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Journey From The Bard to Bond - Ben Whishaw

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GIVEN THAT THE PAST YEAR has seen him working virtually no-stop, Ben Whishaw is looking remarkably fresh faced. Sporting a thick moustache and a warm, friendly smile, we meet as he approaches the halfway mark on his two-month tenure playing opposite his Skyfall co-star Judi Dench in Peter And Alice at the Noel Coward Theatre, an experience that has clearly had a profound impact on the thirty-two-year-old. “I’m really enjoying myself,” he beams. “Judi and I never got to share a scene together in Skyfall, so I’m loving being on stage with her and hanging out with her and talking to her and listening to her stories.”



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At first glance, it’s difficult to place Ben Whishaw the man and Ben Whishaw the actor together in the same room with one another. Having tackled a wildly diverse array of personalities, including musical icons Keith Richards and Bob Dylan in Stoned and I’m Not There respectively and Romantic poet John Keats in Jane Campion’s Bright Star, Whishaw is, in contrast to many of his much more peculiar characters, a quiet, charming and remarkably self-effacing individual, who talks with refreshing candour when it comes to reflecting on his CV.

“I don’t spend a lot of time looking back actually,” he muses. “Except in interview, obviously. I never had any plan and I never had any particular desire to be doing anything other than acting in whatever way, shape or form it came. I’d like to be able to say that there was some great master plan but there really wasn’t. I’m sure there are some who have a cleaner vision for themselves, but I didn’t. And I don’t now. I just wanted to work.”



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Born and raised in Bedfordshire, Whishaw’s interest in theatre began at a young age. As a member of a local youth theatre, he would take frequent trips to London to visit the West End, which had an enormous impact on the impressionable young thesp. “Every week we’d drive down and get cheap tickets for these incredible shows, so all my idols when I was teenager, weirdly, were theatre actors. Seeing Michael Gambon, Mark Rylance and people like that give astonishing performances when I was fourteen – they were the people that I remember seeing and going. “Wow, what is that they ‘re doing? It’s so powerful.”’



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That curiosity eventually led to Whishaw graduating from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 2003, with roles opposite Daniel Graig in Enduring Love and Layer Cake following shortly thereafter. Over the course of the subsequent decade, he has divided his time between theatre and screen, working on various television projects, including Chris Morris’ frequently overlooked, yet unnervingly prophetic, hipster pastiche, Nathan Barley. More recently, his TV projects have included BAFTA award-winning drama serial Criminal Justice, the BBC’s acclaimed production of Richard II and the frustratingly short-lived The Hour, cancelled by the BBC after its second series. In spite of the inevitable knockbacks, it’s clear that he still holds an affinity for television as a storytelling medium. “I like that really slow unfurling of a story and it seems to be appealing to more and more writers and directors. It’s interesting that whenever I overhear conversations on buses and in cafes, that’s what people are talking about now – what DVD box-set they’re watching.”



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It was Whishaw’s acclaimed performance in Trevor Nunn’s 2004 production of Hamlet at the Old Vic, however, that led to his big screen breakthrough, piquing the interest of director Tom Tykwer, who would later cast him as the lead in Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer. An adaptation of Patrick Süskind’s novel of the same name, Whishaw took the role of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, an olfactory genius whose quest for the perfect scent leads to his murderous downfall. The role propelled him to public prominence and also led to him forming a close working on Cloud Atlas, Tykwer’s ambitiously divisive yet profoundly fascinating sci-fi epic, co-directed alongside legendary sibling duo, Andy and Lana Wachaowski.



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“It’s really precious to me, having that familiarity working with someone. You have a history and you have a shorthand. I think the hardest thing on film is being thrown in to a situation with a group of people that you don’t know and there’s no time to really get to know each other, so tensions can arise. But when you already have a working relationship, you can just go further, I think. It’s quicker and easier.”

Cloud Atlas’ ambitious approach to storytelling – casting actors in multiple roles across multiple, intertwining timelines – has polarized critics and audiences alike, but Whishaw freely admits that the wildly unique vision the Wachawskis and Tykwer were striving for made a project of that scale so appealing. “I knew that would probably be divisive and I think that’s absolutely what it should be, but it had been meticulously planned,” he says. “Andy, Lana and Tom are so close and continue to be so close that it was remarkably harmonious and smooth, form my perspective. The potential for chaos and madness was obviously huge with a project like that, but it was really a very happy experience.”



Equally, there was further scope for madness with Whishaw’s other high profile project last year – Skyfall, now the highest grossing film of all time in the UK, which marked the highly anticipated return of Q, James Bond’s quartermaster, long absent from the series since the death of Desmond Llewelyn, who portrayed the role a total of seventeen times. Q’s return to the series reunited Whishaw with Daniel Craig for a fourth time, something that both parties seemed to enjoy. “I always turn up as these slightly odd people in his films that kind of annoy him in some way.” He jests. “Maybe the relationship will evolve in the next one. It might be quite nice for him as much as anything else. Daniel’s very good at doing exasperation, but I was always aware that he is the film, you know? He’s an absolute perfectionist – he’s driven and determined that every beat of it will be perfect, but he’s also got a great sense of humour. You have to.”
With John Logan, the writer of Peter And Alice, currently in the process of writing Bond’s twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth adventures, Whishaw is cautiously optimistic about the character and his own future within the franchise. “We’ll see what the scope is, John tells me I’m in them, but I haven’t had an official call,” he says.


For the meantime, however, Whishaw’s focus is on the job at hand – his starring role in Peter And Alice, opposite Judi Dench’s Alice Liddell Hargreaves as Peter Llewelyn Davies, the real life inspirations for Alice In Wonderland and Peter Pan respectively. Based on the unexpected real-life meeting between the two in a London bookshop at the opening of a Lewis Carroll exhibition in 1932, it’s an experience that Whishaw has found particularly enlightening, offering a chance to reflect on his generation of actors in comparison to Dench’s.

“When Judi started, acting was an entirely different thing. The idea that you’d be picky or fussy; I don’t think that existed. You went and did your years in repertory theatre and then you did whatever was available. That’s why I think that generation is so fantastically versatile. It’s shifted a bit now for my generation. Maybe it’s because of this celebrity culture that’s evolved since then. Now people want to define you as the guy who does this or the girl who does that, or has that kind of career, whereas I don’t think that that was a concern for actors of another generation.

They were just actors.” It’s somewhat fitting therefore that Whishaw has himself managed to craft a career that is almost impossible to classify or define in conventional genre terms. That he’s able to do so whilst successfully tiptoeing around the vagaries of fame and stardom remains an impressive feat. “To be fair, I’ve never really felt that there’s been an intrusion in to my privacy and I don’t really think people are that interested,” he states self-effacingly. “You can’t really avoid it and it’s fine, I suppose, but you don’t have to engage with it if you don’t want to. You can engage with it as little as possible, which is what I try and do.”

That all may change, considering Ben’s win at May’s TV BAFTA awards ceremony. Picking up the prestigious Leading Actor trophy at the event’s climax, beating off nominees Sean Bean, Toby Jones and Derek Jacobi, he looked shell-shocked – his peers cheering as he awkwardly took to the stage. As Clash broaches the topic of success, he laughs bashfully, playing down the subject in typically modest fashion. “I never have a feeling of having ‘made it ‘”, he concedes.

“That’s such a funny term, isn’t it? It sounds so final and it’s not. You never know what you’re going to do next and you’re constantly hoping and dreaming about what might come up. Looking back, I suppose it’s probably true that doing Perfume really did help people know who I was and open up possibilities, I’m sure…” He pauses briefly, lost in contemplation. “I know it did, but yeah, it definitely didn’t feel then, and I don’t feel now that I’ve ‘made it’.” We tell him that he’s being modest. “No,” he replies with a smile. “It’s true!”








- 了 - 
(自分でタイプし直しました。ミススペルがあったら教えてね)



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アップされましたー!カメラ撮りですが、拡大して読めます。
Thank you so much for uploading, Danielley

********
Ben Whishaw in Clash Magazine. July/August 2013
Words: Paul Weedon
Photography: Pelle Crepin
Fashion: Matthew Josephs

(Not the best photos but I think you can still read the interview?)

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