Rupert Graves Online.
1988 - Rupert Graves' Loose Habits.
Author: Jim Servin.
Though he cavorted nude in A Room With a View, Graves loves clothes--the baggier, the better.As the witty and bombastic Freddy Honeychurch in A Room With a View, Rupert Graves mocked the pipe-smoking, gray-wool-suited English gentleman by wearing the very article.
He bullied the minister's niece, popped tennis balls wildly over a net and waltzed his sister into hallway furniture.
Yet his clothing never strayed too far from good taste. Among other things, A Room With a View paid homage to Edwardian gentlemen's finery, and its sartorial wild card was Freddy Honeychurch's cricket jacket, a buzz of black, brown and yellow stripes.
Rupert Graves was the perfect person to wear that part. With mischievous brown eyes counterpointing the classic good looks of a British gentleman, Graves presents a series of contradictions. He embodies the friction between Cockney and Etonian, and his own sartorial loyalties lie somewhere between worsted wool and cashmere. He hails from humble origins but was discovered by Merchant Ivory Productions, an independent film company known for plucking actors from the gentle classes.
On a train bound for London, Graves amiably explains that Weston-Super-Mare, where he grew up the middle child of three, "was a gaudy, trashy seaside town on the Western Channel." At 15, Graves says, he was out of school, on public dole and without prospects. "The only thing someone in my position could do was work for a shoe factory or a helicopter factory, and I didn't want that." Fortunately for him, a clown with England's Delta traveling circus quit abruptly and the circus ran a help wanted notice at the local job center.
Graves interviewed for the position, desperate for work. "I was so scared that I had to make three trips before I finally got up the courage," he says. "There was this strange group of people in caravans. They had me learn a few routines and finally said, 'If you can make it tonight, you can join us.'"
If the circus proved to be Graves's trial-by-fire initiation into show business, it also helped him land an agent. A few appearances on British television followed, and then came Graves's big break, the part of Freddy Honeychurch.
The success of A Room With a View led to choice roles in stage productions of Amadeus (he played young Wolfgang), Killing Mr. Toad, The Importance of Being Earnest, Candida and 'Tis a [sic] Pity She's a Whore, as well as a pivotal part in the film of E.M. Forster's Maurice, Graves's second for Merchant Ivory.
As Alec Scudder, Graves lent the under-gamekeeper character a down-to-earth sensibility. In turn, Graves sported stylish work clothes; dark woolen sweaters, hunting trousers, high boots and a cap to squelch the hair that in A Room With a View flew about his head like antennae.
Although he returned to Savile Row-style costuming in last fall's A Handful of Dust, Charles Sturridge's adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's novel, Graves once again played the underdog. "I felt it was necessary to rescue the poor fellow from the caricature readers of the book might expect," he says of Waugh's social-climbing philanderer, John Beaver. " I didn't really like him, but I had to make him at the very least a human being."
Graves readily admits that he may own one too many mortal fashion errors, but clearly his eye for film work couldn't be more impeccable. Tongue half-way in cheek, he says, "I don't think any actor should have to do trash until he's over 40."
Fortunately for 25-year-old Graves, his visceral elegance is in demand. GQ's Jim Servin rode the Inter-City 125 train with Graves to Learn more about this young Puck's personal and professional wardrobes.
Clothes are important, absolutely. You can play a character and know it's not right because the pair of shoes you're wearing don't at all make sense. Acting is like putting on a new suit. Denholm Elliot [also in A Room With a View] told me that "it's like taking a picture for Mum and Dad," and for that picture, sometimes you get a costume which you wouldn't think the character you created would wear, which causes a problem.
In Candida, I played a poet named Marchbanks and wore a white linen suit with a proper bow tie. It fit so well, had such a wonderful feel to it, that I'm certain it enhanced the performance.
In A Room With a View, that striped jacket was almost slapstick.
I've since had it permed for Maurice, and it changed my style drastically. For a while, I was buying all these Fred Perry T-shirts. But the perm is growing out now, and I've come to my senses a bit.
One film critic called the nude bathing scene in A Room With a View "a brave attempt at innocence." She said, "It really can't feel natural to the actors when the camera is running." Did you think of your body in that scene as another costume?
No. I was naked. I enjoyed it. At first it was a bit personal, but people would be very kind to you and not look you in the eye when they'd tell you where to go, and run away and stay away because you were naked. The first few hours of filming, the set was closed, but after that I felt so free--we all did. The people started wandering around, and we weren't even thinking about it. It was sort of like nature, or camp.
In both Merchant Ivory films you portray athletic characters. Had you played cricket or tennis before you made either film? Do you work out?
It's a dangerous game, but it's good, actually. You've got to be scared to play it. You just think about yourself, about that ball, and you think about your face.
I did join a fitness club for about a year or so, but I let my membership lapse. I'm not fond of it--changing rooms and the smell of socks, everyone howling and going about showing off. Although exercise in front of a mirror lets you see your muscles working, developing. That's quite nice, I suppose.
What clothes suit your personal style?
For that, I got this 1950s tux, but it was vastly too big. It fit like a dress.
My favorite hat is this big green thing with a very wide brim and feathers on the side. It's called a godfather. It's quite well made. I wear it with this suit, a dog-tooth suit, I bought recently at Robot, a very smart London shop. It's got small black-and-white checks--very English. And, on the inside collar, "LOVE CONQUERS ALL" in bright red stitching. I discovered this two months after I bought it.
I like quite loose clothes, baggyish. I like very smart things, well cut. I think they still look good when they're sort of crumpled a bit, a bit worn in.
In general, a shirt with a long collar gooks good with a tie. And also it looks nice with a suit if its collar is
So you like the ironed as well as the slightly rumpled look?
What's you tie collection like?
Are some of your clothes simply functional?
What do you wear when you travel?
I've bought a few things abroad, but I regret some of the purchased I've mad. Once I get out of the country, I usually start thinking. This is a bit foolish.
So you got rid of them when you came back?
Is there anything you'd never wear?
They'd stick to you at a party.
They used to flap across me, around the cheek. Just the effect of having my uncles hit me with their lapels when they breezed toward me left emotional scars. I don't think I could ever forgive those safari suits.
©1988 GQ Magazine.