Jeremy Northam Possession Promotion (2002)

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Jeremy Northam Possession Promotion (2002)

Post  Admin on Wed Nov 07, 2007 8:57 pm

NORTHAM

It's a warm spring afternoon in Los Angeles and Jeremy Philip Northam is in a great mood. And no wonder. The tall (six-foot two) handsome English actor is busier than ever, with two big new films, including Possession with Gwyneth Paltrow, in the can and ready for release, and the long-awaited film version of Dennis Potter's The Singing Detective about to shoot. He's also riding the crest of a successful wave that includes such recent acclaimed films as Gosford Park and An Ideal Husband.

As he sips a Diet Coke and toys with a cigarette, the actor, who's dressed casually in jeans and a dark shirt, simultaneously exudes an air of quiet reserve and nervous tension bubbling just below the surface. It's a unique combination that has helped the son of two Cambridge professors forge a highly successful acting career both at home and in Hollywood.

Here, Northam talks candidly about his career and home life, why he's never married, his wish to settle down and have a family, and the sometimes lonely life of a dedicated artist.

Tell us about your new film Possession.

It's a romantic detective story with Gwyneth Paltrow, Aaron Eckhart and Jennifer Ehle, and it's based on the A. S. Byatt of the same name. And I exist only in the nineteenth century, as I play a poet from that era, Randolph Henry Ash. It was a lot of fun to play the character and a strange job to do, but it's a very beautiful film. I'm very pleased with the way it turned out.

What was it like working with Gwyneth?

I think she's a fantastic actress but sadly we had no scenes together. Mine are all with Jennifer, because Gwyneth exists in a different century. Then I also have Company Man coming out, but that title will change. It's a hyper-paranoid thriller with Lucy Liu and I play a character called Morgan Sullivan. And now I'm starting The Singing Detective. They're doing the film version which Potter left behind, and Robert Downey Jr. is playing the writer. Robin Wright Penn and Katie Holmes are also in it, and I play the three bad guys of his imagination.

Do you like playing villains more than heroes?

I don't really have a preference. It's fun to mix and the main thing for me is to never do the same thing twice. That would get very boring very quickly.

As an actor you spend your whole life pretending to be other people. So what's the real Jeremy Northam like at home, when you're just slumped on the sofa?

Probably just slumped on the sofa! Incredibly dull, I'd think. The big surprise for me about acting is how it never seems to really end. You make a film and two years later you're still talking about it. So when I can get away from the phone and reading scripts I suppose I'm still looking for what a sense of life is, if that's not too pretentious. You sometimes willingly embrace the idea that work is your life, and other times I'm hungry for incredibly mundane experiences that just remind you that that's life too. So it might be cooking a meal for someone, or seeing old friends. And most of my energy is spent there when I'm not working, keeping in touch with family and friends. And society. Because to be honest, making movies is a pretty solitary distancing experience.

Do you have a little getaway place to retreat to?

Yes, I have a place in Norfolk where I try to spend time, but the reality is that I haven't been there since Christmas, and now it's months later.

You sound like a bit of a loner, or is there a secret girlfriend in your life?

No, I'm still single. I'm 40 now, and I realize I'm also getting a bit long in the tooth to be single.

Do you feel you've sacrificed some of your personal life for the sake of work and career?

Yes, I probably have. I think it'd be too easy to blame my choice of profession for that, but it doesn't help either.

So no girlfriend at all?

Nope. I'm pretty much on my own most of the time, and sometimes I'm happy that way, and sometimes not. At the moment, I'm fairly content with it, though in recent years that hasn't always been the case.

Is it hard meeting the right person?

I find it very hard, yes. But others might not see it that way and other people don't find it so hard, so what can I say. I did live with this girl for nine years, which is like a marriage - longer than most marriages, in fact, and I've fallen for people since then and it hasn't worked out. There's too much travel or you're both always in different cities, and one's time is not one's own always. So yes, I think there's a certain compromise in all that. But you also come across an awful lot of preconceptions about who you are and the sort of life you lead, and that doesn't help either.

Would you like to get married and settle down and have children?

It's easy for me to say this, as there's no prospect of it happening anytime soon, but I would love to raise a family, before I get too long in the tooth. That's definitely something I'd love to do.

Are you a workaholic?

I hope not. That's not a good thing to be.

What's the wildest thing you've done recently?

(Laughs) It's a bit sad but I can't think of anything.

Do you surf the net?

Nope, I don't even have a computer. I'm not against them or anything, but the last time I went to a shop to try and buy one I was actually talked out of it by the salesman. Again, it's a question of time. The last time I was in London, I was there for just a week and I simply didn't have the time to go and shop for one. And the time before I couldn't get the model I wanted and I'd have needed some other piece of equipment to store something or other. Basically I don't understand this at all, but they told me I could store on a floppy instead of a hard drive, but then it just all got so complicated. (Laughs)

Are you superstitious?

Not, not really. I'm cautious, though, especially as far as work is concerned. I like to have a bit of time and space around me as far as possible, but I suppose that's more to do with concentration.

Do you have any vices?

I smoke, not a lot, but I think any smoking at all is probably too heavy.

Are you trying to quit?

Not at the moment. (Laughs)

What about alcohol?

I don't drink heavily, but I've drunk more in recent months than I'd normally drink. But that's a result of meetings and parties and doing the rounds. It can drive you to drink.(laughs hard)

What did you inherit from your mother?

I'm not bad in the kitchen, and there's part of me which is quite restless and enjoys the spur of the moment when occasion allows. I actually wish I was more like her in many respects, because I think she was fantastic.

What about your dad?

I think my carefulness and caution. Hopefully an ability to look at things several times before making up my mind. And they don't seem to me to be contradictory facets with my other, restless side.

Do you have any extravagances?

I think I'd like to be more extravagant than I am. I don't mean financially so much as in other ways.

Do you suffer from any demons? A lot of actors seem to view acting as therapy.

I don't quite see it that way, although there are certain very frustrating aspects to making a living as an actor. I think it breeds a certain insecurity even when you're busy working. It's like a yo-yo, you're always up and down. And after the intensity of a project you have to be prepared to hit the ground running in normal life with the same kind of curiosity and intensity.

Do you find that hard to deal with?

It can be. I just takes a lot of energy and a lot of hours that you spend concentrating on one thing. It's all enveloping.

What's the best advice you ever got?

The one thing you have going for you is yourself. That's the only unique thing you have.

Do you like watching yourself on screen?

No, I can't say I like it, but I do find it interesting. There's always something to learn from watching yourself, and I'm always curious to see if some of the things I try and put across actually come across. But then you're not the best audience to judge that anyway. (laughs hard). And I'm not one of those actors who dashes over to the monitor on the set to watch the replay. It can be handy, but other times I don't want to know.

Do you think actors are emotionally immature, because they keep play acting their whole lives?

Well, I think that keeping that childlike sense of wonderment is a good quality, not an immature one. And I think that if everyone is really honest with themselves, in ordinary life there are many facts of ourselves that we choose to present to the outside world. We all play act more than we think. We all hide parts of ourselves, don't we, and show off other sides, depending on the situation and who we're with.

Any ambitions to direct?

I'd love to, but I'm not organized enough to do it.

Why do you act? What do you get out of it?

I've thought a lot about that over the last few years, and for me it's a peculiar mixture of fear and excitement, whether it's on the stage or on a film set. And it's a bit like walking a tightrope, keeping the fear and excitement in balance. And what I've always loved about what drama can provide is the crucible for debate and discussion. Yes, you can say it's an immature business to choose, but it's as old as mankind, telling stories in a dramatic form, and that can spark all kinds of things in people's minds and imaginations. And I still believe it can change things.

Article Copyright Feats.Press. All Rights Reserved. (Feats Press is a celebrity features agency specialising in exclusive A-list interviews timed to coincide with major film, music and TV releases)

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