by Moonah Ellison
photography by Sean Gleason
“I still, when I walk on a film set, I still pinch myself a little bit. I mean, literally. Sometimes, I feel so profoundly fortunate…”
When James D’Arcy was a young boy, he saw a film that would change the track of his life. He recalls that particular film as the reason he decided to become an actor. Most would think this film to be a cinematic masterpiece, one that could go down in history as Hollywood’s greatest gift to mankind.
But for D’Arcy, this wasn’t the case. The film was Mr. Mom, a low-budget comedy from the 1980s starring Michael Keaton as a stay-at-home dad, and to this day, is the main reason D’Arcy has evolved into a fine, well-rounded actor.
D’Arcy’s father had passed away before he saw “Mr. Mom” for the first time. The movie was by no means an Oscar-worthy hit, but he loved its main character: a father, played by Keaton, who gets thrown into taking full-time care of his children. Keaton’s endearing character allowed D’Arcy to feel emotions he wasn’t quite sure how to feel since his father’s death. It was therapeutic and it made him want to give back to the industry that has and continues to shape who he is.
And a humble man he is at that. While some actors who’ve perfected their craft let it go to their head, D’Arcy has remained modest. He knows he would not be where he is today without certain people he’s met along the way.
“You need a lot of things to fall into place…I can think of a number of people who have had a big hand in shaping my life,” D’Arcy said with an accent that sounds as if he just emerged from a brisk walk through London. “I still, when I walk on a film set, I still pinch myself a little bit. I mean, literally. Sometimes, I feel so profoundly fortunate that I get to do this thing that I love and that I get to make enough money out of it that I don’t have to do anything else.”
The British born actor has two films out this year, Cloud Atlas and Hitchcock. He said he’s ecstatic to have worked on both, mainly because the former is written and directed by the revered Wachowski siblings [The Matrix] and the latter stars Anthony Hopkins, who in his opinion is the be-all, end-all when it comes to acting.
With his piercing green eyes, slender, pursed lips and high-set cheekbones, D’Arcy has a vintage flare about him. Oftentimes, without even trying, he looks like he just walked out of a Charles Dickens novel.
But it is this look that has made him a highly demanded actor when it comes to period pieces. He played King Edward VIII in Madonna’s W.E., which was set in the ‘30s. He starred as a British lieutenant during the Napoleonic Wars in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. In Cloud Atlas, some of his role was set in the 1930s, and most recently, he played Tony Perkins in Hitchcock, a film chronicling the master of suspense’s life during the late 50s when he made Psycho.
“There was a time in the industry when I had done so many period dramas they didn’t want to consider me, I don’t think, for period dramas,” D’Arcy said. “I always think these [film] roles find you to be honest.”
Such was not the story, however, for his role as Perkins in Hitchcock. D’Arcy went to read for the character and attributes his eerie resemblance to the real-life Perkins as his ticket into a film that many are predicting to be a box-office smash.
“I went to go meet with the director and Hopkins was there, and Hopkins was so struck, the uncanny resemblance between Tony Perkins and me and then we sort of improvised together and he couldn’t really improvise with me. He kept falling out of his chair laughing ‘cause he thought it was so uncanny.”
When he’s not on set making one of the most acclaimed actors to have ever walked the planet laugh so hard he could barely read his lines, D’Arcy passes the time in London reading, writing and spending time with family.
He’s not married, nor does he have any children of his own, although his cousin has four children whom he adores.
“I’m really good at being lazy,” D’Arcy said. “I’m really good at spending time with friends, and my cousin’s got four small kids and they’re not going to be like that forever, so if I don’t work, then I can just hang out with them.”
Though his writing hasn’t made it onto the big screen yet, D’Arcy has written three screenplays, a drama-comedy, a treasure-hunt-adventure and a romantic comedy.
Much of the writing he does revolves around the human experience. He said because he is constantly making mistakes and discovering new things about himself and the environment he lives in, it gives him good material to work off of.
“I write because it’s fun and, and I can do it, and nobody can tell me not to do it,” he said.
As far as what D’Arcy prefers to read when he’s not writing? Anything but “angry, violent, horrible, books,” he said.
He enjoys challenging novels, ones that use lots of metaphors in a satirical manner to get the author’s point across. For instance, one of D’Arcy’s favorite authors is British novelist Martin Amis.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever read Amis’ Money,” he said. “But it’s very, very funny, maybe not his best book, but in the first paragraph, he’s in a taxi in Manhattan and he’s got a toothache. And he talks about having this terrible pain in his upper west side and it’s just brilliant the way, in just one paragraph into the book, he’s already making these brilliant, brilliant metaphors.”
Although he has never lived a long while in the U.S., D’Arcy loves New York City, but not quite as much as he adores the big city across the pond. He left his heart in London after growing up there, and has yet to find a city comparable to it.
Visits to the U.S. come around when he has to shoot a film. Other than that, he doesn’t really care to set up shop in Los Angeles or New York.
“The thing is I just sort of go where I feel like going,” he said. “I don’t really plan. You know, there’s no point because the minute you make a plan, life’s gonna deal you some kind of hand that you never ever expected.”
His easygoing outlook on life is evident in his personality. His passions lay more with the things in life that relax him, not stress him. That’s why he doesn’t care for politics.
With Election Day in the U.S. nearing, D’Arcy could care less about the candidates or the state of governmental affairs.
“I’m just not a political animal,” he said. “If I wanted to engage in this [political] conversation, I would have become a politician. It’s truly the last thing I would do is become a politician.”
He is, however, cognizant of the vast divide between party lines in the U.S and admits to spending his time in areas heavily populated by democrats. Hence why he feels inadequate to speak about the subject. D’Arcy said he hesitates to share opinions about U.S. politics without having spent time in an area heavily populated by Republicans as well.
For now, D’Arcy is happy with life as a Londoner, occasionally assuming the life of a nomad and moving from place to place to shoot and promote a film. He’s working on getting a project off the ground that his friend has written and is certain when it finally gets made that it will be a wonderful motion picture. The thought of theatre is enticing, but D’Arcy said he prefers film.
“If a great play came along, maybe I’d do it – and be good at it – but let’s see what happens in the future,” he said. “I try not to second guess.”
Perhaps in the meantime, he’ll write another screenplay based on his own experiences, one that recounts the life of a man who started out watching hilariously corny 80s films and who blossoms into a brilliant actor.