Something tells me that Tom Sturridge, the “unknown” in Pirate Radio is about to be known by people everywhere. Not only does he put in a solid performance but he has a unique charm that makes him more than just attractive but intriguing. And although he seems to have jumped onto the movie screen, he hasn’t let his sudden success go to his head.
In our round-table interview with him, he was humble (to the point of self deprecating at times) and told us quite a bit about his sorted past and how it has lead him to his current success. He’s gone from being kicked out of schools, to living in Budapest, and now to being attacked by teenage girls in a theaters.
Check out his story below…
How were you cast for this movie?
Tom Sturridge: I think the major difference between me and the majority of people you have talked to in the film are that they are all incredibly experienced and talented, and therefore asked to be in it. I generally had to persuade Richard to let me be in it, so I had to audition three or four, maybe five times. Eventually he was foolish enough to let me in it.
Were there any actors that you looked up to in particular?
TS: You can’t really be an actor and not be in awe of people like Philip Seymour Hoffman and Bill Nighy, and you know Rhys Ifans. I was intimidated to be honest. Massively intimidated. Like everyone, you spend enough time with somebody, you realize there are just very fragile human beings and not super-sized. Again, it was exciting to be part of that ensemble. Terrifying at first, but then became a good thing.
Anything you learned from them?
TS: I don’t know. People always ask that! To be honest, I just think, “Is there anything we have learned from you?” is the answer. I think it is such an intangible thing and it is so very personal, you know. I learned how to do a certain hand gesture from Philip. If anything, I learn more about the behavior of human beings outside of work. There are particularly a few people, Philip, Bill and Rhys, and you rarely describe people as dignified these days, and they are. They are extraordinary examples of men.
As I said, he was rather hard on himself, but that’s not to say that he didn’t put in a solid performance as the sweet-trouble-maker coming out of his shell.
What did you think of your character?
TS: It was just nice to be someone who is almost a voyeur on everybody else, especially as I knew that the people involved was going to be so exciting and interesting. I just sort of wanted to be a part of that group.
What was shooting like? How long were you actually on board of the ship?
TS: It was literally fifty percent on the boat. When I say on the boat, I mean 150 people get on a boat at six in the morning, as the sun rises, the boat goes out to sea as far as it can without being dangerous, and shoot for six weeks like that. The main aspect of the studio experience was that all the sets were on gimbals to replicate the boat, which was actually more sickening. Being on the boat was fine because it was enormous, but these gimbals had different settings for different weather levels. Literally, enormous sets would be moving like that and everybody wanted to throw up.
What was is like being naked with Nick Frost in that tiny bathroom?
TS: That was an incredibly important moment in my acting career. I think the thing I love most about acting is not giving a shit, and not being embarrassed about anything. On that level, it was about taking off my clothes and standing naked in front of human perfection. [laughs] It is useful in the same way of saying lines in stupid ways.
Up next on Sturridge’s itinerary is the film Waiting For Forever, which will be released later this year and a play in London, which will be his first time on stage.
Can you tell us about your other film, Waiting For Forever?
TS: It is about a homeless street performer, whose parents died when he was very young, and he has kind of stopped mentally developing and the only person he knows is this girl, played by Rachel Bilson. The film is about how he stalks her, basically. In the beginning, he reveals to her that he has been following her for about three years, and it is about how they resolve that situation.
What is the name of the play?
TS: It is called “Punk Rock”. It is by a British writer named Simon Stephens.
How long are you committed to the play?
TS: Until the 31st of this month; I have been doing it since August. Well, rehearsals since August.
Who do you play in it?
TS: It is about a grammar school in Stockport, which is in northern England, where a boy, over the course of the play, revealed that he has schizophrenia and he ends up killing everybody in his class.
Are you the boy?
Do you like these types of roles, or are they just coming up?
TS: I just try to avoid… if you are English, and kind of well-spoken, [they see you as one thing] and I just don’t want to play those parts. So I just very specifically seek out parts that are not that.
How did you get that role?
TS: To be honest, it was very difficult. He is an amazing playwright. There is a lot of snobbery in the theater, and I didn’t go to drama school, and there is a lot of resistance to people who have done films, in England especially, who want to do plays. Casting directors and theater directors don’t want to see you because you didn’t go to drama school and think you are just some wanky film actor. So, I had to really battle to been seen, and then persuade them that I could speak loud enough in the theater.
It’s safe to say that Sturridge has fallen into the industry with a splash and is here to stay. It’s easy to see how young girls could soon have posters of him on their walls. Already he’s started being accosted…
Where did you go to school?
TS: I went to a lot of schools. [laughs]
Did you graduate from college?
TS: No. I left school when I was possibly 17. It was very complicated.
Do have lots of female fans?
TS: Not really. I did get attacked in the theater the other day, which was surreal.
TS: Yes, by middle-aged critics. No. There are these coaches of girls from the school. I think the coach journey was very long and they were a bit wired. They literally broke down the stage door and, genuinely, 70 girls charged and threw me up against a wall. They stole my hat and my bag. The Royal Exchange is a bit of an old-school theater. They have no sort of notion of this type of situation. They had no idea what to do.
How long have you been in acting?
TS: Three or four years.
What made you decided that this is what you want to do with your life?
TS: Uh, God. I’m not sure I have decided that yet. I was very obsessed with film when I was younger. There was a director, Istvan Szabo, who made Mephisto, which is like one of my favorite films when I was about 14, somebody who knew me, cast me in a film of his. She couldn’t find anyone who was a 17-year-old boy in the professional setting. Basically, she started getting her son’s friends because she couldn’t find anyone.
I decided to go for it, and I really wanted to meet Istvan Szabo, and I did. I didn’t do drama school or anything. That experience of working with him, I lived in Budapest for two months, I was 17, it was my first proper summer away from any world I knew, was a formative experience. Working with someone like that, you definitely come out of it with romantic illusions that filmmaking is an artistic process with people who want to do something beautiful, even if it doesn’t turn out like that.
Does that mean that you haven’t fully decided that you will stick with this business?
TS: It sounds like facetious. I did a play in my school, and I have never done a play before. That, in a matter of weeks, totally expands my horizons about what potential acting is. Without being frivolous, it generally has changed my life and my opinion of what my life could be, which is really a weird thing. I am very aware how you have your little moments in this industry.
See Sturridge in action in Pirate Radio starting November 13th!