Enigma' is Busy Brit's Dilemma (2002)

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Enigma' is Busy Brit's Dilemma (2002)

Post  Admin on Wed Nov 07, 2007 8:37 pm

Enigma' is Busy Brit's Dilemma
By Andria Kuo

Friday , May 17, 2002
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (ZAP2it.com) --


Jeremy Northam is not mean in person. Really.

When Zap2it sat down with the 41-year-old actor during the press junket for his latest film "Enigma," it was unusual to see him convey a sense of humanity, sensitivity and consideration. He made a point of not missing any question, which is a sharp contrast to some of the characters he's played.
He has convincingly portrayed the dastardly type such as Jack Devlin in "The Net," in which he stalked Sandra Bullock and then again as the womanizing Beacus Penrose, who seduces then ditches Emma Thompson in "Carrington."

The 6-foot actor, wearing a dark blue corduroy zip-up jacket, navy pinstripe tapered slacks and rich chocolate brown suede shoes, is looking very good these days. He says it's because he has just returned from vacationing in a very remote part of Jamaica.

Northam is the youngest of four children who, along with having a masterful command of acting, comes from a very solid academic background. His father was a Professor of Literature at Cambridge University and his mother, an artist, taught there as well so it was inevitable that he would later attend the University of London where he studied English.

Because he had a penchant for the written word in novels and the spoken word from plays, Northam enrolled in the Old Vic Theatre School to receive professional dramatic training.

"I started out by moving scenery for a local theatre company during summer break one year. I had so much fun and I envied the actors so much that I gave it a try," he reminiscences.

Northam had the opportunity to work in regional theatre productions before making his debut on the London stage. One night in 1989 as an understudy, without any advance notice, it was brought to his attention that he would be replacing Daniel Day-Lewis in the role of Hamlet. It has been speculated that Day-Lewis suffered a breakdown after allegedly seeing his own dead father in the guise of the ghost of Hamlet's father, requiring Northam to step in.

"I can't enlighten you on what Daniel saw or why he could not continue, but I do know it was the most terrifying moment in my life," he recalls. "I honestly thought they'd cancel the show before they had me go on. Suddenly, I heard an announcement that Jeremy Northam would not continue in the role of Hamlet." He vividly remembers how "the saliva stopped running in my mouth and it got drier when Daniel's dresser walked into my cubicle with all of Daniel's costumes."

It comes to no surprise why Northam was drawn to the character of Wigram in "Enigma," directed by Michael Apted.

"It was a fantastic part," he says. "I would be a fool to not scrape that off the page in this sort of smart movie that has the ambition to hold the audiences attention and challenges their intelligence by mixing up a good dollop of history, romance, and a thriller in a kind of who-done-it all in one."

When choosing roles, Northam says that he is constantly searching for a "kind of function" in story telling where he never wants "to put all the cards on the table all at once because there is always a journey to go on."

In the character of Wigram, he says sympathetically, "there is a lot of bullying to do, that's Wigram's job, to put pressure on the hero (Jericho).

"I just felt it was interesting to play a bad guy, to start with." He explains that the script did not say to portray Wigram with an antagonistic flare; nevertheless, it served its purpose because the truth manifests itself as the film progresses.

Northam clarifies this concept by saying that the audience "realizes that he (Wigram) has his own duties and responsibilities that are being compromised by the potential leak at the park (Bletchley Park) and his mistake at the park."

Being British, Northam becomes very compassionate about the issue of WWII. "My dad served in the air force as ground crew for several years and doesn't readily talk about it," he says. He explains how it was a situation of self-sacrifice. "For people who lived through it, the idea of postponing other aspects of their lives, for a common fight meant a lot to me because it was strange growing up, looking back in retrospect, in a peaceable, comfortable, non-bellicose environment, where it wasn't present not long before."

When asked about how it felt to be a contender as the next James Bond, he responds with a bewildering expression. "It's funny because years ago, when they were interviewing people, and I hadn't done a lot of acting, I went along with the interview," said Northam. "Everyone knew that Pierce (Brosnan) was going to be doing the job."

As he smiles, he explains that "ten seconds into the interview, there is nothing to say, and they have nothing to say because you are, quite plainly, not appropriate for the part."

"Somehow it was reported in the press that various people have been seen for the part, and it goes into the system and I read, to my disbelief, during the shooting of 'Enigma,' that one of the papers had information that had various odds of who was going to play the next James Bond; I somehow was on the list," Northam says.

"No one has approached me, no one ever talked about it. It's a rather confusing state of affairs," he explains.

Northam recently completed "The Company Man," also starring Lucy Liu ("Charlie's Angels"). The premise of the story is of a disillusioned man, unknowing of the circumstances occurring around him, who quickly discovers that he is becoming involved as a spy in the dangerous world of corporate espionage.

"I don't know quite how to describe it, but it's kind of a fantasy hyper-paranoid thriller. There are elements of 'The Prisoner' and 'Manchurian Candidate.' There's brainwashing, mixed identities; it was certainly fun to make," he says.

Northam is just about to begin filming his part in the big screen adaptation of the Dennis Potter--scripted BBC series "The Singing Detective." He'll star along side Robert Downey Jr., Robin Wright Penn, Katie Holmes and Mel Gibson.

"I will be playing three nasty bastards in it. What this is saying about myself; it's slightly dismaying. It should be fun," he says jokingly.
One wonders if playing characters that possess a very dark and sinister side is a reflection of his personality. "I hope not. I don't know what it is," Northam says, then quickly responds, "it's just acting."

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