Mamma Mia star on those spandex suits
Since playing the rakish Dakin in The History Boys, both on stage and in the film, Dominic Cooper, 30, has been tipped for big things. This week he can be seen in The Escapist but it's his next two films that could really boost his profile: the film version of musical Mamma Mia!, out in July, and The Duchess, out in September, in which he co-stars with Keira Knightley.
What was making Mamma Mia! like?
We pretended we were working but we filmed it on a stunning Greek island for seven weeks, swimming and having a very nice time. Everyone was a good laugh and I’ve stayed in touch with a few people.
An Abba musical seems an unlikely change for you after The History Boys and The Escapist.
I said to my agent: ‘You can’t send me for this, I can’t go in and sing in front of a camera.’ Luckily, I was forced to do it. At the audition, I kept testing my voice out and hearing this awful screeching noise. I think one of the reasons I got it was because I didn’t take it very seriously. I was in fits of laughter when I had to sing Lay All Your Love On Me.
Did you manage to maintain your dignity?
We sang Waterloo for the end sequence and we all wear those outrageous Abba spandex suits. Mine’s pink with a pair of white stilettos. It could be an extraordinarily embarrassing end to my career but anything goes. Having Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth do those parts should attract an audience, at least to watch us make fools of ourselves.
You play Keira Knightley’s lover in The Duchess. How was that?
Damn good fun. I made a fool of myself the whole time on that film being completely moronic. I pretended to know the facts about the political situation of the time, seeing as I was playing a politician, but just came out with garbage that I knew nothing about. I behaved like a naughty schoolkid.
How were the sex scenes to shoot?
Difficult, for the obvious reasons. It’s difficult that you’re in an environment with someone you don’t know very well and you’re surrounded by a bunch of people who are holding big bits of electrical equipment. You just have to trust each other as actors and believe what you’re doing needs to be in the film.
How does Keira deal with being so famous?
She doesn’t let it affect her. She knows it comes with what she does but it’s so intrusive and it makes her life seem very difficult. You’re aware enough of yourself in everyday life and if you’ve got that pressure to deal with as well it must be a nightmare. If I knew I was being watched all the time I’d become a paranoid wreck. She deals with it incredibly well.
Do you enjoy watching yourself on screen?
No, I’m very critical. It’s difficult to watch myself. I don’t believe I’m anyone other than myself. I’m always like: ‘Oh, that’s me pulling stupid faces.’
How do you feel when you lose out on a role?
I get quite upset. Constant rejection is half the job of being an actor. You’ve got to accept you’re just not right for some things, even if you think: ‘I can really do this, I could be perfect for it.’ And then you walk into a room with the director and they just don’t see it. You can tell almost immediately. It happens to everybody.
Will you move to LA and try to crack the US?
I go out there but I’m not sure about living in LA. I could live in New York – I lived there doing The History Boys last year – but I love London. All my friends are here and the variety of work is fantastic. I’m actually trying to buy a place in north London, so I’ve got no plans to leave the country. I’ll probably buy somewhere, there’ll be a huge property crash and I’ll lose all my money.
Maybe Mamma Mia! and The Duchess will put you in the premier league.
I don’t know what these jobs are gonna do. I keep being told they’ll make a difference but who knows?