With your busy schedule, it must have been easier to do a short shoot like this.
At the time I was in Guys and Dolls for six months, so in many respects I had all the time in the world. But the thing about being on stage is that it takes such a massive amount of energy that you really guard your time off. It's quite interesting that with my family and stuff it sounds like a great schedule - you're working only in the evenings except for Wednesday and Saturday. But in actual fact you're so knackered, and you have to protect your time off, that it's trickier than you might think. So the idea of doing a film for two and a half or three days doesn't seem like a big deal, but we were shooting all day long. And then the first day of the shoot we went on stage that night, and we’d been in the sun all day long. I thought I had sunstroke and I really worried. I thought, "I'm going to blow this tonight." And all night long I kept thinking, "Oh no - that's alright. I got through that bit - alright." So it worked out.
Did you mix with any of the other cast in the film?
Adrian Lester walked through our scene, and it was lovely to meet him because he's a great actor and a nice bloke. So it was nice to meet him briefly, but apart from that we were just self-contained. But we did manage to get a lot the extras - a lot the guys round about us in the scene were dancers and actors from Guys and Dolls. Because a lot of them had never been on a film set and wanted to know how that worked. And so Douglas and I spoke to Ed, and it turned out he was having problems finding extras and so it was quite handy. And we took a bunch of the guys up there. [Major coughing fit] Sorry, my children have given me this terrible cold.
How is it working for a first-time director?
I think it's exciting working for a first-time director. Because very often you get someone at their most passionate and at their most committed. I met with Ed and he was so passionate about it. And another draw for the film was the way he'd set it up. He'd been so frustrated trying to make films in Britain, and not getting to the point where they were made, that he kind of cut out the middlemen, of which there are hundreds swanning around Soho doing lunches and snorting enormous amounts of cocaine and not making any films at all. They're self-aggrandising arseholes, so he cut them all out of the picture. He had the script written and he and the writer [Aschlin Ditta] took the script to agents, and the agents sent the script to their clients because it's good writing, and all the clients responded to it. So that's why you've got that great cast list. And then we shot it, and now it's going to have quite a large release in November. So it was fantastic to be involved in the project just because of that. The only way to create a healthy British film industry is to make more films and have them seen. We have too many films sitting on shelves that are never going to be seen.
What about your next film, Miss Potter?
I play Norman Warne, who was Beatrix Potter's publisher, who came from a family of a publishing house in London. And it's a love story between the two, between he and Beatrix, and they were engaged to be married. And it was lovely to work with Renee [Zellweger, who plays Beatrix] again having done Down With Love with her. It's always nice if you have continuity with the actors and come back to work with someone a second or third time. It's lovely. And we had a great time.
Are you going to hit the road again with Charley Boorman?
Next year we're going to go from John O'Groats to Cape Town, down through Africa. It should be amazing. Yeah, it's been really successful as far as Long Way Round, in terms of it being an incredible experience that we’ll never forget and also, you know, it's certainly changed Charley's life. He's now published his second book, Race to Dakar, which is great. I finished it last night - I thought it was a good read. So we're off next year. It should be really nice - same team: Claudio on the camera, Russ and Dave and Jimmy. We should have a good laugh.
Anything you'll do differently this time?
Take less! I mean we just had so much kit last time that we never needed. So I think it'll be an exercise in taking the bare minimum. In actual fact, the only things you might need are things that would go wrong on the bike. Because you're travelling through generally populated areas, and so as long as you've got a little bit of food and some water, and ways to purify water, and something to sleep under, you don't really need anything else. I mean, I don't think so. You could carry all the spares for the bike, but then you may as well just have someone else on another bike. But we'll see - we'll find out if we take too little. I'd much rather have too little than too much. And I think also we were adamant - or at least I was adamant - that we spend as little time as possible with our support crew. We rode the three of us: just me, Charley and our cameraman Claudio. I think this time we'll probably meet up with our support crew more often, just because, well why not? We have a good time when we're together and I think security in Africa might be more of an issue in some of the countries we're going through - Sudan, and we're going to try and nip into the Congo and stuff, so there will be areas where we might need them.
But then, it's more interesting when things go wrong.
Absolutely. I did a bike trip around France once and nothing happened. I just rode round France and came home, and it was fairly boring. Whereas when the bike breaks down in the middle of Mongolia, and you have to buy a Russian one that doesn't work, and you meet guys coming out of a truck in the steppes, and they fix the bike for you - that's what the journey's all about. It's important to remember that, because you can get obsessed with timekeeping and sticking to this notional schedule that you made up in a room in Shepherd's Bush.
THE HOSPITAL, LONDON • 27.SEP.06
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