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SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 08 2001
The London Times
My cultural life: Rufus Sewell
INTERVIEW BY PAULINE MCLEOD
The actor loves Martin Scorsese’s films, watching rubbish television and catching people unawares on camera, but won’t go to an Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical in case he likes it
Films

I don’t really want to pick one film because it would be a misrepresentation. It is like someone asking: “What’s your favourite food?” And you saying: “Fried eggs,” because that’s all you can think of at that moment.

Having said that, Rushmore (1998) is a great movie. It is well written, superbly directed and acted, concise and not dumbed down. But last night I also enjoyed watching Final Destination (2000, above), which has Devon Sawa in it, who is a friend of mine. It is a teen slasher film but, even though I knew it was rather silly, I would rather see a good teen slasher than a bad art film any day.

I would always go to see a Martin Scorsese film. And I would always be interested in a Coen brothers movie. But Scorsese is a must. He has, I think, never used clichés, has never repeated himself and never used a shorthand out of laziness. Watch a Scorsese film and observe how the children behave because that shows how brilliant he is. Usually the children will run on and you think “film children”, but in a Scorsese film they behave in a real way. He has imagination, honesty and, even when it doesn’t work, he is always interesting.

I don’t love everything that the Coen brothers do, but I love the trying. I found O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) a little dull and pretentious. I still enjoyed it, but not as much as I have their earlier stuff. By the same token, I don’t like all of Woody Allen’s films, but I watch them because he is capable of being brilliant.

Sport

Sensibly, there is an understanding that all actors lie when they are going for a part. You won’t get the job unless you do. So, if you are asked whether you are trained in sumo wrestling, you say, “Yes, of course,” and worry about it once you have the job. There is a lot of horse riding involved in A Knight’s Tale (2001), but I have been taught from scratch (Hamlet, 1996, The Honest Courtesan, 1996, Middlemarch, 1994) so many times that I am really quite good. I was in the rugby team at school, but I was never sporty. I jog, that is about it. If you like your beer, you have to do something.

The thing that makes sport interesting to me is the human element. Watching Goran Ivanisevic provided great drama during this year’s Wimbledon final. It was extraordinary to see how much it mattered. But when it is a bunch of people I don’t know running around, I would rather watch an old film.

City

Some of the best travelling I have done is when I have been to a place to work rather than as a tourist. One of the most beautiful times I have had was in Rome when I was filming The Honest Courtesan with Catherine McCormack at the Cinecittà Studios. I had a beautiful 14th-century apartment just off the Piazza Navona and, because I had so much time off, my best memories are of walking around the streets, taking photographs and sitting in cafés, being in this idyllic place and thinking: “God, sometimes I am so lucky.” Consequently, when I think of Rome I don’t think of the work but of the time I spent not working.

We filmed A Knight’s Tale in the Czech Republic, mostly because it is five times cheaper than filming anywhere else. I had a lovely apartment in Prague, which is a stunningly beautiful city. It is the most architecturally complete place in the sense that, unlike Paris or London, or anywhere else for that matter, there are no modern monstrosities that get in the way — until you get to the outskirts, where the Eastern bloc buildings are really grey and depressing.

Television

When I have been out of the country and rushing around, there is nothing that I like better than to sit on my sofa with my feet up, reading books, seeing my mates and watching the television. I like salt and vinegar crisp-munching, tea-slurping, any-old-rubbish television. Anything that is soporifically comforting: like a fireplace used to be a couple of hundred years ago.

Books

I have got out of the habit of reading, although I am weaning myself back into it and am in the middle of Perfume by Patrick Suskind (Penguin, £7.99) again, which I haven’t read for a very long time.

It is about a boy born in revolutionary Paris to a woman who doesn’t even know that she is pregnant. He is born with a sense of smell one million times more developed than any other human being, and he becomes a perfumer obsessed with smells. His life is about finding the perfect scent. It is a fantastic book. Wonderful. Very vivid.

I am about to play the religious reformer Martin Luther at the National in London, so a lot of my reading at the moment is homework. There are about 25 books on Luther that I should read, and if in doing that I learn something specific about the man rather than a generalisation, then it will be worth it.

The one I am reading now is Young Man Luther: A Study in Psychoanalysis and History, by Erik H. Erikson (W. W. Norton, £8.95), which is terribly dry, but it could prove to be very useful.

Passion

I love taking photographs of people; off-guard, reportage shots. I don’t mean paparazzi-type photos, but those that capture who people are when they are relaxed.

I also have a photographic diary of pretty much every job I have done during the past eight years. I was in Papua New Guinea for three months for a film that I am really proud of that is still to be released here. It is called In a Savage Land (1999), and made by the Australian director Bill Bennett. In Papua New Guinea the local tribes still live in mud huts, there is no electricity, they wear grass skirts and trade in yams. I have the most amazing pictures from my time there.

And then I remember being miserable in Canada on a film called Bless the Child (2000), for no other reason than the fact that I was stuck on my own. Kim Basinger, who was very nice, was there with her entourage, but she wasn’t available to hang out with, and the other actor was six years old. It wasn’t until I came home that I realised that I hadn’t taken a single photograph.

Pet hate

I wouldn’t want to see an Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical in case I liked it. I generally don’t like that kind of stuff — too cheesy — but I must never go because the thought that I might enjoy it, even mildly, is so terrifying that I can’t put myself in that position. Consequently, I can never go to see one of his productions.

Rufus Sewell stars in A Knight’s Tale, which is on general release, and will appear in John Osborne’s Luther, at the National Theatre, London SE1, from Sep 29-Nov 14

  • CV: Rufus Sewell

    RUFUS SEWELL was born in 1967 in Twickenham, Middlesex, the son of a Welsh mother and an Australian film- animator father. After studying at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London he built a career in the West End and on Broadway before the role of Will Ladislaw in the BBC’s Middlemarch made him a household name. He is divorced from the fashion buyer Yasmin Abdallah and lives in Kentish Town.

    CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

    THEATRE
    Making It Better (1992)
    This London theatre debut won him the London Critics’ Circle Best Newcomer Award
    Arcadia (1994)
    Nominated for an Olivier Award

    TELEVISION
    Middlemarch (1994)

    Role of Will Ladislaw made him a pin-up
    Cold Comfort Farm (1995)
    Playing opposite Kate Beckinsale

    FILM
    A Man of No Importance (1994)

    Suri Krishnamma’s tale of a bus driver
    Carrington (1995)
    Biopic of the painter Dora Carrington
    The Woodlanders (1998)
    Thomas Hardy adaptation
    Martha, Meet Frank, Daniel and Lawrence (1998)
    Playing Frank McQuean

    thanks Rai!!

 

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