Interview: Stephen Mangan

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We spoke to Stephen Mangan, star of the new London-set film 'Someone Else', about sex scenes, comedy acting and being in 'grown-up' films

Interview: Stephen Mangan
Stephen Mangan in 'Someone Else'
So you’re notching up quite a roster of films now?
Yes, it’s about ten. We filmed ‘Festival’, ‘Confetti’ and ‘Someone Else’ in a row at the end of last year. ‘Someone Else’ has taken a little while to appear. And, as you probably know, it was made for an incredibly small amount of money. But it looks beautiful the way he’s [director Col Spector] shot it, in wide-o-vision, or Panavision or whatever you call it. He’s done remarkably well and it looks like a proper grown-up film.

Did you consciously decide to participate in something more 'grown-up'?
Col had directed me in a short a few years earlier called ‘New Year’s Eve’ which was based on the same character, David, who turns up at a friend’s party and gets chatting to a woman who says she’s 18 but he later finds out I’s actually 15. So there’s this frisson until he finds out she’s 15 and then he leaves. That character was actually played by Keira Knightly who would rush off between takes to do her French A-level revision. She was also talking about this film she was doing with female footballers. Col then went away and wrote a feature inspired by that scene. In the film I end up going to bed with the woman and am not able to do much about it. He’d written this part with me in mind, so it was something I was keen to do. Plus it was shot on my doorstep so I could just roll out of bed and stumble on to the set.

You’re known better for your comic performances. Your part in ‘Someone Else’ does have that tragic/comic tinge, but it’s definitely a more serious part.
When we did the short film, the character was more cocky and probably closer to what I’m known for doing on TV. It was more due to the fact that Col wanted a more thoughtful, reflective feel to the film. I definitely didn’t think, ‘right, now I’ve got to do something a bit more serious and not be as wacky’. It was what the film demanded.

How did you work with Col on set to create the character?
I had been doing a lot of improvisation – ‘Confetti’ was improvised, ‘Festival’ had a lot of improvisation. He was quite interested in that, but at the same time his direction was fairly low-key and luckily we had the same idea about how the part should be played. He knew exactly what he wanted. Often we were on the same wavelength and it just felt really nice to do something a little more moody. We don’t really do enough of that in this country. It’s not what you’d call a romantic comedy, but it’s certainly more European that a lot of our Richard Curtis films which are just big montages to Wet Wet Wet.

There is some Gary Barlow in this.

Yes, well spotted. That got there without my knowledge, I can tell you.

‘Someone Else’ feels like a very honest film. Did you bring any personal experience to the role?
I’m sure I did. The things that happen in the film have never happened to me, but I think it’s a reasonably common thing for both men and women. Just as you’re on the point of settling down with someone, you do have a bit of a panic It can be scary to commit to someone and shut off all your other options. I’m sure that many people have a last minute panic, get cold feet and do something rash, only later to regret it. I don’t think the character of David is a bad person, but I think the point is that he didn’t really know what he wanted. I think that’s a fairly common feeling. We’re also fed this idea of romantic love being this 300 yard long freight train that hits you in the middle of the solar plexus. If we don’t feel that, then we haven’t hit the real deal.

What about the sex scene? Are you experienced in those type of acting demands?
Most of the time I’m involved in any kind of sex scenes, they tend to be comedy. I don’t tend to do much of the satin sheets, Lionel Ritchie, beads-of-sweat-style scenes. Most of the time, I’m in involved in more comic scenes, which I must say I prefer as I can’t bare to watch myself kissing anyone on screen. The thought always goes through your mind that people are out there thinking, ‘I bet that’s how he does it in real life’, and it’s not. It’s an incredibly artificial environment. In real life I’m a red-hot lover.

Author: David Jenkins



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