2012 EXCLUSIVE JIM STURGESS INTERVIEW
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3/25/12 — 2012 EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
We are again honored to bring the fans another exclusive interview from our favorite Englishman, Jim Sturgess. We are so grateful to Jim for taking time to provide in-depth answers to our many questions making this such an engaging, and insightful interview. We also want to thank our forum members who submitted questions and ideas for the interview… and lastly, our heartfelt gratitude to Jim for his genuine and thoughtful responses which always bring us a smile!
The JSOnline Team xxoo
JS: Good first question! I wish I knew the answer!! I know that Juan [Solanas] the Director (who is an absolute perfectionist) is really pleased with the film and is trying to protect the film as much as he can. As always it’s very tricky to try and make something that is accessible to a mainstream audience and something that is just that little bit different. Fingers crossed we’ll all find out about it soon.
JSOnline: In Cloud Atlas, we understand that you play multiple characters? Can you tell us about them? What was the hardest part of playing multiple roles in the same film?
JS: Making Cloud Atlas was an amazing experience. I loved every minute of it. It was so ambitious and exciting. Everyone involved all knew that we were working towards something that has not really been done before on this kind of a scale. Whether it succeeds or not it will definitely be a cinematic event. It was like rep theatre on a massive scale. so really it was almost going back to basics in a way. Using make up and and big spoonful of your imagination to make it work. I love that the audience almost have to participate and lend the film there own imagination for a couple of hours. It’s much more rewarding that way, and much more like watching an old play or pantomime in that respect!
I have so much faith in both the Wachowski’s and Tom Tykwer. They are such forward thinking and visionary artists and so incredible and inspiring to be around. They have really managed to visually enhance the ideas that lie within the book and make it more than just a straight adaptation.
Basically most of the main actors play or ‘appear’ in each story in some way or another. We were always trying to come up with new ways to try and get everyone involved in every story…which wasn’t always possible but was a lot of fun. I can tell you that I managed to appear in all six of the stories which I was really pleased about! I’m not going to tell you how I ‘appear’ or who I play as I really believe that it would ruin part of the fun of watching the film. You have to really look out for it. I understand that people want to find out whose playing who, and i’m sure a lot will be revealed in the trailer but I honestly believe if you want to get the most out of watching the film the less you know the more fun it will be!
The hardest part was without doubt all the make up. I got off fairly lightly compared with some of the other actors but I was always in the chair for a good 2 hours, and other days for a lot longer. We sometimes jumped from different times in one day which would be a bit confusing. I remember shooting a scene in the future and then having to go and shoot another scene way back in the past…it is the closest I will ever get to actual time travel!!!
JSOnline: You spent quite a bit of time in Germany filming Cloud Atlas. What did you do with your time off there and do you have any interesting stories to tell?
JS: I grew to really love Berlin. Before I went everyone kept telling me how much I was going to love it there. I remember when I first arrived I was slightly under whelmed and wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about.. but the longer I stayed the more I grew to love it. You slowly start to discover all these hidden cafe’s and bars and all these amazing tucked away independent cinemas which I loved going to. They also have these mad raves and nightclubs which are still very much a part of the squat culture that went on in Berlin through the 80’s and 90’s. Parties that go on all from Friday up till Monday morning in what appears to be in these huge abandoned warehouses. It was very cool… Obviously I wasn’t able to go on for that long! The Berlin crew were a lot of fun and looked after us well. I remember one night after leaving a nightclub me and some members of the crew decided to dress up in fancy dress and take a load of sleeping bags up to the Schinkel’s National Monument to carry on the fun… we ended up sleeping there the whole night. We got woken up in the morning by a guided tour being shown around the monument which was pretty funny!… I think they were a bit shocked to find us!
JSOnline: Still talking about Cloud Atlas, what was it like working alongside so many esteemed actors in a single film and how was it working with multiple directors (Tom Tykwer and The Wachowskis)?
JS: Yeah it was pretty exciting. The read through alone was overwhelming. All these incredible actors sitting around a big table reading this crazy script and putting on different voices. I remember Andy, Lana and Tom welcoming us all and giving us a kind of guided tour of what we were hoping to achieve. It was one of those special moments where you listen to what you are about to experience and then take a look around the room at who you’re about experience it with and it felt very special and exciting.
Everyone was a long for the ride and there wasn’t an ego or a bad apple amongst us. It almost felt as though it was everyone’s first film again as it was like nothing anyone had experienced before. Also, for the more well known actors, it was a risk and a new challenge, so there was a real freshness about it.
I loved Andy, Lana and Tom. They all brought something different. All such unique and brilliant personalities. They did almost everything they could together as one unit. Whether it was rehearsals or make up tests it was always all three of them, and then obviously when it came to shooting, the two teams had to split for logistical reasons…but i’m sure if they thought they could afford it they would have done everything together. Lana talked a lot about how film making really is the only sociable and collaborative art form. You absolutely need lots of people to make a film. Lots of people all discussing, collaborating and working towards the same goal. I love all that. All from different artistic backgrounds. For them to collaborate with another director was a unique extension of that idea.
JSOnline: Upside Down and Cloud Atlas, are both films that use green screen and CGI. What made working this way a challenge?
JS: You’d be surprised to hear that there really wasn’t as much green screen as you’d think in either of those films. What tends to happen is that they build these incredible sets and there’s normally a bit of green screen outside the window so that the animator can enhance and further the world outside. In that respect it really isn’t that different. There’s usually enough around you to help with your belief.
The time when a lot of green screen is used is when there’s some big stunt or something like that. I remember in Upside Down having to do a scene with Kirsten [Dunst] surrounded entirely by green standing on a green box holding onto a green rope whilst pretending that people were shooting at us. Of course it makes it a bit harder when there really is nothing to react to but you just have to focus on the person you’re working with and go with your imagination! It’s very childlike and you just have to hope that some talented artist is gonna digitally create something impressive behind you!
Infact a lot of my experience in Cloud Atlas was quite the opposite. We filmed a lot on a ship that sailed through the ocean and when you’re far out to sea like that and all dressed in period costume there really isn’t much to tell you that you aren’t living in the 19th Century!
JSOnline: In Ashes, we know that you play the son of an Alzheimer’s patient. What did this film teach you about the disease? Were you shocked by what you discovered?
JS: I was really shocked by what I discovered about Alzheimer’s. I guess like a lot of people I just assumed it was part of getting old, that It was just old people getting a bit forgetful, that it wasn’t really that big a deal as forgetting things is what old people do. I had no idea that it can literally destroy a persons life. Also how devastating and difficult it can be for the people around them. It’s heartbreaking and incredibly frustrating.
Both me and Ray [Winstone] spent the day with some Alzheimer’s patients and there carers. We all went Ten Pin Bowling and it was a good relaxed environment to get to speak to people about there own personal experiences. One thing that seemed to be so apparent is just how difficult and frustrating it can be for the loved ones who are trying to take care of the person they love. How hard it is to let go and to accept that the person that you know and love really is fading away from you although still very much there physically. It’s a very scary and confusing situation for everyone involved.
I didn’t spend too much time learning about it because the character I play in the film knows nothing of the disease and his inability to cope was an integral part of his character. I couldn’t resist watching some documentaries and reading some articles just out of interest though.
The Director’s [Mat Whitecross] Dad had recently just died from Alzheimer’s. He was so open and great about sharing his experiences with his Dad which was always very helpful. Lesley Manville’s had also lost her Mother to the illness and Tim Wheeler from the band ‘Ash’ who did the music for the film had very recently lost his Father to Alzheimer’s. He has written a heartbreaking and beautiful song to his Father at the end of the film.
What’s great about the film is that it isn’t sentimental. Mat (the Director) has really used the fragmented confusion of the illness to weave together an interesting almost film noir like film, that hopefully keeps the audience involved.
JSOnline: With three films (Upside Down, Ashes, Cloud Atlas) releasing in 2012, this will undoubtedly be very busy year. It must be difficult to juggle press junkets with making films. How do like the publicity part of the job and how does it feel to be so in demand at the moment?
JS: It’s a massive cliche but of course I feel very grateful to be working. I have enough friends who are struggling in the music industry and the film industry to know how lucky I am to be able to go to work as an actor at all. Of course it comes with it’s own difficulties and complications but it’s a very rewarding and exciting job. The press can be hard work, but of course a necessary bi product of what you do. I really don’t mind doing the press junkets as much these days and of course it really helps if you’re promoting something that you really care about. Sometimes you really want to help and push the film as much as you can as you know the film needs all the attention it can get. I guess the thing I dislike the most can be the photo shoots. Sometimes they can be a good laugh if you do it with the right people but I can get bored doing it quite quickly, I also find the fashion industry a very strange place at the best of times!
JSOnline: You’ve now covered several acting genres – musical, drama, horror, romance, and sci-fi fantasy. How would you feel about doing a comedy? Are you a funny guy in real life?
JS: Q…What’s E.T short for? A…He’s only got little legs!!!
I guess in answer to your question NO I don’t really consider myself a funny guy in real life. There are people I know who are just naturally quick witted and hilarious and I really don’t have those qualities. As for doing a comedy… I’d do any genre of film if I thought that there was something interesting about it or there were interesting people involved in making it.
JSOnline: You’ve been working consistently for the past 7 years. Can you explain what it’s like transitioning from one role to the next, and do you feel pressure to make each performance better than the last?
JS: There’s often a very strange feeling after finishing a film. There’s a kind of mourning process that you often go through. I guess it’s because your life becomes so intense and you’re so immersed in that world, both on and off the set, that it can be a bit weird coming down from that. You live inside of a bubble and make very strong friendships for that period of time, and then suddenly the bubble bursts and it all just disappears. It only takes a day or two back home and the whole experience just feels like some weird distant dream.
I remember finishing Fifty Dead Men Walking and finding it very hard to go home and go back to just being me. The Way Back was a mixture of emotions because we were all so exhausted. Going home and getting back to our loved ones was kind of the goal of the film, so it was kind of amazing to finish and to survive and complete the journey, but then feeling very empty at home in the pub after such an epic and incredible journey.
After a bit you soon slip back into normal life and I’m always busy with other things. Then there comes a point where you start to pick up some scripts again and then suddenly you read something and your mind starts imagining going there and then you’re off again!!!
I don’t really feel any pressure to make the next performance better than the last but there is definitely a pressure to serve the character in the story the best you can. Acting never gets easier. It’s always a new challenge with new complications and you spend a good 80% of your life in a slight state of Anxiety.
JSOnline: In most of your films to date, you’ve had intimate scenes with your female co-stars, cried a river of tears, and have routinely been beat up on-screen. How do you prepare yourself for these types of scenes?
JS: With the intimate scenes I always make sure there’s a coupe of shots of tequila not too far away! It really does help! It’s just about making each other feel as comfortable as possible and then just working at it like a piece of choreography. In many ways it can be a very pure sense of acting because you really do have to loose yourself in that moment and forget the people around you and the cameras otherwise you’d become so self conscious it would be unbearable. Between action and cut you try and make it as believable as possible and the rest of the time you kind of just giggle your way through it!
Crying scenes can be pretty exhausting. Just having to put yourself in a bit of a sad or dark place and sustaining it all day can be really hard work. I guess music really helps to put you in that place and is a very quick passage to those kind of emotions. I’m always pretty quiet on set on days like that… then you just have to get into the scene and just hope that it all just comes out when you need it in that moment. I’m not much of a crier in real life so it can be a real release. There’s nothing better than a beer or a couple of glasses of wine after a day like that!
I had to do an emotional scene at the end of Cloud Atlas. They saved it as the very last shot of the film as they knew that it would probably be an emotional time for us all anyway. It was very emotional coming to the end of the film and we were all in bits, I’d got myself in quite a state my eyes were just blood shot from tears…Lana and Andy had to keep asking me to hold it back and to not cry so much!
I always quite enjoy doing fight scenes and getting beaten up. Again it’s a bit like doing a love scene where between ‘action’ and ‘cut’ it’s a very real moment and you feel the adrenaline you would feel if it was happening to you in real life. I have unfortunately paid the price of getting too involved in a fight scene when I dislocated and fractured my shoulder whilst getting beaten up in Upside Down. I’m now a lot more careful these days as I now know how easy it is to get hurt!
JSOnline: You’ve recently signed on with CAA (Creative Artists Agency) and you’re probably reading some great scripts these days. Do you have any new projects lined up that you can tell us about?
JS: Not much I can talk about at the moment I’m afraid. There’s some really great scripts out there. The problem is the really great ones are often quite complicated films to get made so they often take a bit of time to put it all together.
JSOnline: We understand that you and (girlfriend) Mickey O’Brien have recently been laying down some tracks for an upcoming debut album for Tragic Toys. How’s that going?
JS: Tragic Toys has been going well. There’s very little money in the music Industry these days so it’s a bit of a frustrating time for all musicians and artists. Been messing around in some studios and doing a bit of recording which has been great. It’s a bit of an ongoing process as we’re not a normal band that can go into the studio full time, record an album and then go on tour for 2 yrs promoting the record, so it all has to be done in bits and pieces. I really enjoy making music and it’s a really great thing to do and to share with Mickey but I hate the bureaucracy in the music industry sometimes, so it’s important that we do it our own way and in our own time.
JSOnline: And for our trivia lovers — did you really eat those peppers in the film, Mouth to Mouth?
JS: Haha! Yeah I did… and I’d NEVER do it again! It was my first film and so I was trying to be all ‘Method’ and intense so I said I wanted to do it for real and for them to just film what ever happened. I put them in my mouth and by the 3rd or 4th one I actually thought I was gonna die. I was in so much pain and the truth is that I could have acted being sick so much better than actually doing it as I was genuinely freaking out. In hindsight it was actually a really stupid thing to do. I was so ill after doing that and it only got worse once the cameras stopped rolling. The bit you see on camera was nothing compared to what followed. Once the adrenaline of the moment stopped and the scene cut I was in really bad shape after that. I ended up having to drink a load of vegetable oil just to settle my stomach and take the burn away as apparently water is the worst thing you can drink… I was reching and being sick for about an hour afterwards!
JSOnline: We noticed Mickey took a picture of you recently skateboarding in Venice, California – where it all began. How popular is the sport in the UK and what drew you to it in the first place?
JS: Skateboarding was a big part of my life growing up. I’d spend hours hanging out in car parks skating with my friends. I loved the gang mentality of it. Hanging out in groups, skating and causing trouble. I look back on those times with very nostalgic and romantic eyes. Playing in a band in our mates garage and skating was about all I cared about back then. Watching our favourite skate videos all day and then going out and trying to copy it. Listening to music when it really meant something. I love all that.
I’ve never seen Skateboarding as a sport, to me it’s always been a cultural thing. I see it in the same way I see music, film and fashion. It’s the same thing as Mod’s riding around on scooters or breakdancers on the streets. It’s expressive and culturally intricate. I guess in the UK it has a more urban feel to it as most of the skating is done on the streets. Same as NYC but in California there is a slightly different vibe as it is slightly mixed in with the surf culture here. To ride around the streets on a longboard in the UK skate culture is a big no no!!! haha.
I skated from about the age of 12 to about 24 on and off. I had a really bad accident doing a trick off some steps in London and had to go to Hospital. I was really shaken up and never really got back on a board after that. It wasn’t until my friend’s son was out on his board in Venice that I decided to have a little go. I don’t have half the ability I used to but can still do a few tricks so I decided to get a new board and have been having a little skate here and there whilst I’ve been hanging around Venice Beach. I guess these days a broken ankle or wrist is slightly more of a problem than it used to be!
JSOnline: Lastly, please finish these sentences:
Someday I would love to meet… JS: an actual Bearded Lady.
Fame gets weird when… JS: you start wearing Lycra and want to live forever
I’m not good at… JS: this
My guilty pleasure is… JS: cheese…I love cheese!