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Mar 24 09 12:49 PM
Mar 27 09 8:34 AM
BOARD MAMASlightly Off-Kilter
Only a few days after joining the cast of ITV1's sci-fi drama series Primeval, Jason Flemyng was in trouble. The producers had got him to hurl
himself through a window. On the plus side, this was the fulfilment of a childhood dream: he'd wanted to be a stuntman since he was seven. On the minus
side, he'd had absolutely no training in stunt work, and so landed in a heap of cuts and bruises. 'My wife actually phoned production and said,
"Look, if Jay comes back with any more bruises, he's not coming to work again",' says Flemyng with a sheepish smile.
Despite the risk of incurring Mrs Flemyng's further wrath, the Primeval team pressed on to complete the show's third series, which begins on
Saturday. Plenty of viewers will be pleased. Primeval is one of those programmes that receive next to no publicity and certainly no awards, yet pull in big
ratings: regularly around 6 million. It's family-friendly stuff: pacy, full of action and special effects, and with an endearingly daft premise (a team
of terribly young and good-looking British scientists have to keep saving the public, week after week, from dinosaurs and other monsters that materialise
in the present via 'time anomalies').
Primeval and Flemyng seem to make a good match: like the show he's just joined, the 42-year-old Londoner has managed to achieve quite a lot of
success without getting taken at all seriously by the critics. His first big role was as Tom in Guy Ritchie's Cockney gangster hit Lock, Stock and Two
Smoking Barrels; most recently, he played the father of the title character in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. He's been in films with Brad Pitt,
Cate Blanchett, Johnny Depp, Robert De Niro, Kiefer Sutherland, Sean Connery, Derek Jacobi and Jennifer Aniston.
'My skill, which I've mastered,' he says cheerfully, 'is being slightly out of focus behind really expensive actors.' The other
skill he's evidently mastered is being sunnily self-deprecating in interviews. He makes so many jokes against himself that you're left in two
minds: either he's the nicest man in Hollywood, or he's putting it on. Here he is describing his career as a whole (this is said as jauntily as if
it were a boast): 'I've done 70 movies, 40 of which have never been seen, 25 of which are terrible and a couple of which have done OK.' Here he
is describing the film development company he's set up with his Lock, Stock co-star Dexter Fletcher: 'We sit around his kitchen table talking about
scripts that no one's interested in.' At one point he describes himself as a cheaper version of Jason Statham, which is possibly the most
self-abasing thing it's possible for an actor to say.
Then again, he's also a marvellous name-dropper. 'I'm terrified of photo shoots, so Claudia Schiffer taught me how to smile naturally this
weekend,' he says. (The supermodel is married to Flemyng's friend Matthew Vaughn, who produced Lock, Stock.) He believes that he got his part in
the 2002 Hollywood film Rock Star because Jennifer (or, as Flemyng refers to her, 'Jen') Aniston put in a good word for him: 'She'd
obviously said to the director, "Brad [Pitt] has got this funny English mate - you should ask him".'
He's 'definitely mates' with Pitt and Angelina Jolie; they've let him, he says, become a part of 'their sort of film family'.
Sadly he's reluctant to give away gossip about all these famous friends: 'I think it would sound as though as I was showing off,' he says.
Also, he talked to the press about his friend Guy Ritchie's divorce from Madonna and this, he says, got him into 'a lot of trouble'.
You might wonder why he's left his film family behind to do an ITV1 series. Normally at this point an actor will say something along the lines of,
'Oh, the script was wonderful, always been a fan of the show', but Flemyng's motivation sounds more pragmatic. 'Primeval was a choice I
made because I wanted to remain at home,' he says. 'I'd spent a long time away and I'm newly married, and in order to spend time at home
you've got to work in British telly, and I had no profile on British telly. So I thought it would be a good idea to do a series and let people know
what I could do.' But since being given the part, he stresses, he's caught up with the two previous series and 'loved it'.
You could say Flemyng himself is from a film family, or at any rate a TV family: his father Gordon directed Dr Who and the Daleks (1965) and The
Avengers. 'It didn't cut much ice among the south London 11-year-olds in 1980,' says Flemyng, 'but I still thought I was the coolest kid in
school because of it.'
He says he's grateful for the way his career has turned out, and that he never wanted to be a hunky lead: 'They say about Brad and Jude [Law]
that their looks are a curse as well as a blessing,' he says, 'because when Jude tries to do something a little bit funkier and more
character-based, people won't buy it.' Flemyng says he enjoys his 'anonymity' and the pleasure of working with big stars.
His career highlight, he says, was 'doing a scene on Benjamin Button with Brad and [David] Fincher directing it, and Fincher going, "We've
got that, Jase - you nailed it." Then he goes, "Moving on…" And I remember thinking, "I never, ever want to move on." I never
wanted to leave that set, I was so happy.'
Primeval is on ITV1 on Saturday at 7.45pm
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