2013 EXCLUSIVE JIM STURGESS INTERVIEW
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5/21/13 — 2013 EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
Continuing our tradition for the fourth year, JSO is again honored to bring the fans an exclusive interview with Jim Sturgess. We are so grateful to Jim for taking time to provide this fascinating and in depth look at his career, as well as his many experiences as an actor and filmmaker. We also want to thank those who submitted questions and ideas for the interview… and lastly, our heartfelt gratitude to Jim for his genuine and thoughtful responses.
We hope you enjoy reading this engaging, and insightful interview.
The JSOnline Team xxoo
JSOnline: Cloud Atlas was an amazing movie with important themes and one that is bound to become a classic that people will be talking about, and film students will be studying for years to come. What was the most difficult part of the shoot and how has being in this movie impacted your life?
JS: In all honesty making this film was just an amazing experience all round. It’s hard to think of what was ‘difficult’ about it when you are involved in something that you feel truly passionate about and felt honoured to be a part of. I can honestly say that being a part of ‘Cloud Atlas’ is one of the achievements I am most proud of. We all knew it was a kind of ‘once in a life time’ opportunity so everyone welcomed the experience with open arms and when you’re in that situation you just think to yourself… ‘I’m gonna just enjoy every moment of this!’
I guess every film shoot comes with it’s own set of challenges and ‘Cloud Atlas’ was no more or less than making any other film really. I remember the first couple of weeks of shooting was all the Adam Ewing scenes on the boat and that was quite tough work. It was so HOT in Majorca and we were stuck out in the middle of the ocean in the blazing heat and I had to wear a full 19th Century costume… thick shirt, waistcoat, jacket, thick wool overcoat, wig and facial hair!!! It was so hot that you felt like you were gonna pass out at any moment. Anytime I felt sorry for myself I would take one look at Tom Hanks in full prosthetic makeup and instantly feel better! haha!
We would come home after a whole days filming on the boat and when you got in the shower at the end of a long day you could still feel yourself rocking to the rhythm of the ocean… it was quite weird!
I guess the film has impacted my life in quite a big way. The pure nature of the film forces you to look at yourself and the world around you and question your existence and your time spent on this planet… in this life… or the next! What it all means? How my decisions will impact not only me but the people around me. Whether I was destined to meet certain people? Whether I had in fact even met them before? Whether I am able to control my destiny or whether I just have to surrender to it? That kind of thing. Pretty big stuff actually! haha! It was a very emotional experience finishing that film.
JSOnline: Because the Orison of Sonmi-451 segment of Cloud Atlas takes place in (‘Neo Seoul’) Korea, how excited were you to visit the country of your story’s origin? What did you find similar or dissimilar about modern day Seoul versus the fictional Neo-Seoul?
JS: I was so excited that they asked me to go on the press tour to Korea! It was kind of the perfect way to end the ‘Cloud Atlas‘ journey. I’d never been before and had never really spent any sufficient amount of time in any Asian city. I had been to Japan a couple of times but had only really seen the inside of a hotel suite as I did promotion for some other films.
So this was really my first experience! I decided to stay on a few extra days, so once we had finished doing all the press, I could just spend some time there and really take a look around.
I guess what was similar about modern day Seoul and Neo Seoul for me was all the bright colourful neon signs and Korean symbols. It’s definitely a constant reminder that you are having an ‘other worldly’ experience that, as a foreigner, can almost have a futuristic quality to it I suppose! Being from the west I find Korean and Asian symbols so beautiful to look at. It made everything feel so exciting and new for me. I also love Korean food… so I was very happy there!
I guess the major difference is that they didn’t have any flying space bikes flying around… yet!
JSOnline: You get to play a pretty colorful and interesting character in your upcoming film The Electric Slide. We understand that not only was your character, Eddie Dodson, a bank robber, but a heroin addict as well. Sounds like a meaty role. How much did you research the character and can you tell us more about him and the movie?
JS: Yeah, Eddie is a fascinating character. I had a lot of fun playing him. Mainly because I had a lot of freedom to just go with my instincts and follow a journey that was all my own. Tristan Patterson (The Director) was very clear that this was a ‘movie’ about Eddie… not a documentary or a biopic, but an all out ‘movie’, that in a way celebrates the life and times of Eddie Dodson. A colourful celebration rather than the gritty more harsh reality. The best things about his life! How he might want to see it.
In the end we kind of invented him. The inventions were all inspired by keys of reality that allowed us to unlock our own doors… but the film character of Eddie Dodson is most definitely an invention!
I guess all I kind of knew was that I didn’t want to play it ’safe’. Tristan is a young and bold punk rock film maker who has a great attitude towards film making, so I felt it was a chance to really mess around with some ideas and to come up with something together, that wasn’t going to fit within the normal structure of a classic leading man. The main thing in the script was that Eddie was incredibly charming so I started to think, ‘What if he was charming in a more weird and unusual way? What if his charm was slightly peculiar and unsettling?’
I started messing around with Eddie’s voice loosely based on some old scratchy prison recordings that Tristan had sent me. I started to record and interview myself and tell stories as Eddie, and sent the recordings over to Tristan. He seemed to really respond to that and we just continued to bounce off each other in that way. Whatever got us excited was how it was going to be done.
It was the same with the costume for Eddie. Tristan had a lot of polaroids of Eddie taken at that time so we had some visual keys that unlocked some doors, but mostly we just tried stuff on… got excited about certain looks… and went with our instincts!… until eventually the character of Eddie Dodson came to life. The voice inspired the clothes, the clothes inspired the voice and the way he moved and certain mannerisms etc., until eventually we found something that felt exciting to us.
As for Eddie’s heroin addiction, the film doesn’t really go into all of that. Tristan said very early on, and I totally agreed with him, was that the drugs should feel like a secret. Something that’s going on in the back room that you don’t really get to see. And in a way that is what it was like for Eddie. Although he was out of his mind on drugs at times he was still totally capable of robbing all these banks and not getting caught. He always appeared totally presentable. We just felt that seeing scenes of Eddie shooting up drugs wouldn’t really add anything to the film and to the story… so it was best kept a secret… which I thought was a very clever idea!
The filming process was kind of like a dream for me. I was suffering from quite severe insomnia at the time and really wasn’t getting any sleep at all. I was just running on this kind of lucid energy that, in a strange way looking back, might have actually added something to the character. Everything was like a haze, I was constantly kind of half out of it… so I’m intrigued to see how the film actually comes out.
JSOnline: You’ve traveled throughout the world on location, touching down on many continents. For your upcoming film, The Lion’s Share, you will be traveling to Africa. What excites you most about visiting Africa? Can you tell us more about the story and how you’re preparing for it?
JS: I’m so excited to maybe get the chance to go to Africa. It’s a place that I have always wanted to go. It never really felt right just to go there on a holiday or as a tourist, so to get the chance to go there and to tell an important story, to integrate and work alongside local people, is just such an exciting prospect to me. I believe we will all be staying in a very small fishing village in Kenya, which is probably not somewhere you would necessarily get to experience if you were to go there just to visit. It also means we get to tell an important story and leave something behind, and from speaking to Nathan and his wife, who is producing the film, there are plans for a school to be built by the production so that we don’t just turn up, use their land, bring the circus to the village and then just disappear, but we actually leave something useful and positive behind for the people. So for those reasons it is very exciting.
The film itself deals with giving a perspective to the problem. My character is an American journalist who naively goes out there and gets caught up in it’s complexities. The film, in a way, is the article that he writes for the magazine at the end of the film!
I haven’t done so much preparation at this point as the film is still getting all it’s finance together. I’ve learnt from experience that there’s nothing worse than doing all your research and diving in head first, only to later discover that the film isn’t happening because of financial problems… but I definitely have half my mind in that story at the moment!
JSOnline: With The Big Shoe possibly delayed, and The Lion’s Share not filming until the fall, do you have any fun plans for summer?
JS: Well, I’m actually going to be in Bulgaria for most of the summer stuck in a mental institution with Ben Kingsley!!!
Right now I am having some time off and it’s just so nice to be back in London and catch up with friends and family and do normal stuff like go to the pub, do some home improvements!! haha! That kind of thing!
I’ve actually got really into cooking recently which I really enjoy. I love putting on some old records, chopping some onions and quietly tucking into an entire bottle of red wine as you go!!!
JSOnline: You must have read through lots of scripts over the past few years. Are there films that you’ve decided not to pursue and then after the movie comes out, regret the decision?
JS: Hmmm?… not really! There are some films that I might have turned down that became fairly big films I suppose… but I’m not sure I regretted not being in it!
JSOnline: So far in every movie, you’ve played a basically good person… or owl. Do you have any interest in playing the heavy, or a person with no redeeming qualities? Do you have a dream role?
JS: I’ve never really had a dream role. It’s weird but I never imagine myself in a role when I read a book or a script. Instead I try to imagine the character (not as myself) and then I try to become that character… if that makes any sense!?… the character in my head often doesn’t even look like me… and then of course when you watch the film… the character always looks like me!… or kind of anyway!
I am always up for playing any kind of character as long as there is something that appeals to me about them. It’s hard in a way when you play a character to not find any redeeming qualities in the character you are playing. In a strange way it is your job to work out and discover why your character is doing what he is doing. What makes him tick… what has happened in his past that is influencing this behavior. So no matter how unpleasant your character may seem you have to always try and work out some justifications for his actions!
So actually a lot of more evil characters have a lot more complex stuff going on in their heads so they can often be very exciting to play!
I feel I often get asked to play characters who don’t necessarily do the nicest of things. If you think about it Jamie from ‘Heartless’ is a cold blooded murderer. If you read in a newspaper about a young boy who brutally stabbed and killed an innocent victim and tore his beating heart out of his chest… you would think he was an evil monster!
And that’s what Phil [Ridley] tried to do. He gave you a fairy tale into the madness of a cold blooded killer’s head… and somehow made it beautiful!
James in ‘Ashes’ also does some pretty outrageous and stupid things. Again if you read something about someone doing that in the news you would think they were a terrible human being!!! haha!!
JSOnline: You seem to make friends on-set quite easily and stay in touch with many of your former cast mates. Who would you like to work with again?
JS: I’d probably like to work with almost everyone I’ve worked with again. Especially with a Director. It must be so amazing to start the film with a great familiarity and to pick up where you left off from the last film. It must make the whole filming process so much easier… because a lot of it can be about working each other out… discovering what works for each different Director or co star, so to have all of that covered would make things so great!
Me and Evan [Rachel Wood] often talk about how great it would be to do another film together. I respect her so much as an actress and I love her so much as a person. She makes me laugh so much but is able to switch on the character whenever she wants.
We were all so bound by the experience of making ‘Across the Universe‘ as it was really all our first proper filming experience… so to work with Ev again would be a lot of fun.
JSOnline: Of all the characters you’ve played on screen, which one is most like the real you?
JS: Hmmm?… blimey! That’s a really hard question!?!
I guess the cliched answer would be that there is a bit of me in every character which is absolutely true. They all feel like parts of me and at the same time I don’t feel like any of them… as they are different people from me with different lives and problems and come from different places around the world, etc.
I guess the character that strangely mostly represented my reality and a character who’s problems and struggles I could relate to on quite a personal level was Jamie in ‘Heartless’.
Geographically he comes from the same place as I do. He’s seeing the same problems that I see, some of his fears were my fears… without getting too personal about it I could relate to him on a very deep level. He was a desperate and heartbreaking character to play and that films holds a very special place in my heart.
JSOnline: We understand that you don’t like stage musicals, and are not a big fan of movie musicals, so it seems unlikely we’re going to get to hear you sing on the big screen again which is heartbreaking for so many of your fans who love your voice. Is there any way we’re going to get to hear you sing again?
JS: I’m not sure I hate stage musicals. I actually went to see ‘The Book of Mormon’ and I can honestly say it was one of the greatest things I had ever seen! I’m not sure if anything has ever made me laugh quite as much as that… and that is the power of a musical. Also I loved ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ and ‘Bugsy Malone’ growing up and still love them now… and obviously I love ‘Across the Universe’… so it’s not that I hate musicals… I just don’t think there are many good ones!!! haha!
Me, Julie [Taymor] and Evan have all got together to work on doing another ‘Across the Universe,’ but you’ll be sad to hear that the studios wont give Julie the money to make another one!!!… which to me seems such a shame… but unfortunately that is the business!
I’d be more than happy to sing in a film again if there was an interesting film that had some singing in it!
JSOnline: Are there any new projects on the horizon?
JS: There are always films moving around that could potentially get made in the independent world… but none that are in any way set in stone!
JSOnline: Over the years we’ve seen you in some interesting photo shoots, but so far nothing tops wearing a tux, smoking a cigarette, while floating in a swimming pool. Can you tell us about your experience with the Vanity Fair shoot? It looks like you had fun.
JS: Yeah, that was totally crazy! All I knew was that I had to go to this mansion to have a group photo taken by Bruce Weber for a profile for young actors in Hollywood. I guess in my head it was going to be just one picture of all of us just standing around a pool or something wearing tuxedos, etc. I thought the whole thing might take a couple of hours… and I even made dinner plans for around 8.00.
It was so crazy… there were so many people hanging around that it felt like we were making a blockbuster movie or something. So many lights, people, staff, props… it was nuts.
We hung around for a while and got our tuxedos fitted, and all the rest of it, and then we went to the pool where the photo was going to be taken. Once everyone was there basically some music started playing and it just turned into a massive party. No one really knew what the hell was going on. We were just told to hang out, dance, eat, drink, etc.
Then Bruce would literally just walk around and direct people a little bit, or just capture what was going on in that moment.
It went from awkward as no one knew what was happening to crazy pretty quickly. Soon we were all just messing around and jumping in the pool and dancing and whatever. Anyway… it was safe to say that I didn’t make my dinner for 8.00 as the party went on later and later and Bruce just hung out and took pictures… it was pretty insane and beat your average stiff photo shoot that’s for sure!
JSOnline: With all the news on the internet about movies, films, and actors, do you ever read Twitter — or other sites on the internet — to see how people are responding to you and your films?
JS: I read some stuff… of course I do. I really don’t hunt around and pick up reviews too much. My publicists often send me the really good ones… so I’ll read those!! haha!
Sometimes it’s really interesting to see conflicting opinions. Reading the different reviews for a film like ‘Cloud Atlas’ was fascinating. To see how different people reacted to it. It actually blew my mind and just goes to show you that we don’t all see the same thing… we don’t all have the same experience as each other… one person can be sitting there going through a wealth of thoughts and ideas and inspirations and moved to tears emotionally… whilst someone else is just bored and irritated and couldn’t be less impressed. It’s amazing what you the viewer brings to the experience.
It also has a lot to do with how you watched the film… when you watched it… who you watched it with. There’s a lot of variables that go into your own personal movie experience.
I’ve done it where I’ve watched a film and not really been that invested or interested in it… then I’ll speak to a friend who’s opinions I trust who totally loved it… and i’ll go and watch it again and have a completely different experience.
It’s what makes it all so interesting! But I never really get too caught up in what other people are saying other than my own friends and the people around me.
I’ve sat in a press screening and it bears almost no resemblance to watching the film with an audience of keen cinema goers hungry to watch a great story and are totally wide open and ready for the experience because they have just paid there own money to see a film that they want to like!
JSOnline: We’ve been wondering about the poems you post on Twitter. Are they current or poems/lyrics you wrote years ago? Do you still write poetry (or lyrics) with frequency, or is it something that you only do occasionally?
JS: There are some old poems and new ones and a lot of the lyrics are from songs that I have been writing… I basically have a bunch of old notebooks full of lyrics and poems and i’m always scribbling things down. Often song lyrics only make sense when they are put with the music so I can’t really put a lot of that stuff up on twitter because without the music the lyrics don’t really work.
I often forget that people reading some of the song lyrics that I have put up on twitter don’t know the melody to the song and are reading it like straight poetry… so I try to post the ones that are the most obviously lyrical in that sense.
I went through a stage when I was younger when I really couldn’t sleep very well and so I used to just scribble down thoughts and ideas at a hundred miles an hour… so I have notebooks full of some pretty mad stuff.
I’m not sure a lot of that stuff would work up on twitter though!!!
JSOnline: Getting you ready for your PEOPLE Magazine debut… (taken directly from the magazine’s ‘Chatter’ page).
Last time I cried… JS: I actually fell down my wooden stairs a couple of days ago and really injured myself… I was just wearing socks and I was half asleep and I totally stacked it! It was so painful… there may have been some tears then!
Last big surprise… JS: Yep… probably falling down the stairs again!!! haha!
Last thing I do before I go to bed… JS: Turn the light off.
Last indulgence… JS: It’s a constant battle for me… well I just had my birthday so there was plenty of indulgences from many of my vices!!!
Last thing I regretted… JS: Probably the stairs again!!! haha!
Last thing I cooked… JS: As I said before I’ve been getting really into cooking. The last thing I cooked was probably Thai shiitake chicken with rice.
Last time I was starstruck…
JS: It’s a bit of a strange one but I had recently watched a film called ‘Electrick Children’ and I had been really blown away by the young girl in the film. She is an actress called Julia Garner… and I was totally mesmerized by her performance. I was then in a bar in NYC and she walked in with some friends and I was totally star struck… I couldn’t stop looking at her. Not in a fancying kind of way… I don’t know… I was more in awe of her performance!