British playwright/actor ALAN BENNET feared for his life following a horrific homophobic assault he endured in Italy 12 years ago.

The MADNESS OF KING GEORGE star was so savagely beaten with a steel pole, he needed 12 stitches in a head wound.

It was the eve of the 70-year-old's 58th birthday and he was taking a stroll with his partner RUPERT THOMAS in the seaside town of Ladispoli when they were confronted by two youths.

At first they tried to avoid the two males. Bennett writes in the LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS, "Turning, I feel a blow across the side of my neck... but not painful, a punch that has missed perhaps.

"Rupert has become anxious at the same moment because the other youth is holding a cigarette far too close to his face. Rupert shouts and we start to run back the way we have come. There is no attempt to rob us, which would have been quite easy to do.

"As we run, I feel a heavy blow on the top of my head, the blow struck with a short length of steel scaffolding. I stagger with the blow but run on."

In retrospect, Bennett is convinced this attack was the work of homophobic Italian males who took affront to his homosexuality.

He continues, "There is no longer any mystery about this crime in either of their minds: this oddly matched couple have been up to no good; what this sorry-looking, middle-aged Englishman is not saying is that on that seedy promenade some advance had been made, a gesture even, and the honour of the Italian male impugned.

"The wound I have received is virtually self-inflicted, an entirely proper response to an insult to Italian manhood."

01/11/2004 10:47