Rufus Sewell Interview, 11 June 2009
By Michael Montroy
Thanks, Famke

Rufus Sewell, who delivers another outstanding performance in “Downloading Nancy” and offers his insight into the role, was born in Twickenham, England on October 29, 1967. After spending the better part of two decades working predominantly in film and theatre, Sewell recently turned to television in CBS’s “Eleventh Hour,” but during that time he also stayed active in film and one of those productions produced the independent feature “Downloading Nancy.”

In the film, Maria Bello plays an ostensible middle-American wife married to Albert (Sewell), a cold golf fanatic who seems to take pleasure in denying his wife every basic human courtesy. Since being scarred mentally, emotionally and physically from childhood sexual abuse that has left her infertile, Nancy divides her waking hours between S&M chat rooms and self-mutilation. If Albert notices either of his wife’s destructive addictions, he doesn’t protest or intervene; in fact, when she leaves him to carry out her own final solution by having her internet boyfriend Louis (Jason Patrick) kill her since she can’t handle doing it herself, Albert seems oblivious to the reasons why, and doesn’t even call the police. Louis and Nancy’s days together are intercut with the story of what happens later, when Louis shows up at Albert’s door to force him to deal with his missing wife.

Sewell often appears as smoldering, brooding characters and Sewell is widely known for being the guy who treated Kate Winslet so badly in "The Holiday." Sewell considers himself an actor who seeks out the best from each character he portrays, which sometimes goes against his natural and charismatic look. This approach to acting has its foundation in training.

“I went to London’s Central School of Speech and Drama for three years and it is a drama school based in theatre, which is the backbone of all drama schools. I had not met any actors prior to the school even though I had an artistic background, but it wasn’t well-to-do. As a result, I didn't know how to go about the business of becoming an actor. I was very, very interested in Stanislavsky and the Method and had read up on these approaches on my own. I was always very interested in actors like Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift and character actors like Charles Laughton and Anthony Hopkins. It was a far more practical training about getting up and doing it, being loud enough and physically free enough to move within the character. I have always been very much into accents, too. I think this is due to the fact that I am musical and have a good ear, so I had the ability and always loved doing accents. I found acting to be quite freeing and quite liberating, which allows you to concentrate all of your tension in one area. My imagination was allowed to fly.”

The school was his foundation for a career that has always been presenting him with new challenges. One of those challenges came in “Downloading Nancy” when Sewell was cast in the role on short notice. “Someone dropped out of the cast,” stated Sewell. “Maria Bello and Jason Patric had already been cast for some time and the production needed someone pretty fast. Luck would have it that the director, Johan Renck, just saw ‘The Illusionist’ and liked my performance. The next thing I know he is contacting me and emails me the script. I read the story and found it to be very different and was intrigued by the role. It was truthful and compelling."

“Upon reading it,” Sewell continued. “I spoke with Renck again and expressed some of the questions I had about the script and came to realize we both had the same questions. I then quickly decided this could work and accepted the role. Before I knew it, I was on the set and trying to blend into a production that had already been brought together and gotten to know one another.

Even though he was added to the production later than anyone else, Sewell had no problem adjusting to the cast and crew. “I much prefer working on independent productions than studio projects. I suppose I prefer indie films because smaller projects are simply more intimate and it’s much easier to get to know the people involved, especially when you enter late.”

Despite entering late, Sewell was there for the duration of the filming, which lasted four weeks. “I would do it all over again with the ‘Downloading Nancy’ crew. They were fantastic and I’m not just saying that. Renck, Christopher Doyle, Rhonda Baker, the producers, Maria and Jason were all great. I wish I could name everyone because they all deserve to be mentioned. Seriously, I had a perfect time."

“I absolutely love what I do and the conditions surrounding this film were a pure joy,” Sewell offered. “I’m lucky to do what I love. It’s a gift and I would even do it for nothing,” he added with a laugh. This film allowed me to work on my craft. People tend to think of me for the same thing but I'm not a type and it would be the wrong to cast anyone on parts they’ve played before. The character in this film is very far away from what people consider me to be like. In many ways all of the characters are hard to get into the perspective of. People might not like him or empathize with him, but I could relate to him and feel sorry for his predicament.” Sewell has an insight that many directors have but he has no desire to direct. “Not really. I mean, maybe eventually, but there’s so much more I want to do as an actor,” stated Sewell. “I feel rather underused as an actor at the moment, and I feel that I have lots to do and lots to offer. There are lots of ways in which I could be useful as an actor that people haven’t quite cottoned onto yet. People will realize I’m capable of a lot more. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do more. Until I feel like I’ve started to get near what I’m capable of as an actor, I don’t really have any interest in becoming a director.”

Sewell has delivered another performance in “Downloading Nancy” that would please any director. After all, Sewell’s skills allow him to look inside of his character. “You absolutely need to be able to see through the character’s eyes,” stated Sewell. “You might think he's making the wrong judgment, but he was just not equipped to deal with the situation. The way I could see myself as him is someone who is in a situation with someone who is in a lot of pain. This is his only way to respond. He is blaming himself. Everyone has the same kind of feelings. All of the characters are damaged.”

The characters might be damaged but the role Sewell delivers is quite strong and complete. As he prepares for his next project, Sewell will spend a little time doing the other things he loves: “photography, playing the piano and the drums.” This actor might follow a different drummer as he delivers role after role but he has developed a following that can’t wait for his next downbeat.

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