Rupert Graves Online.
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1997 - Cinemania Interviews Actor Rupert Graves.

Author: Staff Writer.
Publication: Cinemania Magazine.

Rupert Graves carries himself well, even over the phone. He's both composed and self-deprecating.

It's easy to see why people like giving him work. And work he has, especially these past two years.

He won the Best Actor award at the 1996 Montreal Film Festival for the upcoming Intimate Relations, where another film of his, Different For Girls, won the Best Film. Different is a skewed love story of Kim, a transsexual played by Steven Mackintosh, who is drawn into love by a former schoolmate, played by Graves. "Different" could also describe Graves' career.

He debuted as the irrepressible Freddy in A Room With A View, followed as Scudder, the working-class lover of Maurice, was betrayed by his own father in Damage, and had to stand guard during The Madness Of King George. Later this year, he'll be using that composure again when he stars in Mrs. Dalloway with Vanessa Redgrave.

CINEMANIA: The press kit states you left home to join the circus.
RUPERT GRAVES: Yeah, I left when I was 15 with no qualifications. I didn't pass any exams. In fact, I didn't take many. When I was 15, the government ran a scheme called the Youth Training Scheme, whereby an employer could go to the government and say, "I need to take a trainee on." And the government would pay them 25 pounds a week, and that would be passed onto you - or to me, in my case. And the local circus came into town. One of the clowns had left. So, they needed a trainee clown. And I went with them for year - well, for nine months.

CINEMANIA: Did you have a particular clown job that you had to do?
RUPERT GRAVES: I just went through a few routines, just basic clown routines. I was the kind of person who gets dumped on. He gets the bucket of water thrown over him; he falls off the slack wire. He does a kind of a joke dog act, which is where it goes wrong.

CINEMANIA: Any mishaps?
RUPERT GRAVES: Loads of mishaps. I never ever got across the slack wire without falling off. It was only 15 feet high or something.

CINEMANIA: Fifteen feet high is pretty high.
RUPERT GRAVES: Yeah. But I knew I was going to fall so I was prepared. But it's quite hard because it's slack. It's not tight. It's like walking on a chain fence. And the dog act was done with lots of rescued dogs. They weren't really trained, so all of it went like a joke. The dog did just whatever it wanted to do, which was to leave little messages around the room and just run off. And they wouldn't do any tricks. But I had to work a routine out of that. I had to improvise every night.

CINEMANIA: Wait a second. You had to improvise a routine out of dog excrement?
RUPERT GRAVES: Well, it was a very poor circus.

CINEMANIA: So, they had a 15-year-old clown and dogs they just pulled out of the pound?

CINEMANIA: What did your mom and dad think of that?
RUPERT GRAVES: They were pleased. I was so bad at school and I was always playing hooky. And like I said, I didn't get any "O" levels [tests taken by students to graduate from English secondary schools]. And the old town I came from was a very small provincial town. It was really in kind of the drug beat with the 1970s. And all the people I was hanging out with were getting into that. So, I think the circus was a safe alternative.

CINEMANIA: Running naked around a lake with Simon Callow in A Room With A View. Difficult to do?

RUPERT GRAVES: Well, that was my first film. And there was actually a sequence in it where I've got my back to the camera because I was blushing so much from embarrassment and the shock and the nerves. I had to be the first one to take my clothes off and take the plunge in the pond. Luckily it was a long shot at first.

And so I just ripped my clothes off and just jumped in. And after a couple of hours I really relaxed. And the scene ... the filming of that scene went on for about three days. And at the end of that I was just very relaxed. I just felt completely comfortable.

CINEMANIA: It didn't even affect you?
RUPERT GRAVES: No. Actually it felt a bit superior because I wasn't embarrassed. I felt so free.

CINEMANIA: You weren't making comparisons?

CINEMANIA: Oh, you were?
RUPERT GRAVES: What do you mean? In what way?

CINEMANIA: You weren't feeling superior running around naked?
RUPERT GRAVES: I felt superior to the people in the crew.

CINEMANIA: I've got you.
RUPERT GRAVES: Not a typical English trait.

CINEMANIA: When your roles are mentioned in total, it seems that the term "class" seems to appear a lot - that you've always played upper-class roles.
RUPERT GRAVES: Yes. My name in England is a very upper-class name, although my mother was working-class and my father was middle-class. I went to a working-class school in quite a working-class town. But because I was called Rupert and the English film industry is quite snobby really ... I think I got into Room With A View partly because of my name.

As soon as I did that, the posh girls and boys would invite me to parties. And they'd say: "What school did you go to?" "My brother went to school with you?" And I'd say, "No, he probably didn't, actually." So, people actually assumed that I was much more middle- to upper-class than I actually am. And people pigeonholed me in that for a while for the first couple years of my career.

CINEMANIA: Your new film, Different For Girls, was made two years ago. Is that correct? Is it odd to have to dredge up memories from two years ago?
RUPERT GRAVES: Yeah. I've done two plays, a TV series, and maybe four films between. Have to really stop ... cast your mind back. I did some publicity in Berlin a couple of weeks ago, which got me back into it.

CINEMANIA: Your co-star Steve Mackintosh, who plays a male whose had an operation and is now female ... the head-body scene...
RUPERT GRAVES: The naked scene.

CINEMANIA: The naked scene. Were you in the room with the person with the blue bag over their head for that? How did they do that?
RUPERT GRAVES: It was a prosthetic body they put on Steven, under the...

CINEMANIA: Are you kidding? It looked quite real.
RUPERT GRAVES: Yeah, they prosthetically did it. And then they spent a bit of money on digitally mastering afterwards.

CINEMANIA: Smoothing out the breasts?
RUPERT GRAVES: Well, there was a little bit of a joint, I think, that was visible around the top of the chest where the prosthetic breast started and a little bit of mismatched color.

CINEMANIA: Could he move?
RUPERT GRAVES: He started to melt [laughs], which is alarming for love scenes. And it's a nice thought, I suppose, someone melting in your arms. But when it actually happens, literally you go to pieces, too.

CINEMANIA: When Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly did Bound, everyone asked them, "Do you like doing a love scene with a man or a woman?" And I remember reading those and thinking what a strange question to ask them. It's almost a preferred response question in some ways. You wouldn't ask that of a male actor who'd done a love scene with another male actor. So, I thought it would be the last question I would ever ask you. So, I'd thought I'd ask it. Which do you prefer? Are there positive attributes of doing a love scene with a man versus a woman?

RUPERT GRAVES: No. I'm actually one of those who find it all a bit awkward - love scenes. I'm not totally relaxed. The thing is, once you're actually doing it, you are living the parallel reality of the film and you know it's not you and it's the character and it's situation and it's what's required. And it seems reasonable. I think acting's only really uncomfortable when it doesn't feel right. But this feels OK.

CINEMANIA: Why is (your character) Prentice so immature, so trapped in what he's doing? He's 34 and he's still listening to his records from 17 years ago.
RUPERT GRAVES: My theory is that as the punk explosion in 1976 and 1977 in London was an absolute moment of epiphany for Prentice. He's always been slightly anti-society. He's never found a place for himself in society and always enjoyed the middle motive renegade, I suppose. I think he just (got) stuck in that crowning moment, and it's a moment which requires no responsibility. You just have to look after yourself. Love affairs are easily won and lost. I just think it's a very easy, slightly nostalgic, and formaldehyded moment. It is an immaturity.

CINEMANIA: Yeah, but a likeable immaturity.
RUPERT GRAVES: Yeah. I don't think he's all bad - this guy.

CINEMANIA: Oh, no. He's really quite brave. Because saving Carl in that shower is probably ... for that age, would be one of the most daring, one of the most brave things a person could do.
RUPERT GRAVES: Right. Absolutely. But he does it again later on. I mean, he saves Kim from the police, and he's based on principles that he actually believes (are) right. And I think he just can basically not bear bullying.

CINEMANIA: Did you ever know anybody like that, not necessarily transsexual, but someone who really did not fit in?
RUPERT GRAVES: I had a friend when I was a kid in the town I grew up in. And he was gay, and he was very, very short. And I come from a town which is really strong. It was a rural community. And you really have to fit in there, and he had a really hard time. I can remember him having fights with people when he was getting beaten up or something, and he couldn't defend himself. He was so small. I mean he was really small, and then to have to wade into fights.

CINEMANIA: Now, I haven't had a chance to see your role coming out in November, Mrs. Dalloway. Can you tell me a little bit about that and working with Vanessa Redgrave.
RUPERT GRAVES: I'd worked with Vanessa before. Actually, in the film we only meet on one brief little shot. We look through a window at each other. So, I didn't work with her again. I loved her when we did the play together. She's a spunky girl. She's great. She's fantastic.

RUPERT GRAVES: "Spunky" means a lot of vim ... a lot of...

CINEMANIA: I know what "spunky" means. In her work ethic?
RUPERT GRAVES: She's spirited. She's got more spirit is what I mean. I was just using "spunky" because I think it makes me laugh, really.

©1997 Cinemania Magazine.