If you could somehow give the 12 year old version of yourself a book to read, a film to watch, and an album to listen to – presumably to make yourself cooler or more knowledgeable at an earlier age – what would you gift?
That’s a hard question as I feel that whatever you are reading, listening to, or discovering at the time is the right thing for you at that moment. The discovery of these things as you go through life are what make you who you are… so I’d be nervous to interfere with that. I didn’t really read a huge amount as a kid as I was too active and wasn’t able to sit still and concentrate. So I would definitely make my 12 year old self calm down and put some good books in front of me that captured my imagination. I remember loving the story of Gulliver’s Travels at around that age and my favourite film being Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits… so there’s definitely a theme developing of time travel and entering other worlds. My favourite album at that age was De La Soul 3 Feet High and Rising… so I’m pretty happy with that to be honest!
I’m not sure my 12 year old self would be ready for a Bukowski novel, a Nick Cave record or a Godard film!!
If you could play one game with or against someone who you’d like to get to know very quickly, what game would you pick?
I would probably take on a game of truth or dare whilst playing 18 holes at golf!? …I imagine you’d learn a lot about that person after going through that. Golf brings out the worst in me because I’m rubbish at it. I find it very stressful. I can do a master stroke one minute then slice it into the neighbouring field the next… so it’s definitely a test of patience. You can quickly learn if that person is a calming influence or has anger issues OR they’re really good at it and you know that they have way too much time on their hands!!
Failing that I’d probably just play pool in the pub with some drinks… in fact scrap the golf… I think I’d just do that instead. Play pool and get drunk… that sounds like a far more relaxing way to get to know someone!
Who is a director you’ve worked with already and who you’d love to work with again?
I’ve never had the opportunity to work with the same director twice and I would love to. To have already created that trust and that short hand would be such an amazing experience.
As for picking which director that would be tricky, as I would work with most of them again in a heartbeat.
Kari Skogland who directed me in the film Fifty Dead Men Walking is someone I’d like to work with again… and we’ve often talked about finding another project together. I thought she did an incredible job with that film. She was a Canadian woman trying to get under the skin of this story about the IRA and she was absolutely fearless. She is a brilliant director and really pushed me in the best possible way. She should be up there with some of the great directors in my opinion. Especially as a woman in the film industry. She was one of the best directors I’ve worked with.
What performance of your own would find the most difficult to watch and why?
Probably my performance in a British film called Heartless. It was a beautifully dark poetic film directed by an amazing East London artist called Phillip Ridley. It was a story and a character that became hugely personal to me. The character is really struggling to make sense of the world so I surrounded myself and immersed my mind in all the terrible, dark, heartless atrocities this world can throw at you. It became a very emotional experience for me so it’s not a performance I would find easy to watch.
If you could have played or pursued a role in any foreign film since you began acting – but for the language barrier, what role or project would you have played or pursued?
I’m a big fan of the French director Jacques Audiard. I’ve loved his films since discovering The Beat My Heart Skipped. He did a film called A Prophet which I absolutely loved. The main character in that film would have been something I would have killed to have had the opportunity to play. It was an epic undertaking. If that had been a English speaking film I would have pursued that till the ends of the earth. I’m also often being told that I look a bit like the main actor in the film… so maybe I would have been in with a shot!?
What person in your life had the greatest influence on your taste in music, and what did they introduce you to?
It’s hard to think of one particular person that introduced me to any particular music as it’s something I’ve just picked up along the way through various friends and circles of people. I have a very eclectic music taste. I suppose my older brother taught me a lot about hip hop music as he was completely obsessed in it growing up as kids. His entire bedroom was covered head to toe (including the ceiling) of mainly American hip hop artists. Everything from EPMD to Public Enemy, from Del the Funky Homosapien to Afrika Bambaataa. I was much more into English guitar bands at the time but it definitely had a huge impact on me and I’m now very grateful to have been exposed and influenced by a lot of that amazing culture… it’s definitely shaped how I listen to music today.
What is something that you love to do or experience that you wish you had taken to ages before?
Like I said I wished I had read more as a child, but I never had the patience for it growing up. I had too much energy and my mind was always active, so I would find it hard to sit down and concentrate. Reading is a huge part of the job that I do now… I love books and stories and writing but I still have to really focus to do it. I have to be in quite a particular environment to read as my mind can very easily wander. I’m so jealous of people that can pick up a novel or a script anywhere and disappear into it… so I would definitely have made myself read more as a kid.
If you could have a private Q&A with any actor or director discussing any film, who and what would you pick?
I’ve actually been fortunate in my life to be able to do this. One of my favourite films of all time is a film called Naked by Mike Leigh and it was after seeing David Thewlis’s performance in that film that made me want to become an actor… It was the movie that changed everything for me.
I had the amazing opportunity to work with David a couple of years ago, who is one of the nicest and most brilliant writers and actors around. I would constantly ask questions about what it was like to work on Naked. Pestering him to tell me about Mike Leigh’s process and how he came up with all this amazing improvised dialogue. It was such an incredible experience for me. He also gave me a copy of his novel to read… so it was the biggest privilege to not only have lunch with the author of the book you were reading at the time, but also the actor in your favourite film, and bombard him with questions each day!!
Jim Sturgess can be seen in Stephen Poliakoff’s miniseries Close To The Enemy, Thursdays on BBC Two (UK) and Mondays on Acorn TV (USA).
As told to Paul Vaughan for TPJ
Creative Director & Photographer: Jessie Craig
Stylist: Christopher Preston
Grooming: Oliver Daw