 30 years! And having said that, now you’re going to make me have an accident.”
Let the record show that Laurie made it safely home the night of this interview. And it also is clear that “House’s” producers weren’t skivved out enough about their star’s vehicular habit to not write it into the show. “It was the show’s idea to have House ride a Honda,” says the actor. “House is tight with money, and the implication is that he picked up that Honda cheap. If House were to end up on a Triumph, it’d have to be because he won it in a poker game.”
Riding a Triumph, as you may have guessed, is not the same as riding a Honda. “The Honda, that’s a sports bike,” explains Laurie. “That’s a sort of flat-out, as-fast-as-you-can-go, ‘Rider at the Gates of Dawn’ kind of a bike.” In short, it’s a speed demon, the kind of motorcycle a devil-may-care bloke such as House would drive. The Triumph, though, “is more sedate, and more practical. And I really don’t use it for entertainment. I use it to get to work. I use it to commute. I can get through traffic, and I can park it easily, and it’s cheap to run,” says House. “And everyone should ride a Triumph!”
Maybe everyone should ride a Triumph the way Laurie does when he travels from his local accommodations to the “House” set in Universal City, just outside of Hollywood. “Driving a motorcycle is like flying,” he says. “All your senses are alive. The greatest thing about riding in Los Angeles is the smell. When I go to work, it’s 6 o’clock in the morning. And what they do in the public parks and lawns is they turn the sprinklers on around 3 or 4 in the morning, I guess before it gets hot. So when you go to work at 6 o’clock in the morning, the smell of the trees and plants is just exquisite. My favorite time of day is riding through Los Angeles at the dawn. It’s just beautiful.”
There’s another advantage to riding a motorcycle in the early hours, Laurie has discovered: fewer fellow commuters. That’s not just because of the ease of travel, either. “Los Angeles drivers seem to have some political or religious objection to turning their head,” says Laurie, briefly sounding like House, albeit with a genteel British accent. “Their cervical vertebrae apparently fuse as soon as they get into a car.”
Copyright © CTW Features