James Purefoy

Leading Man

Navy peacoat: £995, by Thom Browne from Matches


The FAULT team meet at London’s Hospital club and are eagerly awaiting to meet the wonderfully talented screen and stage star, James Purefoy. We begin to look through the clothes that we think James would look great in and come to the conclusion that they all would. A sleek good looking man walks in and smiles across theroom, I walk over and introduce myself and due to Purefoy’s busy schedule we decide to shoot first. Nothing short of charming, you can’t help but get swept away with James’ Charismatic presence. Lucky for us we had enough time to interview the unquestionable star of HBO’s popular Rome series where we discuss his latest projects in theatre and film.


FAULT: You’re currently starring in Flare Path at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, can you tell us about the production?

James: It’s been a strange phenomenon. The play is sold out nearly every night and receives this incredibly strong visceral reaction from what ostensibly is an old fashioned play. Somehow it is touching people and really pushing buttons that I think people forgot they had.  Flare Path has just one set and features RAF men and their wifes alongside a rather desperate film star who tries to win his ex-girlfriend back from her husband. It’s lovely to feature in a play that is successful and well received.

It’s a very well constructed piece of theatre. Terence Rattigan sets lots of little bombs in the first half and they kick off in the second. There is also something very English about it. There was a time in 1942 when we were facing an onslaught of the most disgusting political colour, our people managed to fight for three incredibly long years on their own… bomber crews were made up of young men who ranged from tailors and accountants to doctors and artists. All of a sudden they are up in the air at 5,000 feet in a plane that is made of aluminium, or even wood. Our men flew on a mission that 50% of them died on, there was 1 in 2 chances of making it home just so we can sit here right now doing what we’re doing. I get choked up when I think about them and think “Jesus, could I do that?”

FAULT: Throughout your career is there a character you have especially enjoyed portraying?

James: To be honest I rarely take a part unless I am fascinated by the character. I think when you are generally interested and curious about what you are doing whether you are an actor, fashion designer or photographer, it is essential to be interested in the subject that you are dealing with.

Of late I play a knight templar in Ironclad. I play an interesting guy, Thomas Marshall who of course in the Twelfth century has never seen a film, has barely seen any paintings, who is only interested in defending God and commits appalling acts of violence in the name of God. It was very fascinating to get inside the mind of a man like this.  More recently I play William Travers in the ITV series Injustice. It was a nice change because most of the men I have portrayed of late have been in period films where they are all big, fierce, expensive, fuck-off famous men and this guy is just a suburban barrister from Ipswich and does stuff you wouldn’t expect a barrister to do. It’s funny, because on the way here today on the Tube I was looking around at normal, everyday people thinking “What secrets have you got?” It’s fascinating!

FAULT: Can you tell us more about Ironclad?

James: Its set in 1215 and it’s about King John who in 1215 was forced to sign the Magna Carta, a document that essentially gave all of us certain inalienable rights- you couldn’t be punished by the King without some kind of legal process. He was forced to sign this document; however he then went back on it. He fled the country and went over to France and picked up an army of 5,000 mercenaries, in order to recapture the country back from the Barons who had taken it over.

The first castle that he needed to take was an incredibly powerful castle with 11ft thick walls which was on the Medway at Rochester. This took him six months to conquer as there were knights inside who were determined to fight to the death. Eventually he got in by doing this amazing thing whereby he dug underneath acorner of the Castle, gathered a herd of about 50 pigs, painted them all with tar and stuck them in the mine alive and set fire to them. As you can imagine pigs burn with a lot of heat because they contain so much fat. So this inferno built up underneath the corner of the Castle and brought a whole corner down. It’s a very violent film with good reason because it was an incredibly violent siege. I’m a strong believer in the idea that if you’re going to tackle a subject and an interesting story then you should do it properly-to show people what it was really like.

FAULT: What is your FAULT?

James: Well I am a Gemini and they say Gemini’s build up enormous amounts of resentment without looking like they are and the suddenly they snap and it all kicks off. So instead of talking about it when it first starts pissing you off you let it all build up inside. That is definitely my fault, I need to process and deal with it as it happens.