Jim Sturgess – Life in One Day
by Jay S. Jacobs
Originally posted on August 19, 2011.
Jim Sturgess has been courting stardom for years.
First he turned heads in the States with The Other Boleyn Girl. When that film ended up only catching art house notice, he returned as the star of the slick Hollywood formula film 21 with Kevin Spacey. Then he showed off his musical chops with Julie Traymor’s surreal film Across the Universe with Evan Rachel Wood. While all of those films got Sturgess raves, none quite broke him through to stardom.
With his latest film, the romantic comedy One Day with Anne Hathaway, stardom may have finally found him.
Sturgess plays Dexter, a well-off ne’er-do-well who has a 20-some year friendship with Hathaway’s Emma, with like eventually maturing to love. Sturgess and Hathaway have to check in with their characters every year and show the changes and growth from university students to confused young adults to minor celebrities to happy couple.
Recently, Sturgess sat down with us at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York to discuss One Day.
Anne was singing your praises.
Oh, that’s nice. I sing them back. She’s lovely, too.
What was it like acting with her?
It was great. It was really interesting, watching the film yesterday; I realized how many scenes we have apart. There was a whole part of her life that I wasn’t involved in, in the filming process. I just remember when we were working on the film; it was really difficult, because we were always in new time periods, with new parts of our lives. It always felt like it was a new film we were making every day, but the only one consistency was when I got to do a scene with Anne and we got to be Emma and Dex together. So, I always looked forward to a day when Anne was on set, we could be Emma and Dex. I really enjoyed working with her. She’s a really sweet, lovely girl.
How would you describe Dexter to somebody who didn’t know anything about the story? Also, in such a long arc, what were some of the constants you could cling to?
He’d hard to describe because he changes so much. Certainly at first, he comes across as an over-privileged, underachieving, fun-loving, irresponsible, mischievous kind of idiot, I suppose. And becomes even more obnoxious and arrogant and vulgar, in a way, at times. But then he’s been making a lot of mistakes through his life and he’s learning through that. I genuinely think when I looked into it that he is a really good person with a good heart – and a very good friend to Emma. That’s why she cares about him so much. He’s not just simply annoying, arrogant and all that. He’s a very kind, very loving friend who really wants the best for her. He’s a good person, he’s just pretty irresponsible. Likes to have a good time and leaves a trail of destruction as he goes on.
Was the book a help in keeping him sympathetic while showing his character where to go?
Yeah, very much so. He was trying to work out where does this arrogance come from? It comes from insecurity. Often so. Why is he insecure? Where does this come from? So, it was a case of treading the fine line – I didn’t want people to not like him. I didn’t think that would help the film and I know [director] Lone [Scherfig] talked to me about that as well. I really wanted people to root for him and want him to change and redeem himself and get better. Otherwise, you would have just found him annoying and irritating. That wouldn’t have worked, because you really wanted to believe in their friendship. It’s different in the book a little bit, because you get to spend so much time with these people. In a film, you only have two hours, really, so it was important that you got a sense of that vulnerability quickly. That you didn’t just hate him. He’s just a kind of idiot, I suppose.
I asked Anne this, and I’d like to hear your take on it. Do you think that if Emma and Dexter had hooked up in the beginning that their relationship would have lasted as long as it did?
No, I really don’t. I think that’s the interesting thing about the film and about relationships and about love and about fate. It had to happen at that time. I think Dexter is even aware of that – he keeps her very much at arm’s length. I believe if they got together any sooner, He would ultimately have cheated on her and he would have destroyed any friendship and relationship they would have had. The friendship is so important to him and the only thing he has in life of any value, really. He holds onto that and pushes her away. There is the interesting scene where they are skinny-dipping, and he has her in the palm of his hands. She is right there. She’s got no clothes on. There’s a beautiful sunset. It’s all there. She seems pretty willing. And he says something really bizarre like, “Well, the problem is I fancy pretty much everybody.” It ruins the moment. And then he offers the opportunity to have a fling. But at least he gives her the opportunity. He doesn’t whisper sweet things into her ear to make something happen, because I think he knows that it is going to hurt her.
There is something about the 90s Dexter – that smarmy, coked-out thing – that sort of reminded me of Patrick Bateman from American Psycho.
But to a much lesser degree. Was there any of that or what was your inspiration for that version of Dexter?
Yeah, I mean you are right, it is all those boys with their business cards and their suits – and that was very much where he was at, hanging around the bars of Soho. You see them when you live in London, you see those people all the time, hanging around in swanky nightclubs and restaurants. But for me, it was just so there in the writing in the book. It was just who Dexter was and who he became. So my influence was [that].
Lone mentioned you brought some physicality to the role she wasn’t expecting, especially with your hosting the TV show. How did the host character come about for Dexter?
It just sort of came. Those shows were very much based on a show we had in England at that time, a TV program called The Word [with] Terry Christian, Amanda de Cadenet. We all grew up staying up late watching those shows. I guess there were various TV presenters I had stored in the back of my subconscious. The minute I put on that outrageous suit, the scene just played itself out. We had a lot of fun. We did a whole big improvised scene where they made me interview this hip-hop band, like the Wu-Tang Clan. It was just nuts. They used very little of it, thank God. Lone was just saying, “Improvise, interview the band.” So I ended up doing a rap about a cheese sandwich. It was pretty funny.
Do you believe in friendship? Do you think it can work between a man and a woman?
Yeah, I believe in friendship for sure. Life is pretty empty without friends. I believe in friendships between men and women. I have been thinking about it a lot, because a lot of people have been asking me that question. My first answer is: of course men and women can be friends. Of course they can.
Do you have many?
Loads of female friends. Loads and loads. Yeah. But then I really started to think about it. I think men and women can be really good friends. I don’t know if they can be best friends, like these guys are. I mean they are absolutely best friends. They are connected in a way that they are not connected with anybody else. So, how do you then have a relationship with somebody else if you’re that connected to this very special person? So, maybe I now start to think maybe a man and woman can’t be best friends, but can be very, very good friends. And, they obviously find each other attractive, so it’s going to become a problem. If you’re that close to someone and you find them attractive, it would seem ridiculous not to partner up.