The star of 28 Days Later, The Wind That Shakes The Barley, Inception and the National Theatre’s Misterman talks to IdeasMag about collaboration, getting into character and why he doesn’t regret giving up law…
I’ve heard that you gave up studying Law to become an actor. Was that a hard decision?
It was a hard decision for my parents; it wasn’t a hard decision for me. Law was a foolish choice of course – I only did it really because there weren’t that many hours and I was expected to do something like that. There’s no scope for creativity in law – you just learn stuff and apply it. I never really went in anyway. I only lasted a year.
You’ve worked with Christopher Nolan and Enda Walsh on a number of projects. Is collaboration and networking still important, even at this stage of your career?
For me, re-collaborating is always brilliant because the second time you work with someone, you’ve gotten over the getting-to-know-them stage. You trust them, so you can go straight to the work. They know your abilities and you know their abilities, so there’s a shorthand. For me, the second and third collaborations with directors and writers have always been better than the first. I love working with people again.
How do you get into character?
That depends; for every role it’s different. Some are very transformative and you have to spend a lot of time physically and mentally working on it. Others are just a small adjustment of who you are and your place in life. For Red Lights [in which he plays the assistant to a paranormal investigator] I did a lot of research into that whole industry; I read books, talked to the director. I actually went to Vegas to watch some of the old show guys, like Copperfield and Kris Angel – those cheesy guys.
Do you enjoy the process of shooting a film?
I love it when it’s fast and there’s not much hanging around. You just get into this bubble of making a film. You’re gone for 10 weeks; you don’t know what’s going on in the world, you don’t speak to your friends or see your family. It’s just, boom! I enjoy that. Then you’re spat out the other end and you generally get sick.
Do you still have to audition for parts?
If it’s something I really, really want then it’s worth auditioning, but sometimes they’ll ask you or it just sort of comes around. There are some actors who refuse to audition and I think that’s foolish, because it’s another big part of the business.
When you were trying to break into acting, did your looks ever cause problems? Do you think being handsome affected the sort of parts you were offered?
No, I never found that. I did theatre for four years, then bit part in films and it never seemed to be either a help or a hindrance.
But you must have had that weird thing of walking into a room and them just immediately saying no, based solely on how you look?
Oh yeah. That happens less nowadays, but that’s just part of the thing as a young actor – you have to get used to rejection. You’ll be told you don’t look right or stopped midstream; that’s all part of the thing.
Red Lights is in cinemas now.
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