Best known as the man who stepped in to portray King Edward VIII in Madonna's historical romance "W.E." after Ewan McGregor (wisely?) dropped out of the project, British thesp James D'Arcy is in the midst of his highest profile year yet thanks to three wildly varied turns in films that couldn't be more dissmilar.
In the buzzed-about biopic "Hitchcock," D'Arcy plays "Psycho" star Anthony Perkins; in Tom Tykwer and the Wachowski's siblings' independently financed epic "Cloud Atlas," he dons prosthetics, wigs and a myriad of costumes to play a number of characters of varying ages, ethnicities and genders. And in the indie horror-thriller "In Their Skin," out this Friday in select theaters, he lets loose as an unhinged homicidal maniac who keeps a family hostage in their own home with the intention to steal the man of the house's identity once all is said and done.
D'Arcy called in to Indiewire from his homebase in London to discuss his stellar year and tell us why the bad guys have all the fun.
I’ve been a longtime fan of your work, but this year seems to be a huge one for you, given the fact that you appear in “Hitchcock,” “Cloud Atlas” and “In Their Skin." What strikes me about all three projects is that they’re all so different and varied from one another. How has this year been for you in that respect?
The fact that they’re all coming out together is unexpected. The truth is, “Hitchcock” I finished shooting six months ago and it's coming out in about ten minutes. “Cloud Atlas,” I don’t know how they did the post-production of that in nine months. “In Their Skin” is a film that I shot nearly two years ago now. So it’s funny that they’re all coming out at the same time, and often the fate of the smaller independent film is that it takes awhile to find someone who wants to promote it and distribute it and nurture and love it and all the rest.
In truth, in terms of this project ["In Their Skin"], I’m really happy that it's going to see the light of day. So often you do these things and you take a leap of faith, you hope that something comes out of it. I’m just happy that people will see it at all. It isn’t by design, it just happens to be the way the cards fell and I am beyond. The truth is anyone who is in “Cloud Atlas” gets to play four different parts in one film anyway, so you’re already off to a pretty good start there.
What film was the most challenging of the three?
They were all different challenges. “In Their Skin” was a script that was not really written for me, it was written for... for a redneck is how it was originally conceived. When I met with Jeremy [Power Regimbal, the director] I suggested that if he were interested in me then perhaps we could reconceive the role because I wasn’t sure that it was... it felt that I may have seen some version of that before, and I thought probably, if he was interested in me, I probably wasn’t the obvious casting for a redneck. Joshua [Close, the writer] was really up for it, completely up for it.
The idea that he is trying to become them in some way actually evolved as we talked about it. We had an 18 day shoot -- it was nothing, we did it so fast. I had to play an American throughout the film, and the first time I was hoping that the lines on camera would come out with a good accent. I remained in the accent when we were on the set, and I’ve never done that before. I have to admit I found the first week of that pretty tiring, but it was probably a good thing to have done. Also I’m pleased that we shot it somewhere where I don’t know anybody, because it was slightly embarrassing at times, you know, ordering a coffee in a coffee shop and quietly thinking to myself, “This is not what I actually sound like, but it's okay because these people don’t know.” That was a fun challenge.
How did you even get on Jeremy's radar?
You know, that is a really good question I never asked Jeremy or Josh. I don’t know how it happened. I wish I had the answer to that for you. I just know that on the way to meet them I thought , “If they’re going to shoot the script that I’ve just read, I’m not the right person to play the part.” And it was totally fine, I didn’t mind. I felt that, like with any project, if you’re the guy you’re the guy, and if you’re not than that’s absolutely fine.
When I went to sit down with them, I said “I’m really excited by the possibility of this, but if you’re going to shoot exactly this you probably don’t want me to play this part.” And I don’t know if they were already thinking they were going to change it slightly, but it was a very good meeting because everything I said Josh would jump on and expand on and make it a bigger idea. So we ended up crafting, not a new story, but I hope we added some nuance to it that perhaps I hadn’t seen the first time I read it.