Rufus Sewell: Reluctant Sex Symbol?

Hollywood Online, February 1998

On the one hand, who wouldn't want to be held up as a universal object of desire? But ask the men and women who have played that role in our popular culture and it quickly becomes clear that it's not much fun. Rufus Sewell is a perfect example.

Now starring opposite Catherine McCormack in "Dangerous Beauty," and about to open as the lead in "The Crow" director Alex Proyas's new sci-fi thriller, "Dark City," Sewell is every bit as charming as he is good looking. And he's also quite honest about his status in the film business.

"In five years time, hopefully, I'll be an actor," says Sewell. "That's what I'm looking to be. I like the idea of being able to play a romantic part, as long as it doesn't preclude the chance of playing completely the opposite."

With his star clearly still on the ascent, Sewell is not that bothered by his "hunk" status. "I still come from being a teenager. If someone thinks I'm good looking, great."

Sewell laughs about some of the reviews he gets. "I did this film, `A Man Of No Importance,' because I wanted to play this working class Dublin bus driver, but in the press notes it said, `Albert Finney falls for his Byronic bus driver.' I just thought, Where do they get that from? It's a concern only if it influences the other parts that I'm able to get. Otherwise, I'd rather have them say it than, `Ugly git with a sore.'"

As much as Sewell is worried about the sex symbol trap, he is also concerned about being typecast as an actor in period films. "Dangerous Beauty" is set in 16th century Venice, and many of his early films were period pieces, including "Cold Comfort Farm," "Carrington," and several TV movies.

"People say, `Oh, you like period films?' No, not particularly. I don't like them more than anything else. I guess I've just done modern films that haven't turned out to be any good. I've played a heroin addict, and a telephone sex pest. I try to be very patient. You've only asked that question once, but I've heard it a hundred times. It's a little frustrating when you keep hearing, `So, swapping your breeches for a pair of jeans, eh.' It becomes a little frustrating. You can have a very eclectic career playing all sorts of parts in things that not many people see and you do one cookie commercial and you're the cookie boy."

Of course, that also means if you do one hot and steamy sex scene you're a sex symbol, if enough people notice. Sewell has already been cast as a dreamboat in several films. Now, in "Dangerous Beauty" he plays the roguish true love of the sexiest courtesan in Venice - and he has a nude scene in "Dark City," too. They are no fun to play with a film crew hanging around, insists Sewell.

"That was my first day on `Dark City,' straight off a plane from Rome, naked in front of 40 Australians. `This is Rufus Sewell, the actor you're going to be working with.' And I'm completely naked. That was really terrifying. It was a cold bath, also. Cold water. I pointed that out several times to them."

Love scenes are worse.

"It's tough," he admits. "We've all had experience with some kind of sexual encounter, but you're not used to having 40 other people in the room. At least I'm not. People coming in powdering bits of you, it's not very sexy. If you're a man, you lose either way. You either embarrass yourself by getting too into it or you insult someone by not. You're in trouble either way."

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