Britain’s hero loves to potter in the garden...
HERE AND NOW
Following a string of period hunks (Mansfield Park, Vanity Fair, Rome), James Purefoy is now determined to be Britain’s busiest action man, severing limbs and heads in medieval swashbucklers Solomon Kane and Ironclad, and playing a bad-ass Martian in Disney’s titanic John Carter Of Mars franchise. “I’m hitting a really good vein,” the actor purrs…
How do you relax when you’re not filming?
Gardening. I’m that middle aged now, I love toying around in the garden. Acting’s such an exposing and backstabbing profession, it’s nice doing things that take you away from that... I sculpt wood too. I do faces and hands but that’s just between me and the piece of wood. They’re not critiqued by anybody else but me, so that’s a welcome relief.
Do you get much time at home when you’re working?
The project I’m doing now, John Carter Of Mars, is the first film I’ve done in 10 years where I get to sleep in my own bed and that is – oh my God – bliss. I shoot until the end of May.
How is John Carter Of Mars going?
It’s a great project, it’s huge. You’re working with people at the top of their profession like Andrew Stanton – I mean I think Wall.E is a work of genius.
Who do you play?
I play Kantos Kahn. My character’s quite flash –he’s a Red Martian, a fighter pilot. He’s the captain of the massive naval airship that arrives. I do some rescuing and tell a few jokes. He’s like a naughty, sexy uncle.
Do you read much?
My girlfriend says I read but only books with pictures. She’s right in the sense that I don’t read novels as much as I used to because I’m always reading scripts or factual stuff for a role.
You wouldn’t take a stack of novels on holiday, then?
I do read on holiday but easy things. I like to read James Bond novels.
Where do you like to go on holiday?
Italy. I lived there for two and a half years making Rome. The things that are important to Italians are different to most people in the Western world. They like food, family, football and fucking.
You have Ironclad coming soon, how’s that going for you?
It’s Magnificent Seven in a castle shot in the style of Saving Private Ryan. Who could turn that down? I fight with a massive, two-handed broadsword. I’ve got it at home. I’ve got all my swords.
Solomon Kane takes place in a filthy medieval world. Can’t have been much fun to shoot...
It was grim. When Mike [Bassett, director] asked me to do it, he said, “Just to warn you, this will be the most unpleasant filming experience you’ve ever had.” I spent two months getting fitter than I’ve ever been in my life.
How does that level of fitness feel?
You feel like a god, you really do. [clutches his abs] Everything is just tight and you’re rock solid and you have an enormous amount of energy.
And when it’s finished…?
I get fat as a house. Eat cake after cake after cake, until it has to kick off again. I’m not very good at not living. I meet a lot of American actors and they don’t seem to live much. Life’s all about giving yourself a full and rounded existence and frankly to me that means going to the pub. I like a beer.