Rufus Sewell Scores a Perfect Zen

The Herald Sun, 16 January 2012
By Colin Vickery

Rufus Sewell has a message for local TV producers. He would love to work in Australia.

The 43-year-old actor has dual Australian/British citizenship (his father was Australian), but hasn't worked here for more than a decade. His last Aussie projects were movies 'In a Savage Land' and 'Dark City'.

It is a different story overseas, where Sewell is in demand. Two of his latest TV projects premiere in Australia this week - detective series 'Zen' and big-budget historical mini-series 'The Pillars of the Earth'.

Sewell has also had a feature role in the Johnny Depp/ Angelina Jolie film 'The Tourist' and was the star of major US TV series 'The Eleventh Hour' from producer Jerry Bruckheimer.

"I haven't been back to Australia for a number of years, so I really hope I get a chance to come out soon," Sewell says from his London home. "I have the passport."'

Sewell's acting career has been a triumph over adversity. He was born in Twickenham and his father Bill, an animator, and mother Jo broke up when he was five. Jo took up jobs including working in a pub and selling vegetables to raise her two sons (Sewell has an older brother, Caspar). Money was short.

Sewell's father died when he was 10. He describes the event as "horrible" and regrets that he "didn't get a chance to find out for myself what he was really like". His teens were a blur of drinking, taking drugs and shoplifting. Rescue came when his school drama teacher encouraged him to audition for the Central School of Speech and Drama.

His acting career took off when he won the role of Will Ladislaw in the mini-series 'Middlemarch'.

Sewell has been married twice and has a son, Billy, 8, to his second wife, scriptwriter Amy Gardner. He has been dating 24-year-old hair stylist Ami Komai for the past two years. The pair reportedly met on the set of 'The Eleventh Hour'.

If Sewell's past has been tough, he can't say the same thing about starring in 'Zen'. Sewell had to spend 4 1/2 months in Italy filming three 'Zen' telemovies alongside Bond girl Caterina Murino.

Sewell plays Italian detective Aurelio Zen in the series, which is based on the best-selling detective novels by Michael Dibdin. Zen isn't your typical TV detective. He is urbane, wears designer suits, has a dry sense of humour and is often out of his depth in an Italy swirling with corruption.

"He is a cop surrounded by corruption, but he's not in a moral rage about it," Sewell says. "He's not a corridor-striding winner who always gets his man."

The stunning Murino, who has been called "the new Sophia Loren" and was in Casino Royale, plays police assistant Tania Moretti. Sewell says there was no chance of real-life romance because Murino "happens to be going out with a 6ft 6in rugby player" and Komai "is handy with her fists". "Caterina is ridiculously gorgeous, but she's also got a great sense of humour. We got on like a house on fire," Sewell says.

The only downside was spending so much time away from Billy. Sewell was in nearly every scene of 'Zen', which meant no time for rush trips from Italy back to London. Instead, Billy visited Sewell during school holidays.

Sewell is back in London spending time with Billy and describes himself as "wilfully unemployed".

"Since Zen, I've been waiting for the right thing," he says. "I've been offered a few things that are very much stuff I'm trying not to do. I'm also trying to develop a couple of projects myself.

"The only power I've got, if I don't want to be typecast, is the power to be wilfully unemployed. I'm expressing that power to the ultimate at the moment."

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