Tom Sturridge Interview | The Fan Carpet

Tom Sturridge Interview

The Boat That Rocked
03 September 2009


Twenty-two-year-old English actor Tom Sturridge first hit the small screen in the 1996 adaptation of Gulliver’s Travels, directed by his father, Charles Sturridge, and co-starring his mother, Phoebe Nicholls. He reemerged in 2004 with Mira Nair’s Vanity Fair, opposite Reese Witherspoon and followed that with István Szabó’s Being Julia, alongside Annette Bening and Jeremy Irons, and Gregory’s J. Read’s thriller Like Minds. He has also been cast alongside Rachel Bilson in the new indie romance, Waiting for Forever. In The Boat That Rocked he plays Carl, a teenage tear-away sent to find ‘direction’ under the tutelage of his godfather, Quentin (Bill Nighy), the boss of pirate radio station Radio Rock…   


Tell me about shooting on the boat out at sea… 

We had an amazing time going out to sea. I actually think it is insulting to call it work, a real job, because it was literally getting on the boat in the morning and watching the sun come up from over the ocean. Richard Curtis would have Bob Dylan playing over the PA. The boat would sail out to an area where we were far enough from land to just see the sea all around us, and then people would fish for mackerel and things. It was idyllic. We didn’t stay overnight, though. The only time we stayed overnight was in the rehearsal period, which everyone was calling ‘Boat camp’. There we did sleep on the boat for three or four days to acclimatize to the claustrophobia and intimate state of boat life. For me, my perception of everybody else in the film was a crowd of heroes and movie stars. Essentially, it was an opportunity for them to knock me down and for me to realize what frail human beings they all are (laughs)! 


Did shooting any particular scene stand out for you? 

The one I remember the most is the first thing I did with Phil ‘Dustin’ Hoffmann, as he likes to be called. That was the big one. The first thing I did with him was where my character, Carl, meets The Count. I hadn’t met Phil at that point, because he came two weeks after we started shooting. So there he was, filming in his radio studio, and Richard Curtis came up to me and said, ‘This man, give him a cup of tea.’ I went in there and put a cup of tea down and he nodded at me. I walked towards the door thinking, ‘Fuck, I’ve just had a ‘moment’ with Philip Seymour Hoffmann and this is really cool.’ Then, suddenly, I heard this booming voice: ‘Carl’. I thought, ‘Fucking hell! He’s talking to me!’ I was about to improvise and turned round and he said, ‘Come here!’ I walked over to him and he took me in his arms and went, ‘Welcome, boy!’ I turned around to go and he slapped me on the arse. It made it into the movie. It was amazing. 


Have you got a good anecdote from the shoot? 

Really, the funny stuff does revolve around Phil. I remember at lunch one day, again on his first day, he was talking about the food. Everyone was sitting around and whatever he was saying it was interesting, but Nick Frost suddenly said, ‘Can’t you stop talking about your fucking Oscar?’ There was this moment of silence where everyone was like, ‘Is he going to get upset? Is he going to shout or laugh?’ Fortunately, he burst out laughing. That was a risky routine, but there were no life-threatening situations.  


What does Tom Sturridge look for in an ideal woman? 

It is very simple. Anyone who will talk to me. That’s it. She’s in. She’s perfect. If she will talk to me, she’s ideal. It’s not even got to be up to her to initiate it. If I initiate it, and she talks back to me, that’s great. My ideal woman is anyone who is happy to have some point of communication. I am very bad, very, very bad, at chatting up women.  

Are there any celebrities you fancy? 

Growing up it was always Rebecca Miller, Daniel Day Lewis’ wife. She’s Arthur Miller’s daughter. She’s a director. I have always found her really beautiful. I have a thing for older women. My girlfriend is older than me. 


And you’re best mates with Twilight’s Robert Pattinson, right? 

Yes, he’s my best friend from school, a tiny place we both went to in Hammersmith. We lived together before I started shooting this film and before he started doing Twilight.  

He told me that he wasn’t really prepared for all the hype that Twilight induced. How do you think you’d cope if you had much that attention? 

It’s not something that I have encountered, so I’m not really sure. And as far as Rob’s concerned, there’s a perception that he’s pretty famous, but we go out in London and it’s made absolutely no difference to our lives whatsoever, as far as he is concerned. I haven’t seen it, certainly. The idea that screaming girls chase him down the street is wrong – that’s still just The Beatles, I think. 


What will we see you in next, Waiting For Forever? 

Yeah, with Rachel Billson and an actor called Richard Jenkins, who was nominated for an Oscar this year. It is about a boy. His parents die when he is very young and he stops developing emotionally. He is quite abandoned. The only person who loves him is this girl, his childhood friend. As he grows up he becomes homeless and he is a street performer. He juggles. When he was younger he used to juggle with this girl. I spent months learning to juggle. It was intense. The last scene in the film is a big juggling set piece. In the script it says, ‘This is the greatest piece of juggling you have ever seen in the history of mankind. What you will do will astonish and shock.’ I remember reading this and thinking, ‘I am not going to do that!’ But it was a low-budget film so the idea of post-production didn’t exist. We shot that on the last day, and since then, I have not done any juggling or picked up a juggling ball. 

It’s an okay party trick, though, right? 

I vowed never to do it again. I hated it so much. I did hours of it every day for weeks. I can’t bear it. 


Have you ever thought what you would have done if you hadn’t tried acting? Clearly not juggling… 

No, anything but that! Weirdly, my ambition when I was younger, really younger, was to thatch roofs! I have a friend who does it and makes a hell of a lot of money. It’s not just the romantic side of it. When I was a kid, whenever we’d drive by a thatched roof it was my favourite thing in the world to see. Subsequently, I met this guy who does it and I have always had a thing about it. It gets you a trade and I still think about it, not as a career but as an art I’d like to learn. It is particularly a childhood thing and whenever my mum used to drive through the countryside I wanted her to stop the car so I could look at it a for bit. I don’t know why!


The Boat That Rocked is Available on DVD and BluRay on September 7th