James Corden and Mat Horne: interview

Cannoning off the success of 'Gavin and Stacey', James Corden and Mat Horne are starring in their own sitcom, 'Horne

  • Mathew Horne and James Corden are busy boys. Not content with simply fulfilling a gruelling schedule promoting their first film, ‘Lesbian Vampire Killers’ and their new sketch show, ‘Horne and Corden’, Mat is treading the boards every night in an acclaimed production of Joe Orton’s ‘Entertaining Mr Sloane’, while James is feverishly grafting away on the scripts for the third series of the phenomenally successful ‘Gavin and Stacey’ with co-writer and co-star Ruth Jones. So, to give them a little break from their hectic lives, we thought we’d take them out for a nice, relaxing chat over a friendly game of tenpin bowling.

    How much time do you two get to chill out and have some fun at the moment?

    JC ‘Not a lot if I’m honest. I started a new rule about two weeks ago, where I try to do something for the weekend. Not the TV show on BBC2 – that would be ridiculous, I’m not making time to knock up an eggs Benedict in a television studio every Sunday morning. I mean I try to do at least one thing with my girlfriend or my family.’

    MH ‘It can feel interminable. Occasionally, you just have to say to the people who sort everything out: “Look, I need some time on my own, can you clear a day, please?” In fact, one of the reasons for doing the play I’m in was so I could have my days free to relax, but as it’s turned out I’m actually doing more work and a show in the evening to top it off. Thankfully, I’m loving being in this show, so in some ways at least, it does feel like it’s a bit of “me  time” as well.’

    JC ‘But hey, these are not bad problems to have!’

    MH ‘Exactly!’

    ‘There are odd moments when you might find yourself starting to complain about things and then you think: This is ridiculous. We are so aware of how insignificant our worries are and what a privileged position we find ourselves in.’

    What are the ups and downs of your new-found fame?
    JC ‘It’s mostly ups, but I think the main downer is the constant speculation about your life, what you’re up to and with whom. You know it’s going to happen, because you’ve read what people write about other famous people in the paper, but it’s only when it actually happens to you that you think: Oh okay, that’s what it’s like. I heard a really good anecdote by James Dreyfuss… or Richard Dreyfuss – certainly a Dreyfuss! Richard Dreyfuss… He’s the movie star one right? He described the process of becoming famous as being like Indiana Jones. You search your whole life for this precious thing, you finally find it and there’s this amazing jewel in front of you – it looks beautiful, perfect. You pick it up and for a moment it looks brilliant and dazzling and then everything gets chaotic and normality starts to crumble away. You might try to put the gem back but it’s too late.’

    MH ‘The huge plus side is that you get recognised for your work. People come up and say: “I like what you do”, and that’s amazing.’

    JC ‘And a lot of the time we still have to pinch ourselves because we’ve been so lucky. Like presenting the Brits. It was worth doing for the dress rehearsal alone. Imagine if someone said to you, “Here’s two tickets to watch Kings of Leon, Coldplay, U2 and the Pet Shop Boys in Earls Court but it will just be you in the audience.” How can you not enjoy that? There’s no bit of us walking round and thinking that this is how life is…’

    MH ‘Or that we deserve this in any way.’

    JC ‘Before, Mat and I would go to auditions and take any job we got offered because we had to eat. Now though, it feels like the next ten years of your life are dependant on certain choices that you make. Because we’re in that lucky position where people now approach us with projects, it’s down to us to make the right choices. But, like I said, these are good problems to have.’

    MH ‘Absolutely. As we’re talking, the film hasn’t been out and neither has the sketch show. A lot is riding on those two projects. We’re just on the cusp of it all. We don’t really know how they’ll be received or what will happen.’

    Although aware that they are both potentially at a crucial turning point in their careers – which could see them shoot into the heady realms of comedy fame inhabited only by the likes of Gervais, Izzard, Evans and Pegg, or suffer an Ant and Dec ‘Alien Autopsy’-style fall from grace – they seem remarkably relaxed as they hurl ball after ball down the lane with varying levels of success – for every perfect strike or picked-up spare there’s one down the gutter.

    After the huge critical and ratings success of ‘Gavin and Stacey’ are you anxious about the reception of the new projects?
    JC ‘You can’t be nervous. You just hope that they are judged fairly and for what they are.’

    MH ‘“Gavin and Stacey” was amazingly well received. Even Time Out liked it!

    JC ‘That was one of the best moments for Ruth and I, when we read that review. We were chuffed. But the sketch show and the film are very different things to “Gavin and Stacey” by their very nature. I just hope they’re not judged unfavourably because of that. Inevitably, with a sketch show, there’ll be bits that some people don’t like and the film is just a teen horror comedy, not some huge awards film. You hope people will see it for what it is. You know, you don’t want someone reviewing CBeebies in the same way they would “Slumdog Millionaire”.’

    MH ‘We’ve done these projects to the best of our abilities, hopefully with warmth and charm, to make people laugh, and that’s who we made them for – not for the reviewers.’

    Where did the idea of doing a sketch show come from?

    MH ‘It came from our friendship, really.’

    And how long have you been friends?

    JC ‘We didn’t know each other before “Gavin and Stacey”. I was in New York doing a play while Ruth sat in on the auditions for the show and she phoned me really excited to say that we’d found our Gavin. So I got Mat’s number off a mutual friend and sent him a text telling him I was so pleased he could do it. He then rang back straight away and we chatted for about an hour. We only talked about the show for six minutes or so, after that we just chatted about football and comedy and discovered we liked the same things. It was vital for the programme that the two characters got on believably and that their friendship felt real so it was great that we got on so well immediately. I would probably say we’re as close now as Gavin and Smithy.’

    MH ‘Because of that we wanted to see if we could take it further.’

    JC ‘We’d dick around on set a lot – doing little skits, and the crew started saying things like “That would make a really funny sketch.” I said to Mat “What do you think about having a go?” And we sorted it out with the BBC ourselves. ’

    It’s obvious from the way the two spark off each other that this is no mere ‘showbiz’ friendship. A breathless Corden repeats the final line of a quickly improvised scene in a high camp voice, giggling, ‘ “She fucked off, the cheeky bitch!” I love it!’ He taps it into his Blackberry for future reference. ‘That’ll go straight into series two.’

    Having created two hugely loved characters in Gavin and Smithy, are you at all concerned about the public only thinking of you as them?
    JC ‘I’ve never really thought about it. I think the trick is to challenge yourself to avoid that happening. If we were both going to do a sitcom…’

    ‘A spin-off of two best mates who live in a flat together in Essex…’

    JC ‘Which we’ve been offered…’

    MH ‘Then maybe that could be a problem. We try to make choices to avoid that happening. It’s dangerous to rest on you laurels.’

    JC ‘And “Lesbian Vampires Killers” is something else altogether.’

    How did you come to be involved with 'LVK', as the kids are calling it?

    JC Funnily enough, we were posted the scripts individually for auditions before “Gavin and Stacey” had even aired. It was just one of those coincidences. I just remember reading the script the first time and thinking: This is fucking funny.’

    And the plot?
    JC ‘We kill lesbian vampires.’

    MH ‘I’ve just been dumped, he’s just lost his job. So we get away from it all and go hiking to a fictional village – cursed by lesbian vampires.’

    JC ‘It’s 88 minutes of good fun, simple as that.’

    Is it true that a group of lesbians have complained about the movie, accusing it of being derogatory, saying it fulfils and reinforces male fantasies about lady-on-lady loving?

    JC ‘That is true, yes.’

    MH ‘But we shouldn’t forget the fact that they haven’t actually seen it.’

    JC ‘They started a website before anything had even been shot. I think it’s really important to point out that this film is in no way derogatory to lesbians – only to lesbian vampires! I will completely take on board that lesbian vampires could be upset and we will listen and answer all of their concerns. In fact, we will meet up personally with any lesbian vampires who want to talk about it.’

    So if any lesbian vampires contact us through the magazine?
    JC ‘We will answer them all, if there is proof they are vampires. We will meet them wearing a garlic-based necklace, in a mirrored room and talk it through.’

    With your faces seemingly plastered on the side of every bus in London, all over the underground and in every magazine across the country, do you worry about overexposure at all?

    MH ‘Absolutely, but It’s tricky because we’ve worked really hard and we want people to watch the show and the film.’

    JC ‘I worry about it. The last thing you want to do is get on anyone’s nerves. Hopefully we can do it all now and then hopefully disappear for a bit.’

    MH ‘We’re going to fuck off to Cardiff to film “Gavin and Stacey” and write some more.’

    JC ‘And I’m going to be away for a while filming a new version of “Gulliver’s Travels” with Jack Black in America. Before coming back to record another series of the sketch show.’

    MH ‘So it’ll quieten down for a little while.’

    JC ‘This is a bit of smash-and-grab section of our lives. We’re saying: “Here’s our show, here’s our film, hope you like them and we’ll see you soon.” ’

    There’s just enough time for James to launch a final sweetly curving ball down the lane, smashing all pins before it. ‘That’s what I’m talking about! That’s the way I roll, baby.’

    Let’s hope it’s an omen for the future.

    ‘Horne & Corden’ is on BBC3 on Tuesdays.
    ‘Lesbian Vampire Killers’ opens on Friday.

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