Rufus Sewell: From Sex Symbol to a Role as Sociopath Murderer
Rufus Sewell has joined the exodus of English actors heading to Hollywood, but he hasn’t abandoned us. Sophie Herdman met him
Yorkshire Post, 5 April 2013
Rufus Sewell once aid he didn’t want to play villains any more. Or so it was reported.
“I did say that, but I also said that I reserve the right to change my mind at any given moment,” says the actor. “When people round off what you say to the nearest available cliché, it’s frustrating.”
At the time, it was an understandable statement since Sewell, once typecast as the ruggedly handsome love interest, had just done a string of films in which he played the villain – 'A Knight’s Tale' and 'The Legend Of Zorro' to name just a couple.
“The idea of just playing bad guys is really boring, but if I’m a good guy in the interim then I might change my mind,” adds Sewell, 45.
Which is why, after a break from baddies, he has returned to the dark side for his latest film, 'All Things To All Men', the latest release from Kidulthood and Adulthood duo George Isaac and Pierre Mascolo.
This time, though, Sewell is playing a bad boy with a difference. While his character, Parker, might be a murderer with sociopathic tendencies, he is also a cop whose main rival is renowned, feared and surprisingly emotional crime lord Joseph Corso (played by Gabriel Byrne).
Sewell found this part-good, part-evil character easier to play than your average villain because, he says, people who are all bad don’t actually exist. “They’re just fantasy. Everyone has mixes of things.”
The film is, essentially, a love letter to London. Almost every scene features another classic London landmark – from the London Eye to Shepherds Bush Market, the Dorchester Hotel to the derelict Battersea Power Station.
You might think that now he lives in LA with his girlfriend, this would make Sewell a bit homesick. But as it turns out he’s not in LA all that much. “I’m here half the time. My agent is here, so I never get the chance to miss London,” he says.
Sewell has struggled to break into the world of independent films, settling instead for American movies, but the former is where his heart lies. “If I could have a career doing small British indie films and nothing else, I’d do it,” he says.
As it turns out, the best way to get the British to take notice of you is to move to LA. “The reason I left was because I was annoyed that I couldn’t get work here, but I’ve done more work in England in the past five years since moving to America than I have in the 10 years before that. If that’s what it takes, then fine,” he says, clearly not frustrated by this paradoxical turn of events.
Comedy is another area that Sewell would like to try his hand at. “That’s actually where I’m comfortable,” he says. “I love 'The Office', 'Seinfeld', 'Larry Sanders'. Garth Marenghi’s 'Darkplace' too. I love the subversive British stuff.”
In the past when he’s mentioned that he might like to move into comedy, the offers have been, let’s say, not quite what he had in mind. “People have sent me these scripts where there’s a straight English guy and a kooky American lady and I think, ‘That’s not what I meant’.”
Sewell is fussy when it comes to scripts, but he’s also realistic. “If you don’t get sent any scripts for months at a time, or when you do the scripts are all bad guys or men on horses in medieval times, it’s hard to apply that fussiness,” he says.
“Sometimes I’ve been so fussy and I’ve gone so long waiting that I’ve ended up being desperate enough to accept a role that’s crapper than the ones I turned down,” he says.
One area in which you’d imagine he isn’t lacking offers is stage work, having won an Olivier Award and been nominated for a Tony award for his role in Tom Stoppard’s 'Rock’n’Roll', as well as many other theatrical successes. He’s currently appearing in a Harold Pinter play, 'Old Times', with Kristen Scott Thomas in London’s West End.
And next? He’s off to do fight scenes with The Rock for his new film 'Hercules', of course. It’s always strange going from stage to Hollywood blockbuster, says Sewell, but he gets used to adjusting.
“It’s not like there’s a particular experience to do with Hollywood or London. I’ve been in very glam shoots in London and very dodgy dives in America. It’s all dependent on the job.”
Sewell, a combination of ambitious and optimistic, is excited about his future career.
“I don’t feel like I’ve got anywhere near the kind of stuff I want to be doing. That’s not a complaint,” he says. "But as I get older, things are slowly ending up the way I’ve always wanted them to be,” he says. “I’m playing the long game.”
Rufus Sewell was born on October 29, 1967, in Twickenham.
His acting breakthrough was in TV series Middlemarch and on stage in Tom Stoppard’s 'Arcadia'.
He then went on to play Seth Starkadder in 'Cold Comfort Farm'. He has since appeared in many TV, film and stage productions, including 'The Holiday', 'A Knight’s Tale', 'Restless' and 'The Legend Of Zorro'. Sewell has divorced twice and has a son, Billy, with his second wife, scriptwriter and producer Amy Gardner.
'All Things To All Men' will be released throughout the UK next Friday.