Hi Jim, thanks for sitting down with me. I thought we could just chat and you can just tell me what you’re up to.
Yeah, ok. Cool.
It’ll be like a speed date.
So you’ve got Hard Sun out?
Yeah, it’s out now.
Did you watch it when it came out?
Yeah, we had a kind of screening. Neil, the writer, who normally lives in New Zealand was here, so we all kind of watched it together. The whole team that worked on it. It was nice. They did food and we had some drinks. We all kind of held on to each other for dear life.
Had you never seen it before?
I had. They’d done a screening at the BFI on the South Bank, so I keep only seeing the first episode. I’m ready to see the rest now! I still need to sit down and watch all the episodes properly.
Is it nerve wracking?
Yeah, It is! I’ve never had the experience of coming out on prime-time TV on that particular slot. It’s a different feeling to when a film comes out. I don’t know why. I think the fact that it has a life longer than the release you know, it has six little mini releases kind of. To be a part of Saturday night TV is quite a big deal for me in England you know. It’s a bit of an institution. Everybody kind of communally watches BBC or Channel 4 or whatever on a Saturday night, so to be a part of that is exciting actually.
Have you done that before?
Never, no. I’ve never had the experience of coming out on a prime time TV on that particular slot.
Everyone sees tv in England.
It’s true! It’s something you don’t really consider. You make feature films and friends or family are not as interested in the movies and then when suddenly you’re on a television show on a Saturday night, suddenly everyone takes an interest. You’re sort of like: I’ve been doing this for a while now…but in their eyes, you’ve “made it” because you’re on prime-time Saturday night television.
Are they surprised, like “I saw you on TV!”?
Yeah! But even people I haven’t seen for years or people I went to school with on Facebook suddenly everyone is really excited about my new TV show coming out. Nobody ever did that for any of the movies I’ve done.
Yeah, the weirdest I had was people saying “I saw you on the plane!” and I’m like “why didn’t you say hi?” Ooooh I was on the plane…
The worst I had was, I was on a plane and a movie of mine, a movie called One Day that was out and on the plane, you’re sitting there seeing it on various screens. You don’t dare get up to go to the toilet.
Did anyone recognise it was you?
No! I was never recognised. It’s amazing how people don’t associate. I’ve sat next to someone on a plane while they watched a movie that I’m in.
Did you tell them?
No! You just sit there and you’re like, that’s kind of crazy. I don’t know whether I should say something or not.
When a taxi driver asks you what you do, do you tell them you’re an actor?
No, most often I don’t. Well, it depends on what sort of mood you’re in. I had a nice one the other day and they always ask you what you’ve been in. And you think, do I have to list what I’ve been in? And he said I never watch movies. Then you list your sort of resume and he’s like no, never seen it. No never seen it. Or yeah, I seen it, didn’t like it. So he ended up phoning his wife and he said “she’ll know who you are!” and he says “I’ve got this fella Jim, what’s you’re surname?” and then she googled me and she said “ooooh yeah! I like him!” so we ended up having a moment.
Oh you just needed a little attention that day, a little interaction.
Yeah, I left feeling pretty good, yeah.
Are you hoping for another season?
I am, yeah, for the story. It feels like the show is just getting started really. The concept of the story is that we know the government has withheld information that the world is going to end if 5 years. What happens as this doom gets closer and closer and closer to the ultimate end? I’d like to see more what comes and how human behaviour starts to change as they start to realise what’s happening to the world.
It’s so creepy.
Yeah, it’s an amazing concept. That’s why I was attracted to it. It’s just the fact that because of a tv show you can spend time looking at the dynamics of people’s lives and their relationships and how they tackle this idea that everything is going to be gone in 5 years and what’s the point of anything? Or do your relationships mean even more? Do they become more vivid and more important?
Have you been thinking bout that while you’ve been filming?
Yeah, a lot. You sort of can’t help it, as it’s such a big topic of the show. I sort of looked into these documents of people with terminal illness and there are these amazing stories of people who are dealing with the same issues that we’re dealing with on the show. It’s a very personal thing for them when they’ve found out that they only have months or years to live and how they talk and discuss that and how each person’s journey through that was very different. Ultimately everybody said the same thing, which is that you really appreciate those little, beautiful small moments in life. Life becomes very vivid and everything matters. Every relationship you’ve ever had, over time you see, a pigeon fly, you think wow, everything is so incredible, so beautiful and how blessed we are to be here.
Do you think that’s effected your daily life since starting the filming?
I think you can’t help but have an appreciation for life, yeah, it definitely made me think about that a lot more. To try and right a few of the wrongs and just make sure that everything is in a good place.
What an amazing job to have.
Yeah, but I sort of think about that stuff anyway, to be honest. And it made me think about space, the cosmos and all that because there’s so much out there that we don’t really understand. The concept of the show isn’t that farfetched. Who knows what’s going on out there that could one day have a huge impact on everything.
Well, all the things are happening out there. It’s just whether or not they impact us in this lifetime is a different story.
I like the fact that it eclipses our behaviour on the planet. Donald Trump and Kim Jung Un’s behaviour. Nuclear war means nothing when everything’s going to get wiped out and it puts everybody on the same playing field. It’s a very humbling thing actually. When everybody’s going to get wiped out, no one is any better than anyone else.
It’s interesting you mention Kim Jung Un because I went to N Korea a few years ago and there they tell everyone the truth, which is that tons of nuclear bombs are being pointed at them by America and at any moment everyone will die. And it really unifies them as a people and it keeps them laser focused and driven and committed to family and country and purpose which was weirdly a by product that I kind of liked. But that’s basically you’re TV show in practice.
I’m jealous you’ve been. It’s a life long dream to see it.
You should go! but it would be very annoying to arrive just as they hit the nuclear codes… Oprah’s trying to be the incumbent in 2020 we gotta make some noise and bye bye Jim Sturgess.
Then we wouldn’t get a Season 2 of Hard Sun! But you’re finally working in the UK on a TV show, what’s it like to work in the UK vs the States?
It was amazing. I’m always on the hunt for something to come out of London. I’m a proud Londoner who lives here and wants to tell good stories out of the city that I come from. But it’s not always easy, so when this came up I was thrilled that it was London based because I love representing London and seeing it on film when it looks great. I could be the host for a change. Normally I’m a guest, but it was nice to be at home and amazing to have London become a giant film set. Now when I walk around I think, I remember filming that down there or that’s where we did that big fight scene. The city becomes this big playground of memories from shooting. And then the opposite of that was when we were filming I’d think, Ah I remember getting thrown out of that pub or being sick down that alley! So, it worked both ways.
Speaking of cities that you film in… Berlin I love you? That looks amazing.
Yeah, I was excited. I was a fan of the Paris Je t´aiem films and New York I love you films they did. So, when they asked me to get involved I didn’t really care what the story was and then they figured out what story they wanted me to be in.
Was there another story that you wished you were in?
I didn’t know what any of the other stories were. They sent me one and it was perfect. I have no idea what anybody else shot, which is kind of exciting. I have no idea how that fits into any of the other stories.
And you did the JT Leroy film? Personally, it is my favourite literary farce on the planet! It’s the best thing that has ever happened. Cause you don’t think that happen today. That it could be possible! And I read all the books before it came out.
I would have loved to have read those books not knowing and believing there was a 15-year-old boy that had written them.
Yes! I believed all of it!
Cause I had to read them knowing that this other woman had done it. I mean it was still an amazing read but had I read it through the eyes of a fifteen-year-old boy it would have been quite special.
I read all of them and then I went to a reading with Marianne Faithful and the weird fake JT thing with the wig and the stuff and I just felt so much compassion and sympathy for this creature that was so awkward and weird and then the bottom just fell out and I was like “YESSS!!!! it got weirder!!!!!” I mean, could it have been weirder?
It was weird going into the story because when you read about it in all the press cuttings and documentaries, it runs pretty deep. It’s a sadness there rather than a practical joke. This woman struggled with her own identity and wanted to be a young boy with blue eyes. That was her fantasy and how she was able to write through this kid’s persona.
It was a great experience because we hung out with all the people that it happened to a lot when we made the film. Savannah, who pretended to be JT, was on set every day and her brother, who I played, was a musician and was a beautiful guy and we spent a lot of time together. It was part performance art, part publicity and part insecurity.
I can’t wait to see that movie.
We had a really fun time shooting it. We filmed it in Winnipeg in Canada and there isn’t a huge amount to do which I like because it really bonds the whole team and you get to know each other very quickly and become a little family while you’re there. The more I learned about the story the crazier it became. The writer pretended to be the manager/assistant to the fake JT Leroy, who was a cockney Londoner, so she put on an accent and called herself Speedy. And had this terrible accent. It’s real, you can’t write that shit. At times it felt like we were making Ab Fab. It was so mental.
For sure. Have you ever met any other characters that you’ve played?
In 50 Dead Men Walking, I played an informant who was in hiding, so I wasn’t able to meet him. I was advised heavily not to meet him. Then I played a guy whose family I met and spent a lot of time with. Kidnapping Freddy Heineken, which is a true story about these kids kidnapping the head of Heineken lager. They were trying to figure out a way to get rich and their idea was to put together this heist and kidnap the richest people in Holland. When we were filming, his son, wife, and daughter came to set and it really freaked me out because he died, unfortunately. He was shot many years later by, they believe, his best friend, his wife’s brother. So, it’s all very complicated. But it was intense having them there watching you, dressed as their dead husband or dead father. They tried to make me look like him and I was very nervous about it and felt really uncomfortable about it for the first day. But it was so cathartic for them and they were so lovely and so giving with their time that they ended up coming to New Orleans on a family holiday and came onto set every day. It became a really precious thing for the experience. I became very close to them while we were filming and it was weird to come off set and be able to speak to his wife immediately and say “was that how you imagined it? Was that as real as it felt? Give me info about what happened in that moment.”
That’s so intense.
But once I was at peace with it and relaxed about that whole idea and comfortable around them, then it was a really interesting process. And the son looks identical to the Dad, so it was really freaky. Oh, and the character from 21 came to set a lot. With women on each arm. He was a good guy. He invited me to his wedding.
Did you go?
I couldn’t. I would have done, but I couldn’t go.
You could bring some babes of your own!
Right! That movie was about these MIT kids who had learned how to count cards in Vegas. So really, they were nerds at heart who’d made it big.
Nerds. Bless em. Bless those nerds who make it big. Bless us who have to deal with the nerds that make it big.
It’s so interesting to see what they thought was cool, you know. To see their perception. It was all about VIP treatment. And the biggest suite. Those are the sort of things that don’t, in my mind, make a really interesting and cool person. I guess the thing that makes them really interesting and cool is innately there, right? The fact that they are super smart math geniuses… that’s what I find cool. But then that’s there anyway, so what do you do about that? It’s boring if you don’t progress.
You’re a musician. What kind of music do you write?
It depends who I’m writing with and what friend is around that I’m collaborating with at the time. It’s produced in the way that Massive Attack is produced or bands like UNKLE or Primal Scream. Slight sort of electronic vibe with a grounded in guitar as well. But it’s not rock music at all. I was always interested in beats. I never had a rock phase. I grew up listening to 90’s hip-hop music.
Yeah. 90’s hip hop music
Here in London?
Yeah, my older brother was just a massive hip-hop fan. Then I discovered bands like The Charlatans and The Stone Roses and that led me towards a more English guitar, but it was because of The Beats that led me to those bands. They were English rock, but they still had a groove to them. It wasn’t rock n roll music, it was groovy, Happy Mondays, dance sort of …
It’s funny how one band makes it ok to like other types of music that makes it ok to like other types… And then you end up in a genre that you never thought you’d be into, but you’ve been led there slowly by your favourite bands.
Musical taste is an intricate part of your personality and your journey through life. I went from Michael Jackson, my first album, then De La Soul, 3 ft high and rising. I was 10 years old and my brother played it to me and I could probably do that whole album lyrically. Then there was a whole hip-hop phase. I then discovered The Beastie Boys when I was skating at 14 or 15.
But they were made for 14 year old boys.
Yeah! I found an identity with them because they sort of looked a little bit more like I did. I don’t look like a member of De La Soul or Public Enemy or whatever. But they were skateboarding like I am… and then I was obsessed with Beastie Boys. I used to do a paper route and my older brother’s friend had left a cassette tape on my kitchen table and I put it on and it was a Charlatans album called Some Friendly. It was the first Charlatans record and I was like “What the fuck is this??” and was like “Oh… Ok.” and then it was like another shift. I sort of identify with them. That sent me down a whole other path. Now I listen to everything. But that was my path.
Yes! my cousin had an old boombox that he gave me and he left a blank tape in that he recorded. And there was this Beck album on it and I pushed play and I was like “Whoa. I don’t know what the fuck this is… but I’m into it. THIS is what I like!” I didn’t know what it was for like 6 months and when you’re twelve that’s a long time. There’s a sense of magic to it where you had to find things, or they found you and you were like “What world is this a portal into?!” and then you’d have to find more about it by the record labels and go to the record store and do all the stuff. Now with the internet you can just tap tap tap and fine everything…
You had to earn that record…
You had to earn your taste. If you knew what it was it’s because you got someone to give you a ride to the record store and sat there all day listening to shit and searching it out…
You had to seek it out. You bought it without paying for it. You went home and listened to it with the money that you spent. And that record sounds much sweeter when you paid 10 pounds for it!
But I still search for that. So I hope that the music I make is hopefully a sort of mismatch of all the music that I like, you know.
So far, I’m into it. Well thank you for speed dating me.
I forgot we were even doing an interview.
Hard Sun can currently be seen on BBC one on Saturdays as well as BBC iPlayer and premieres March 7 on Hulu. Hard Sun will also be available on DVD from 19th February
Clothes: Sweatshirt by Scotch & Soda – Leather jacket by Schott, shirt by Topman, Jeans by Replay – Denim jacket and shirt by Scotch & Soda – Brown coat by Jim – Shiny jacket by Scotch & Soda