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Jim Sturgess (Ben Campbell) - 21

Interview image

Jim Sturgess was born on 16 May 1981 in the UK. His first acting role was as Bryant in The Browning Version (1994). Since then he's appeared in TV shows including Heartbeat and A Touch of Frost, and movies including Across the Universe (2007) and The Other Boleyn Girl (2008). ReviewGraveyard caught up with Sturgess as 21 was released on DVD...

ReviewGraveyard: How did you get the role in 21?

Interview imageJim Sturgess: I’ve no idea why me? [Laughs] I ask myself that all the time! Robert [Luketic, the director] was in the process of casting the film and I think he saw a clip of Across the Universe, another film I had made, so as you do, you just kind of ask actors to audition or put yourself on a tape.

I was filming The Other Boleyn Girl at the time and I received a call saying the director of this film, 21, wants me to put myself on tape. I was in the middle of nowhere filming in rural England somewhere, and I was running around trying to find anyone who had a camcorder or anything that I could film myself on. And I did what I consider was one of the worst audition tapes of all time! I literally held the thing and kind of spoke into the camera.

RG: Do you remember which scene you did?

JS: There were a few. There was the one where I was shouting at Kevin Spacey about you know, you’re not going to take all of my money. And there was one where I spoke to Jill Taylor which ended up not being in the film. And there was one with Miles, the best friend, so there were three.

So yeah, I sent it off and I didn’t really expect anything else to come of it really. Then I got a call saying that Robert Luketic wanted to meet with me for breakfast back in London. So, we just spoke about the part and the movie.

RG: The scene in the movie with you flying into Vegas was filmed for real. Was that weird?

Interview imageJS: Yeah, just as we were gearing up to go to Vegas. We were all getting very excited. I remember Rob said to me: “When you go to Vegas, I’m on the plane with you. I want to see your faces as you fly over the strip,” which he later put in the film.

RG: Did you feel any pressure because you were the lead in this film?

JS: I just kind of approached it like anything else I have done really, whether that is a theatre production with three people watching or a big film production. I know it sounds strange, but I really didn’t think too much about it. I just took it for what it was and tried not to put too much pressure on myself. Of course there is pressure and you feel it, you know. But I never felt pressured.

Once we started filming, it’s such a collaborative experience from everybody  - the rest of the cast, the director, from the cinemaphotographer to the crew - there was just so much going on, that you literally just feel like one little cog in the wheel. I never felt like it was like my movie. I just felt like I was working. The only difference is that you just work every freakin’ day rather than have a few days off here and there. That was the stress of it and the thrill of it that you’re on set everyday.

RG: Are you good with numbers?

JS: No, not at all. Not even close.

Interview imageRG: When you read the scene where you were having sex with Kate Bosworth, what were your first thoughts, and what was it like filming it?

JS: I didn’t know it was Kate Bosworth at that point  It was just Jill Taylor the character. I was hoping it might be a nice looking actress!

RG: Are those intimate scenes awkward to shoot?

JS: Yeah, they’re awkward. I mean they are and they’re not. It depends who you’re doing it with. It depends how it’s treated. Kate and I were such good friends at that point, that the awkwardness came from the fact that we couldn’t stop laughing.  Sometimes it’s easier to do it with somebody you’ve never met before. It’s always the build up to it, but once you’re actually doing it, it’s totally fine, you know.

RG: Is there something you always do before a kissing scene?

JS: Yeah, drink. I think Kate and I knocked a few Grey Gooses back. I think you’re allowed, you know.

RG: Did you feel intimidated working with Kevin Spacey?

Interview imageJS: I was more excited than anything, because he would only bring the best out in me. You’re always going to learn instinctively. That’s just the nature of having good actors around on set. You watch how they kind of approach their work. I was less intimidated, and more kind of excited.

Certainly when I was doing the scene with Laurence [Fishburne], he was intimidating to me when he was kicking the crap out of me. He was as intimidating off screen as on screen. When we finished the scene, he’s such a nice guy anyway, you know and he gave me a big hug and he said: “You play hard Jim, you play hard.” I took that as a cool thing for him to say to me.

RG: The past year, your career has really exploded, how are you dealing with all the attention?

JS: I don’t really think about it or I try and not think about it. I try to think of getting the next job and what that means to me. Then I’ll throw all of my mind and energy into that job and not really think beyond that. I think when you spend a lot of time as a working actor when you’re not working a lot of the time, so I’m very respectful of what’s happened and excited about it. I also instinctively have cynical doubts that it could all disappear as quickly as it came.

RG: You have a film coming out, Crossing Over, with Harrison Ford and Sean Penn...

JS: Yeah, sounds cool. (Laugh)

RG: Are you prepared for that kind of exposure?

JS: Yeah, it’s weird when you say it like that, I think: “Sh*t, I really did do that.”

RG: If you had the choice of say, doing the Old Vic with Kevin Spacey and Trevor Nunn or doing a movie in Hollywood with Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford. What would you do?

Interview imageJS: Whatever pays the most I think! No, I don’t think like that at all. It would depend on the play and it would depend on the film. Completely. If Steven Spielberg was making Revenge of the Nerds 3, then I would go and do the Old Vic.  If the Old Vic performance was Jack and the Beanstalk, I’d go and do the movie.

There have been a lot of Hollywood offers. The next film I’ve chosen to do is a very small film back in London, because I thought it was the best story. I thought it was the most interesting piece of work. It’s a film called Heartless. The director is an incredibly creative, interesting guy. He is more known in England as a playwright, but he’s written some amazing stuff. He writes poetry and children’s stories and he’s an illustrator and a photographer. He’s a really interesting guy. I spoke to him about his film and it spoke to me on all kinds of levels, so that’s the one that I chose to do.

RG: Do you get recognized?

JS: No, I never have done. I am recognized slightly more in America, but not in England. Never in England.

RG: Are you worried that you'll never be allowed in a casino ever again?

JS: I was walking through the casino yesterday and you know my face is on a room key! And I was walking past a blackjack table and my face was there. And there was a giant poster behind me. Then up on the screen the 21 trailer came up. I was like: "Come on, someone has got to recognize me?" Not a sniff, you know? No-one batted an eye-lid.

RG: How long were you acting before your career took off?

Interview imagesJS: I was living in Manchester and I moved back to London to try and get work as an actor, and ended up joining a band. I was playing a lot of music for a long time. So I was in a band for about three or four years, but was acting at the same time. You know, doing bits and pieces. It had taken a bit of a back seat at that point.

When the band split up... that was such a big part of my life, and then, Across the Universe took off. It didn’t just offer itself to me, I had to audition for it. At that point, I had no concept of what that film was. I was told they were making a Beatles musical and if you want to go and audition, they’re holding it down there. I was like: "A Beatles musical, that’s a terrible idea." So I just kind of wandered down there, not really thinking that it was going to be this huge film. I didn’t know if it was going to be made in England, I didn’t even know if it was about The Beatles. I certainly didn’t know Julie Taymor was directing it.

So I think I wandered in with a naïve confidence about the whole thing, because I just thought a Beatles musical sounded like a really bad idea. That’s kind of how it all started really. Then I found out much more about the project and what was going on. That’s when all the nerves kicked in.

RG: When did you start to learn music?

JS: I started with a piano. When my mum and dad moved house, there was an old piano in one of the corner of the rooms which they were going to throw out. As a kid I was plunking on it, and they thought that I might be interested in music. You know when you’re a parent, you’re desperate for your child to be good at something. So they kept it as I grew older, I started banging the keys and then started working out some notes and chords. Then my mum and dad were like: “You should have some lessons.” So I started taking some lessons which I hated.

Interview imageThen I gave up the piano and never wanted to look at a piano again - just how a child’s mind thinks. Then whenever they were out of the room, I’d start playing again. I was desperate for them to never know I was playing the piano in case they sent me back to piano lessons. So yeah, it just kind of came from there I guess.  But I’m not very good at playing the piano.

RG: Kate was saying that you hung out at a strip club. How was it?

JS: We did hang out at a strip club, because we were shooting there. Also, it was a world I just didn’t know anything about. So of course, all the MIT lot were like: "We have to take Jim to a strip club." They are actually quite fun places to hang out. Some of them are very sophisticated and well presented, and they give you a nice table and you get some drinks. It’s all good fun. Certainly when I tried going to strip club back in England, it just wasn’t the same [laughs]. Some fat toothless woman. It didn’t quite have the same appeal.

RG: Thank you for your time.

Interview image
With thanks to Matthew White at momentumww

21 is released on Blu-ray and DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment from
08 September 2008.

Click here to buy 21 on Blu-ray for £17.98 (RRP: £24.99)

Click here to buy 21 on DVD for £12.98 (RRP: £19.99)

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