I recently got the chance to talk to James Clyde about his role in ‘Anonymous’. Here, James talks about what it was like working with the cast and crew on-set and what is currently on his I-Pod right now…
Hey James. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film, ‘Anonymous’.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
The basic idea is that Shakespeare was an illiterate actor whose plays were written by Edward DeVere, Earl of Oxford, who in turn was the lover of Elizabeth I.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I play King James I who succeeded Elizabeth. He was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots who had been executed by Elizabeth, her cousin. He was a scholarly man, probably gay, who had a love of literature and theatre, notably Shakespeare’s plays. His reign, apart from the odd Catholic uprising, was generally peaceful. On the other hand, he presided over the worst period of witch hunting in English history.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
The usual. My agent contacted the casting director who put me on video for the director to see. I read for a couple of other roles, although felt at the time that I would enjoy playing James, even though it’s a small role. I went for the Scottish accent and the (supposedly historically accurate) speech impediment, which the director seemed to appreciate.
How would you say this film is different and unique? Do you believe any of the ‘conspiracy theories’?
To be honest, I haven’t seen the movie yet. Looking forward to the DVD, though. As for the conspiracy theories, there’s credible evidence on both sides which has been puffed-up or shouted down according to whose agenda is at stake. Personally, I think Shakespeare probably wrote a large portion of the work attributed to him.
The film stars Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, Sebastian Armesto, Rafe Spall, David Thewlis, Edward Hogg and Xavier Samuel – with Roland Emmerich onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Any good anecdotes?
I was only there a few days but I was aware that this film was a rare thing, a movie of ideas that had a proper budget and an extraordinary level of technical excellence. And that’s down to Roland Emmerich. There aren’t many film-makers who can both co-write the script and co-design the camera lenses, creating new technology in the process. He was also fascinated with the shoes I wore to play the character – hand-made ruby-red kid leather, moulded to the foot with a three-inch heel. Top quality from the costume department..
I had a couple of beers with Ed Hogg and Rafe Spall, but wasn’t around long enough to meet many of the cast. There was one incident when I’d just finished a scene and was walking off the set. I heard someone yelling, “James The First, you bastard! You don’t deserve the throne! I always hated you!”. I turned around and there’s Vanessa Redgrave dressed as Queen Elizabeth the First, shaking her fist at me and smoking a Silk Cut. “Hello, auntie”, I replied, which didn’t go down well.
Let’s talk a bit about you James. What made you want to get into the industry in the first place?
My parents were in the business so I grew up hanging around in theatres and TV studios, which I loved. I did other things first, mostly playing in bands and a series of dodgy jobs, then became an actor in my late twenties. What had inspired me most were a series of plays I saw as a teenager, including ‘Comedians’ at the Royal Court and ‘The Family Reunion’ at the Royal Exchange, where the quality of the writing gave actors the opportunity to shine. It’s always about the writing.
You’ve had a number of roles in different TV series’ and films – which actors/actresses have been your favourites to work with so far and why? Any good stories?
I’ve worked with some superb actors; Ian McDiarmid, Ray Winstone in Kathy Burke’s play ‘Mr. Thomas’, Rebecca Hall, Andy Serkis and, most recently, with Michael Sheen in ‘Hamlet’. I think my favourite is John Lithgow. We did ‘Twelfth Night’ with the Royal Shakespeare Company. The man’s a brilliant actor and an absolute gent. I love the fact he gave up his theatre career in New York to be with his wife, who’d been offered a teaching post in California, thinking he might land bit parts in television. Within eighteen months he’d made five films and was full-blown movie star. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer man.
If you could have dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
Louis Armstrong, Doris Lessing and Bill Hicks. Louis Armstrong for his warmth and his musical genius, Doris Lessing for her fierce intellect and Bill Hicks for the subversive, life-affirming wit. After dinner we could have a jam – Louis on trumpet obviously, Bill on the bass and Doris on the piano. I’ll play the ukulele.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things could you not live without?
A stringed instrument, a copy of Thaddeus Golas’s ‘The Lazy Man’s Guide To Enlightenment’ and my wife.
What is currently on your I-Pod right now?
Been listening to Bon Iver’s second album, an ephemeral, un-pindownable collection of songs, John Grant’s ‘Queen Of Denmark’, a beautiful voice singing songs of melancholia and poisonous wit. Also David Lynch’s album ‘Crazy Clown Time’, which is quite frankly terrifying.
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
I’ve just finished playing Claudius in ‘Hamlet’, which we’ve been performing since October. Now I’m off to South Africa for three months to play Piero Di Medici in the BBC series ‘Leonardo’. After that, no idea!
Thanks for the interview!