With a career spanning more than 15 years and with roles in major films – such as “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, “The Red Violen, “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, “Snatch and this year’s “Stardust – under his belt, British actor Jason Flemyng has evolved from a heartthrob into a character actor, almost unrecognizable in every performance he gives.
Born in 1966, Jason is the son of Scottish TV director Gordon Flemyng of “Dr Who and “The Saint. He started his career in television, appearing in American dramas like “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles in 1992. Small roles in blockbusters “Spice World and “Deep Rising paved the way for his leading role in Guy Ritchie’s crime caper smash “Lock, Stock.
Hollywood came knocking shortly after. With roles in “The Red Violin, “Rock Star, the Johnny Depp starring “From Hell and Matthew Vaughn’s directorial debut “Layer Cake (starring Daniel Craig), Flemyng established himself as one the most versatile British actors working both sides of the Atlantic.
Dressed casually in white pants and a green vest, Flemyng was cordial when we bumped into him at the British Embassy’s party last week in honor of the Cairo International Film Festival’s British guest stars.
“I had to do the entire obligatory site touring this morning, he smiled. “But I loved it.
As we sneaked out from the buzzing bash to have a smoke in the balcony, Flemyng discussed his early career and his work with Vaughn. He also talked to Daily News Egypt about “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, his new highly-anticipated project with “Fight Club director David Fincher starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett.
Daily News Egypt: How did you start your career?
Jason Flemyng: Well, I was in primary school. I fancied this girl named Alice who was playing Dorothy in a production of “The Wizard of Oz, so I just auditioned for the role of Scarecrow. She went off with the Tin Man, but that’s how I started.
I didn’t really want a safety net of a profession. I kind of decided to act when I was 10. Because I didn’t really know the complications and difficulties of it, I just had an easy path through. I think fear is what stops you from doing stuff. I didn’t have any fear because I just decided that’s what it’s going to be and I was very lucky to keep with it.
What was your first breakthrough role?
I did a lot of films with [producer] Elizabeth Karlsen and a few other people early on. I did a film called “Hollow Reed. But five years after, I did “Lock, Stock. For the Americans, it was a point of reference, and after that, I kept getting cast in studio films. In America, they can’t cast you unless you have a thing they can hook you on. That’s the problem with American studio system, but once you get there, you become an option for them.
I remember watching “Lock, Stock for the first time in 1999 and thinking it was, probably, the coolest film I’d ever seen.
Everyday, everyday, someone says something about “Lock, Stock to me, which is always a pleasure. I was actually walking in Khan El-Khalili market and this guy goes, “It’s a deal, it’s a steal.
How did you get cast in the film?
Well they cast the film, and then it collapsed and didn’t have the money for six months. People like Ray Winstone [“Beowulf ] and others were meant to be starring in it. However, by the time it came up again, they were busy with other work. I was very lucky to not be working – being unemployed at that time turned out to be a good thing.
How was working with Ritchie?
Guy’s amazing. I probably worked with three directors who have been really inspirational. Guy’s one, Bernardo Bertolucci is another and I just spent 30 months with David Fincher doing “Benjamin Button.
Did you expect “Lock, Stock to be that big of a success?
No, none of us did. The film cost less than $1 million and Vennie Jones, who was one of the leads, was a soccer player. We just thought it was going to be a disaster, but once we started filming it, we knew we had something special and thank whoever it worked out well.
You’ve starred in all Matthew Vaughn’s pictures. What’s so special about working with him?
Matthew is a good friend. I’m not very nomadic. I don’t like going from one group to another. I really enjoy working with the same people. You can work much quicker and there are a lot of laughs.
Our business is very base, especially in America. They don’t give a sh-t whether you live or die basically. That’s why I aspire to do as much as I can with friends like Vaughn.
Tell us more about “Benjamin Button.
It’s based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel. Working with Fincher was great. He’s my favorite director in the world.
When I got the job, I was obviously very happy. But he’s a perfectionist. He does 40 takes. The first 10 takes is your interpretation of how you see the scene. And then he keeps on going, and stop midway to panic, thinking he got it all wrong. He’d then do 10 more takes, which are terrible, because he becomes so nervous. And then he’d do another 10 when you don’t care. And then the last two or three takes, something else happens.
If you have the luxury of the money, you can shoot like that, and you can have some amazing results as we saw in “Fight Club, “Seven and “Zodiac.
How was working with Brad Pitt?
I did “Snatch with Brad, so I know him well. In fact, he introduced me to Fincher, who I’ve known socially for a little bit. It was a joy going back to work with Brad. He’s an amazing actor. He’s always playing around on the set.
We had a scene where we had to make a toast and drink our glasses. Every time, before the camera gets rolling, he put salt in my drink, every single time. He’s a lot of fun. And Cate Blanchett is a legend.