JEREMY NORTHAM: POSSESSION INTERVIEW
Author Miller, Prairie
Article copyright Prairie Miller via Cineman Syndicate.
Publication Name: Star Interviews
Publication Date: 9/2/2002
Article Title: JEREMY NORTHAM: POSSESSION INTERVIEW
Author: Miller, Prairie
Jeremy Northam may come off as refined and a bit stiff on screen, in keeping with his reputation for drawing room, upper crust kind of British elite characters. But in person, he's surprisingly and pleasingly down to earth and downright funny. The dreamy, dashing romantic leading man in Neil LaBute's Possession poked fun during this interview at his own midlife crisis, his lack of any knack with pets, and a decidedly playful peevishness at being mistaken for that other unnamed handsome UK star, the one in Bridget Jones's Diary.
*Your Possession leading lady Jennifer Ehle said that she was with you right after 9/11, and she said she had nothing to do around that time. She was with her fiancé.
JN: That's right.
*Anyway, Jennifer said that whenever you have nothing to do and you're in England, you have dinner with Jeremy.
JN: Is that so! I'm not sure quite how to take that. No, she came up to my home for a couple of days because she'd gone back to London to sell her apartment there, and had a fire. So she was without a home. So I said, well come and visit my place up in the countryside. So they came and stayed for a couple of weeks. Which was really nice. I wasn't there all the time. They just squirreled themselves away! But I don't know how to take that. I mean, the part about when you don't know what to do in England, have dinner with Jeremy. But I like to cook. So...
*Would you say you then, that you're sort of a last resort for people who can't find anything else to do.
JN: ....Must be!
*Now, how do you feel about romantic poetry and love letters, and things like that which abound in Possession? Are you one to do that kind of thing?
JN: I certainly have. A fat lot of good it did me. I won't be doing it again in a hurry!
*Why is that?
JN: Well, because your juices only run a few times, don't they? For stuff like that, I think. Then after a while, you kind of go, hmm. You know, I don't think I've really gotten past the adolescent view of writing poetry. And I write it for myself still, every now and again. But you know, when the fancy takes you. And normally, it's to kind of work something out that you're trying to understand about yourself. But I still read poetry from time to time. I go through phases of it.
*Do you believe personally that great art can only come from great passion, and that you have to suffer for your art?
JN: ...No! Who believes that? I think that it can be a struggle to express what it is that is felt. But I'm not sure if that's the same thing. I don't know. I think that undoubtedly, there are lots of great artists who have suffered greatly. But I'm not sure that's a...prerequisite!
*Do you believe in that whole notion of being swept away by love?
JN: Yeah. Well, I did. But I think I've given up on it now.
*So then you're not a hopeless romantic? Would you say you're just the opposite?
JN: Well, I suppose I'm still a hopeless romantic. But truly hopeless? No.
*What challenges did you come up against playing Randolph in Possession?
JN: Well, first of all, I think it's a difficult thing to try to portray people who have extraordinary talent. If you think of films that have attempted that and failed spectacularly, I think it's quite a hard thing. You know, to create a fictional poet.
Also, that one felt slightly outside of it, whilst playing the part, You know, the way it was set up was that you were often very much face to face, and expressing passion for one another as lovers. And you had to fight quite hard to believe the world you were in, and make that convincing. And
until the last scene, really.
*What kind of part would you most like to play?
JN: Oh, there's plenty of things. But it's not like I can just close my eyes and pick one. I've never been able to say, oh, I'd like to play this or that. But when you go up for the number of things I've been up for in the last year and a half or two years and not get them...Not that I'm bitter or anything! But it gets, you know, tiresome.
*What kind of a year has this been for you?
JN: It's been a quiet year. I didn't work between the end of June last year, and the end of April this year. So it was a long time waiting.
*What do you cook? You mentioned that you like to cook.
JN: Anything that stays still long enough to be cooked! I do cook a lot of fish up in Norfolk, because it's near the coast. There are a lot of fish there.
*Do you fish for yourself?
*Do you do any sports?
JN: No, not anymore. At least not 'sport' sports. I do run, when the fancy takes me. Well I don't run anymore, I kind of crawl! But no, I don't really.
*Do people recognize you on the street?
JN: No, not often. It happens more in the States than it does in the UK.
*What was it like getting romantic with Jennifer Ehle in Possession?
JN: What do you want to know?
*Oh, anything you care to tell!
JN: Jennifer was a lot of fun, it was nice. It was, you know, kind of like a no nonsense approach to the work. Because it's always potentially a bit fraught when you're trying to portray passion.
JN: Because you know everyone is watching it like hawks, whispering things like, have they got chemistry, and all of that stuff. But I think we supported each other well in that process, and had a lot of laughs doing it. Because another thing, I think you can't take it all too seriously whilst you're doing it. Otherwise it can be a very long day. So we had lots of laughs too.
*Jennifer said that when she looks at the screen, all she can think about is "my awful jaw". When you look at the screen, do you see the attractive heartthrob romantic lead that we see, or do you put yourself down?
JN: Uh, do I see an attractive heartthrob when I look at myself on the screen? No!
*Is it uncomfortable for you to watch yourself?
JN: The trouble is, I think, with seeing stuff that you're involved with, it takes several viewings before you're actually looking at what you should be looking at. You know, instead of going, what's that on top of my head? Or, why did I do that there? And all those things.
*Do you like to watch movies completely alone when you first go to see your movies?
JN: Oh yes. Preferably with my eyes closed!
*So you didn't have any scenes with Gwyneth?
JN: No. But we did bump into one another occasionally. Sometimes almost literally. Like there's one scene where Jennifer and I exit the hotel room in 1860, or whatever year it was. And when the door next opens, it's Gwyneth and Aaron Eckhart coming into the 21st Century.
So it was rather more spectacular to be there on the soundstage, than it appears in the film. Because the remaining walls and floor of that room flew out at that point, and then flew back in with new decor. And I couldn't quite believe it when I first saw it. It was like being on the best
stage you'd ever been on.
But on film of course, it just looks like there's some trickery that has gone on. And you haven't really seen how mechanical the trickery is. But Gwyneth and I, we met at the read through. I hadn't seen her in years, and we had a good old chat then. But most of the time, we sort of passed like ships. Not quite in the night, but more like ships at dawn or something. You know, through
this makeup trailer. It would just be like, "How did it go?" "Fine." "Okay, right." "Good Luck. Bye."
*Would you ever move to Hollywood?
JN: Um, I don't think so. Not because of any particular aversion. But I don't know what it is that defines home. And I'm not even sure if it's a place. But I still have a fondness for the UK. And I suppose there is a need to be near family, still.
*Do you have special stuff that you must take along with you on movie sets, sort of the comforts of home that you can't do without?
JN: Not really. I never seem to have the space. I mean, it's ridiculous. I just left Toronto the other day, and I kind of went, where did all this junk come from? So I try to pare things down. But I think I always take Keith Jarrett's Cologne concert with me, always. Yeah, that's always a good one. Amongst other bits of music.
*Have you ever been mistaken for another celebrity?
JN: No, not to my knowledge. Oh yes! I was actually. And this is fantastic, I love this. I went to a critic’s award ceremony in the UK in the spring, to pick up an award for Robert Altman. It was the London Critics Circle. They'd given me an award two years previously, which I thought was very nice of them. So I went to this thing, and I went in. And somebody came up and said, "You must be terribly busy at the moment." And I said, "No, not really. I can't even get arrested." And he said, "Well, we're very much looking forward to the next Oscar Wilde movie." And I said, "Next Oscar Wilde movie? I don't know what you're talking about." And he said, "Yes, you do. You were very good in 'Bridget Jones's Diary' !"