A New Romantic
Shane Watson Tracks Rising Star Rufus Sewell
Vogue, June 1993
Rufus Sewell's West End debut last year as a Czech student in James Saunder's "Making It Better" won him The Critic's Circle Annual Award for the Most Promising Newcomer and Trevor Nunn's unqualified approval: "In accent, mannerism and habit of mind he appeared to be completely Eastern European." When it came to casting Tom Stoppard's "Arcadia" a few months later, Nunn picked the twenty-five-year-old Sewell to play Septimus Hodge, a rival of Lord Byron, not least for his capacity to be "romantic and sexual. And of course he looked so Byronic."
The hair and the features are certainly in the romantic tradition, but the eyes are otherworldly. Heavy lidded, almond shaped and pale gold, they are the eyes of the Lizard King - The Prince of Darkness. They were the stars of Don Boyd's otherwise forgettable "Twenty One", drooping and glazed with heroin; then in "The Last Romantics" for the BBC, they blazed with the contempt of a nihilistic undergraduate.
His work is characterized by a disquieting intensity and a strong physical presence. "I didn't realise it till I saw both performances back to back," says Sewell, "I thought, oh God, same leather jacket, same unshaven look. They are both antisocial characters, but that isn't my thing." Even so, his role of catalyst in the film "Dirty Weekend", out this summer, is antisocial in the extreme: "a pervert with a faceload of zits and tight-fitting grey Crimplene trousers" who comes to a sticky end at the hands of his victim. Next year Sewell plays Ladislaw, the artist who falls in love with the unhappily married Dorthea, in the BBC's adaption of "Middlemarch". It seems the boy can't help but smoulder.