Love Thy Keepers (2018)
001Lithium X (2018)
Role: Adam Bird
Das Boot (TV series 2018)
Official Site. Photos. IMDb
The Snowman (2017)
Role: Filip Becker
Release: Oct. 13 2017
Role: Colonel Winnant
Release: May 2017
Chicken/Egg (short film 2016)
Release: Febr. 2017
Role: Henry Howell
Release: 26 April 2016
Agent Carter (TV Series 2016, S.2)
Role: Edwin Jarvis
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The Many Sides of Mr. D’Arcy
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There is an army of teenage girls loitering with intent on the pavement outside the Merrion hotel as I arrive to meet James D'Arcy. Disappointingly, none of them is for him. A virulent strain of Bieber fever has swept through Dublin – the Canadian teenybopper, who will play the O2 in the coming days, is rumoured to be staying here somewhere – and his adherents have been camping out since early morning.
They won't let me pass until I at least promise to find out if Cody Simpson – Bieber's "dreamy" supporting act – is in the building. The bell hop ruefully shakes his head. For the last time, he tells them, neither of them is staying here. A collective sigh goes up. The homemade signs and vessels of hormones part like the Dead Sea. I am allowed to pass.
Inside the interview chamber, there are other, more existential barriers between me and Mr D'Arcy. As an actor he's made the break out of TV in the past few years and racked up a slew of big screen roles – most recently as Edward VIII in Madonna's W.E., Anthony Perkins in Hitchcock and several different parts in his latest work, Cloud Atlas, a kaleidoscopic and star-studded adaptation of the eponymous David Mitchell novel.
Lately, D'Arcy's films have been garnering mixed reviews but in each case his own performances have been praised. It's meant that he's in an unusual position: his career has continued to blossom even while his chosen vehicles have stuttered. He bristles slightly when I mention this and tells me that he never ever reads reviews of any kind. I hypothesise that the roles have been well chosen and might, for various different reasons, have been called 'brave'. A part in a Madonna film was always going to be a poisoned chalice – critics flay her films – but he emerged from that with more than dignity intact.
One of the characters he plays in Cloud Atlas – in one of the more praised parts of the film – is Korean and the actor was made up to look Asian, a move that has exposed the makers of the film to charges of racial insensitivity. Another of the characters he plays – Rufus Sixsmith – is gay and there are moments in the performance where he appears in bed with another man, scenes that might, until relatively recently, have constituted a 'risk' for an up-and-coming A-lister (especially one who so firmly refuses to talk about anything to do with his personal life; he tells me: "I'm not that good at talking about it or indeed interested in talking about it").
Regarding the 'risk-taking' of the Sixsmith scenes he tells me: "That never occurred to me for a second until journalists began making a thing out of it. I mean, honestly, do you want to keep spinning that old bullsh*t? Philadelphia [which coincidentally starred Cloud Atlas co-star Tom Hanks] was 20 years ago. That story is done. Let's just leave that right there."
Perhaps he's right; that is why they call it 'acting.' And he does also play a nurse in the film, which nobody has managed to find controversial. Still, if this last persona had been delivered with the cut-glass hauteur I imagined he would have (based on nothing more substantial than his name and screen presence), it might have been daunting. In person, however, D'Arcy is actually quite blokey and his accent is more estuary than stately home.
He was born 37 years ago in London and was raised by his mother, a nurse, after his father died. After secondary school, he decamped to Australia for a year and worked as a drama teacher in a school there. When he returned to Blighty, he enrolled at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, from which he got a BA in Acting in 1995.
He tells me that there was a brief period when he worked on a building site, but it wasn't long before the roles started coming thick and fast. His first television appearances were in the crime dramas Silent Witness and Dalziel and Pascoe – both from 1996 – and throughout most of the next decade he toiled in the trenches of television, An American Haunting and a rather lacklustre instalment of the Exorcist franchise providing the rare silver-screen respites, although neither can have brought him much pleasure, since he says he hates horror movies and never watches them.
His big break came in W.E., where he played Edward VIII in Madonna's second outing as a film director. Was there anything about her that surprised him?
"Well, she is incredibly well prepared, one of the most thorough people I've ever met. She gave me piles of books to read. She had gone through each one of them and made notes or stuck post-its on the pages. I suppose what surprised me the most was that she is a lot funnier than people might think. She has a great sense of humour."
In Cloud Atlas, in which multiple plots interlink at sometimes bewildering pace, he rather stole the show from some of his more accomplished co-stars (everyone from Susan Sarandon to Halle Berry makes an appearance) and has earned a reputation as an actor's actor. Anthony Hopkins was understood to have insisted on him for the part of Perkins in Hitchcock.
"He did later on, I think mainly as a joke, say to me that he had said to them [the film makers], 'No D'Arcy, no Hitchcock', which was quite flattering," he tells me.
"I learnt a lot from him. If extras wanted advice on becoming an actor he would pull up a chair and talk to them. I was amazed and touched that that was how he behaved. He was so generous with his time."
Unfortunately my time has run out, and the publicity treadmill grinds on without me. D'Arcy has yards to speak before he sleeps.
As I emerge into the daylight from the Cellar Bar the sentry of 'true Beliebers' are still waiting with their posters. Everyone who comes out of the hotel who isn't an androgynous Canadian is an obvious disappointment to them. They can 'feel' he's in there and my Dictaphone seems, to them, to be a possible key to the kingdom.
"Did he tell you everything?" one of them asks me, hopefully. "Not quite," I think to myself. "But I least I didn't have to camp out from 7am."