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12 April, 2002

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Actor Interviews: Rufus Sewell

Ian Fleming's James Bond, the man with the license to thrill, is being brought into audiobook format for the first time ever. We talk exclusively to debonair actor Rufus Sewell about how it feels to read for our ears only as the voice of 007.

You've just finished recording thirteen of Ian Fleming's original James Bond titles, which means you've tackled not just 007 himself but all the Bond girls and villains. Which characters were your favourites to 'voice'?
I think I'd have to say the villains were always my favourites. I think that's partly because bad guys are always fun but you also get the feeling that Fleming loved writing them. They always have so much more to say and can never resist revealing their evil plans, even though it would probably be a little more astute to button it.

Were there any downsides to reading all those Bond books?
How do you differentiate between the voices of fourteen different Chinese/Russian/Jamaican/German people in the same room without resorting to lisps, falsettos and booming basses and nasal twangs? Answer: Don't.

Your career took off with lead roles in period dramas including Middlemarch, Cold Comfort Farm and The Woodlanders, yet your more recent roles - such as evil baddie Count Adhemar in A Knight's Tale and as a satanist in Bless the Child - inspired The Observer to call you 'the latest challenger in the malevolence stakes'. Is this change of direction a conscious effort?
No, not really. I can't really allow myself to play any more bad guys because it's getting a little boring; to do and to watch I'd say. I think the most sensible thing is merely to be popped into a new pigeonhole every couple of years and thereby keep working, and get a little variation in my life. I've always thought that versatility was my greatest - probably only - strength and it would be boring for me not to get the chance to show that over the years.

It's become a bit of a journalistic cliché to describe you as 'smouldering', 'Byronic' and 'saturnine' - but I'm guessing that's not how you'd describe yourself. What would your epitaph be?
'Please pour wine through funnel below.'

Last year you played the title role in John Osborne's Luther at the National Theatre. There's a good quote from The Independent which goes some way to describing the intensity, both physical and emotional, of this role: 'Rufus Sewell's charismatically haunted, hollow-cheeked Luther spits out his set-piece sermons like someone vomiting red-hot tin tacks'. How did you cope with such a role? Is filming any easier than theatre?
The role of Luther was frightening to undertake because when I read it I didn't really understand him as a person. I was not brought up under any religion and my knowledge of Catholicism was limited. Through the course of rehearsing the play, though, I just started to empathise more and more - to an extent that I could not have imagined before I started.

That to me is the real pleasure of doing any kind of role, be it in theatre, film or TV. The medium makes a difference in terms of technique and audience response, but the pleasure and frustration remain essentially the same.

Make those Rufus fact fans out there happy: tell us one little-known fact about yourself.
I've given up smoking (after nearly twenty years).

Does your celebrity ever freak you out?
My celebrity is Lionel Blair. And yes, he does sometimes freak me out.

You seem to be doing pretty well with this acting lark, but if you hadn't got into acting, what would have paid the bills?
Camden Council, hopefully.

Finally, a Bond film question: who's the best Bond?
Connery - because he always looked like he enjoyed killing people.

Rufus reads James Bond - from Penguin Audio Books


Reviews

The Observer
April 7, 2002


LIVE AND LET DIE

KIM BUNCE

To many people, Sean Connery - or Roger Moore - is James Bond. So Rufus Sewell, as reader of this 007 series, has an obligation to vanquish these images from listeners' minds and replace them with the picture etched by Fleming of man with a 'cruel mouth' and 'a scar down his right cheek'. He succeeds so well that it's now possible to visualise these stories afresh, to be newly horrified by the smallest act of indiscriminate violence. When Bond has his little finger broken by Tee Hee in Live and Let Die , the sickening crunch vibrates through the tape machine. Sewell also succeeds in reinforcing the cruelty of Fleming's characters, tapping into British sensitivities as Goldfinger casually declares of his cat: 'I'm tired of seeing this animal around. Here have it for dinner.' The remark to his Korean butler, Oddjob, is both derogatory and designed to shock the animal-loving British people.

Sewell's greatest challenge is that of Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun . Here is a hitman to match the killing prowess of Bond. But most important, Sewell never attempts to make the famous phrases his own: 'You don't expect me to talk do you?' asks Bond of Goldfinger. 'No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die,' replies Auric. The listener knows, however, that these stories will live for ever.

March 31, 2002, Sunday London Sunday Times
Audio books of the week
Karen Robinson THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN.
By Ian Fleming
read by Rufus Sewell.
Fleming's James Bond books might come as a surprise to those who know only the films. Commander Bond of the British Secret Service now seems a quaint period figure, woefully short on extravagant gadgetry and spectacular stunts. However, the trademark evil opponents and willingly horizontal women are present and correct here. Bond is sent to dispatch the assassin Scaramanga in the steamy setting of Jamaica, and has a happy encounter with a certain Mary Goodnight. It's a pacy enough romp, and the endgame in a mangrove swamp between the killer and the British gent with the license to kill is a high-tension psychological duel.  Rufus Sewell as the new Bond?  He certainly cuts a dash here (Penguin  - Pounds 8.99, 2 hours 45 minutes, abridged). KR
 



16 March, 2002

EDISCOVER THE ORIGINAL JAMES BOND
April sees the publication of all fourteen of Ian Fleming's classic James Bond novels with a stunning new cover look. To celebrate we're offering you the chance to win first editions of the new look Dr No, Thunderball and Casino Royale, plus exclusive Bond t-shirts. Enter and you'll also receive top-secret Bond information on publication, including quizzes, ecards and more chances to win. Read on …

 

11 March , 2002

"...........He's going to be my April "Reader of the Month" so if you want to see what kind of interview this will be, have a look at previous interviews by going to www.penguin.co.uk/audio  and clicking on "actor interviews" on the  righthand side.  This will take you into Haydn Gwynne's interview, then you can access others by clicking on their names at the bottom of the links on the righthand side of Haydn's page.  Rufus's interview will be live from 1 April."
Charlotte McCandlish, Penguin Audiobooks
 

12 February, 2002

"We've just had it confirmed that Samantha Bond will be reading THE SPY WHO LOVED ME. Samantha is the current Moneypenny to Pierce Brosnan's Bond so we know she'll do the book justice."
Charlotte McCandlish, Penguin Audiobooks

29 January, 2002
A representative of Penguin Audiobooks has reported to me that Rufus isn't reading THE SPY WHO LOVED ME because the protagonist is a woman (the reader is still to be confirmed).

These are also available for pre-order from Amazon.co.uk, and are scheduled to be
released on 4 April, 2002

 

 

 

 

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