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1997 - Intimate Relations, An Interview With Rupert Graves.

Author: Prairie Miller.
Publication: Tbc.

Not one to pass up the chance to play a strange character in a movie, actor Rupert Graves stars as psychiatrically challenged Harold Guppy in the very dark and deranged comedy Intimate Relations.
Based on a real life crime scandal that rocked England in the fifties, Intimate Relations is a kind of British fatal attraction that also stars Julie Walters (Educating Rita).

Graves, who dazzled audiences with his first film role in Room With A View, offered some insight related to his preference for the peculiar, at least some of which can be traced back to his formative days as a circus clown.

PRAIRIE MILLER: You're a guy who tends to choose flamboyant, shocker film roles for yourself. Explain.

RUPERT GRAVES: You could say I'm an out and out show-off, but some things still make me uncomfortable, like nude scenes. You have thousands of people looking at you, and you often have to be intimate with people who are strangers. I don't think I'm trying to test my personal limits with these roles. Maybe it's just an English thing, that we're kind of classically repressed. Or maybe it's a form of therapy for us.

PM: Did you hear about the real story of your character before you got interested in playing him for Intimate Relations?

RG: No, I hadn't. It's not part of our criminal folklore. I liked the script, but what especially interested me was the idea of being institutionalized, and what it does to somebody. I was intrigued by Harold's lack of will, and his lack of ability to speak for himself. When I started looking into institutionalization, that's where the root of my interest lay. And I was also intrigued by a character who's got a snake on his back. He's a murderer, and he's got this blood sugar problem. When it goes down, he gets pathologically violent.

That makes for a fascinating character. It's not the kind of violence where a man is trying to transcend his own sensitivity. It's not like a Hemingway search for masculinity, it's not a violent culture that he's trying to hook into. I was interested in the fact that he was horrified by his own violence, so he tried to be very nice. And that got him into more and more problems, because he's submitting his will. It's a physiological and a psychological problem.

PM: I heard you did some unusual things to prepare for the role.
RG: For Harold, I talked to psychiatrists about institutionalization and also read some books. I took a look at the fifties in England, and what the temperament was at that time. A lot of the comedy in Intimate Relations, I think comes from looking back.

It was only six years after World War II in fifties England. Whole cities had been blitzed, just wiped out. It would be like wiping out Cleveland here, (which, you know, some people would argue might not be a bad thing). [We laugh].So a huge percentage of a whole generation of young men was wiped out. Everybody knew someone whose house had exploded, or who had lost someone. And I think under the pattern of that very English propriety was real raw grief. It is David Lynch breeding ground.

PM: Talk a little about your upcoming film Mrs. Dalloway, and what excited you about it.

RG: It was the enigma of the script. When I read it, I didn't understand it. So I read a lot about Virginia Woolf and her life. She had put a lot of her own mental malaise into the male character, who suffers from shell shock. The actual movie is about Mrs. Dalloway, a society woman reflecting back on her life, and she's played by Vanessa Redgrave. There's two parts of Virginia Woolf, and I am the other side of this woman. I think I'm the broken down side, and Vanessa is the person who kept it all in. I think the debate here is in looking at which is better, in a way. They are very different characters, but I think they are different parts of Virginia.

PM: Is that a particularly English trait, to keep everything inside?

RG: Doesn't everybody? Everybody's repressed in their own sweet little way. We've all got our hang-ups. And what's good about films is that thing gets in the public arena and lead people to talk about it.

PM: Do you find it liberating to do things in movies that you wouldn't do in your real life?

RG: I'm not too hung up anyway, I don't think. But the things I don't do in my real life are like going around and shooting people.

PM: Tell me about your former life as a circus clown.

RG: I got the job because a clown left the circus and I took his place. But I did it only for a season. I kind of got off on showing off in front of people when I was a kid. From there I went on to do plays for children, and it was then that I got really bitten by the acting bug. Then somebody saw me in a play in London, and put me in Room With A View. That's how I got into film.

PM: How do you search out characters to play in movies?

RG: Whimsically. Anything that puzzles me or intrigues me. And the writing has to be good. Also, I have to have a chance of pulling it off.

PM: What has been the most difficult role for you to play?

RG: Everything, really. The difficulty is what attracts me. Mrs. Dalloway was tough, because Virginia Woolf speaks in it as an artist so honestly. She really was dragging up stuff from her soul. And she did it beautifully. I kind of felt a respect, to get it right. I had to find a way of stitching it all together in trying to make a character.

PM: What about the other Rupert, he's real hot right now. Do you ever talk to Rupert Everett about the name you share?

RG: I did a film with him called The Madness Of King George. We bonded around the hatred of our names. [He laughs]. It's a ridiculous name.

PM: Why do you dislike your name?

RG: It's probably like being called something like Oswald in the U.S. It's a dork name, it's a real nobby name. If you're a kid, you get beat up if you're called Rupert. You know - come here, bam! It's like a cross between being called Oswald and Yogi. It's bad news.

PM: Do you see yourself doing anything in the future like Men In Black, Part II?

RG: All the plans I've ever made always turn to ash in my hands. I've missed out on things that I really wanted to do. I do like what's often considered as slightly crappy films, so I don't mind them at all. I love them.

PM: But you haven't made them.

RG: No, but I haven't been in the right place to do them.

PM: What was your childhood like?

RG: I went to a terrible school and I was very bad at it. I was very disruptive as a child. Sorry for that, parents.

PM: Were you happy as a child?

RG: No, I don't think that I was. I really didn't fit into being a child, I didn't like being patronized. And I probably had an authority problem. So I think my parents were quite pleased that I actually joined the circus.

PM: Have you ever considered doing any other kind of work?

RG: I have done other jobs in between. Like, I've done washing up in a fish and chips shop, and I've worked in a shoe factory. But, no, not when you haven't got any other qualifications. I'd have to take time out and get educated.

PM: Are you a sex symbol in England?

RG: I don't know. I don't even want to think about that.

©1997 Prairie Miler.