Tuesday, May 22, 2012

James Corden: Charming As Ever

I was invited to hear Kurt Andersen interview James Corden last night at the BBC America offices.  Corden spoke about his time in New York, his work on Gavin & Stacey, and his run in One Man, Two Guvnors.

On Slenderizing...
Discussing his shift to a healthier lifestyle since his fiancĂ©e came into his life, Corden joked about the queue at Shake Shack being the best thing for him.

On Acting...
Corden does not see himself as a comedic actor or a dramatic actor.  He summed up the field as either you are a "complete actor or a limited one."  He imagines one of his favorite actors, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, is great in Death of a Salesman but he thinks one of Hoffman's best roles is as "Rusty in Along Came Polly."*

On Gavin & Stacey...
Neither Corden nor his writing partner Ruth Jones had ever written anything before Gavin & Stacey.  After The History Boys, he was getting scripts for small bits in movies but was not getting offered roles were he was the lead.  He'd get pages for parts he described as "the guy who drags off a TV to Hugh Grant, gets two quippy lines" and that was it. 

Rather than sit around and bemoan not getting the work he wanted, he and Jones sat down and wrote Gavin & Stacey. When asked about the few number of episodes of the show and how that differed from America, he quipped "if we were in America, we'd be significantly richer."  But he noted that he loves these characters and wanted to do right by them.  "We never wanted to sell [these characters] short."  Expanding the series might have lost what made the show work.  But he hoped that they would do a special episode at some point.

On One Man, Two Guvnors...
Corden got a call from Nicholas Hytner in 2010 offering him a show at the National Theatre.  Corden didn't know what it was but agreed to do it.  It had not even been written yet.  Kurt Andersen noted that in this show the audience "just wants to cuddle you."  Corden said that he's "not a fan of comedy that is mean."  In fact, he does not come at this from a comedic angle.  He looks at it from a "character point of view."  In this particular play, he needs to get the audience to come with him.  He talked about some earlier run throughs where the show was not working and how they had to tweak the material to connect with the audience.

Now, he tells himself two things before every show, first he has to be "the stupidest person on the stage" and second, he has to be "having the most fun in the building." Corden noted that from scene II to the end of Act I it is a "marathon."  He has to "match the audience for fun."  If you've seen the show, you know that is a massive undertaking.  And he says it is "terrifying."  He has "never done the same show twice."  His challenge as an actor is to "sell the audience that something is happening now and its never happened before."  From my experience, that was what was so successful about the show.  I bought the script because I had to know what was improv and what was scripted.  Watching him sell what is scripted as improv is truly impressive and he deserves enormous credit for that. 

On His Career...
He says he has no snobbery with regard to media.  His intent is to "be good in things that are good."  He hopes to go no more than three years without doing a play or a musical.  He joked about the glamour of filmmaking and film sets.  "People talk about the glamour of Brad Pitt's life...I don't see it....[He's sitting in] a caravan in a car park."  Anyone else who is doing that is a "gypsy."

As for Corden's future, he's got a film project that will be announced at Cannes.  He's doing a new TV show for the BBC.  He described the TV project as "What if 24 was a sitcom...[or] What if Sherlock [was]"..."What if that happened and it happened to two dickheads." 

His future looks bright and I'm pleased we'll be the beneficiaries of more of his work.

*Michael Musto has pointed out that the character in Along Came Polly is Sandy. Perhaps Corden was thinking of Hoffman's other "great" role as Rusty in Flawless?

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