DA MAN Exclusive: James Frain

Starring presently as Jarvis in Tron: Legacy and known globally for his roles in The Tudors and True Blood in the past, consummate actor James Frain is widely respected in Hollywood.

Photographs: Mitchell Nguyen McCormack

Styling: Lindsay Zir

Interview: Dino Moriartie

As an aspiring young actor, you know things are going well when you are walking down the road and none other than Sir Richard Attenborough stops you to offer a part in his project. That indeed happened to the young James Frain some 17 years ago in London while he was a student at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. Now he lives in Hollywood and is known as one of the best pure actors of his generation.  He also revealed himself to be somewhat of a fashion maven, casually dropping names like Varvatos, Dolce & Gabbana, Simon Spurr and Endovanera.

DA MAN: Is it true that while studying in London, you were discovered by Richard Attenborough who immediately cast you opposite Anthony Hopkins?

James Frain: Yes, Richard Attenborough was looking for an unknown to play Anthony Hopkins’ rebellious student in Shadowlands, and I was in my final year of drama school when I was cast.

DA MAN: When did you make it over to Hollywood to begin this current phase of your career?

James Frain: I moved to Los Angeles in 2003.

DA MAN: You studied acting and drama from a young age in England, at what point in your life did you decide that was the direction you wanted to take with your career?

James Frain: I was 22 when I decided to give it my best shot. I figured if it didn’t work out after five years, I’d have to do something else.

DA MAN: What can you tell us about current projects like Tron: Legacy?

James Frain: Tron: Legacy is a total three-dimensional immersion experience that is going to blow your mind.

DA MAN: What other projects?

James Frain: Top secret!

DA MAN: With your background in drama, film and acting, do you have any other serious talents?

James Frain: I love drawing, painting and taking photos.

DA MAN: After some 15 years in showbiz, do you feel you are finally getting your due?

James Frain: I feel really fortunate to have the career I’m having.

DA MAN:How do you continue to get energized and excited about a role?

James Frain: If the writing’s good it’s always energizing.

DA MAN: Are you into the whole Hollywood scene or do you get back to England as often as possible to keep grounded?

James Frain: There are scenes the world over! I like going out to gigs, galleries and plays, but my favorite thing is to hang out with my kids.

DA MAN: Who would you really like to work with?

James Frain: I’d like to work with a lot of people—Joe Wright, Christopher Nolan, Martin Scorsese, Danny Boyle, Paul Thomas Anderson, Steven Soderbergh, Jason Reitman, Paul Greengrass, Sidney Lumet and Fatih Akin, are a few that come to mind.

DA MAN: As you may know we are a high-fashion magazine, so we gotta ask: How do you describe your style?

James Frain: Not easy to answer! I guess I like structure, comfort and a little edge, in addition to clothes by John Varvatos, Costume National, Dolce & Gabbana, Marc Jacobs, Simon Spurr, Endovanera.

DA MAN: Who are your style icons?

James Frain: Jack White and Marcello Mastroianni.

DA MAN: Which person’s wardrobe would you most like to own?

James Frain: John Lennon’s.

DA MAN: Do you have a healthy motto?

James Frain: Taking yourself too seriously can make others ill.

DA MAN: What would you save if your house was on fire?

James Frain: Any artwork I could grab.

DA MAN: What has been your proudest moment in your acting career?

James Frain: Getting my first paycheck.

DA MAN: What ambitions do you have?

James Frain: I would like to do some directing.

DA MAN: Who have been your favorite cast-mates to work with and why?

James Frain: Ben Affleck, because he’s funny and smart, and Jeff Bridges, because he really is The Dude! [his character in The Big Lebowski]

DA MAN: What types of projects/roles attract you the most?

James Frain: I like characters who are full of contradictions, and who have a sense of humor.

DA MAN: Do you have any strange or wonderful anecdotes from behind the scenes?

James Frain: None that I can share legally.

DA MAN:  What can you tell us about some of your favorite roles over the years?

James Frain: Scheming politician Thomas Cromwell in The Tudors was a fascinating, complex character, but playing Franklin Mott, the psycho vampire in True Blood, was the best fun ever.

DA MAN: You’ve worked with some of the biggest A-listers, including Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, Natalie Portman, Ben Affleck, Cate Blanchett and others, who has had the most influence on you and/or your craft?

James Frain:: Every actor you work with teaches you something, but watching Anthony Hopkins up close had a major impact on me at the start of my career.

DA MAN: What are some of the projects we can look forward to seeing you in? We’ve heard about an anticipated TV show called The Cape.

James Frain: The Cape will air on [USA-based network] NBC in January 2011. It’s the story of a lone superhero fighting a corrupt world. I play his nemesis—a twisted genius set upon world domination.

DA MAN: Who would you have at your dream dinner party (living or dead)?

James Frain: I’d have Will Ferrell, Richard Pryor, Missy Elliott, Dorothy Parker, Pablo Picasso, Howling Wolf and Billie Holiday. DA

To see more of Douglas, pick up DA MAN’s December 2010/January 2011 issue or subscribe