Interview: Hugh Dancy from Confessions of a Shopaholic

We had the pleasure of chatting with Hugh Dancy about Confessions Of A Shopaholic which is due out on DVD on June 23rd! Here’s what he had to say:

How tough was it to do the dance sequence in Confessions of a Shopaholic?

Hugh Dancy: We didn’t spend ages over it. It was one night of filming it. It was quite technical. But we spent the night before choreographing the dance. Initially it was meant to be fairly straightforward and it developed because we were making each other laugh a lot.

Before you made his movie how aware had you been of the Shopaholic novels?

Hugh Dancy: It was peripheral. I had seen posters and people reading the books on the tube. I had never read them. Like a lot of people I had a pretty preconceived idea about what ‘chick lit’ was and that it was not for me. PJ Hogan, the director, gave me the first three books and then I had to completely re-write my preconceptions. I realized anything that sells that many books is a good book. It is well written; it is not a mistake. What I love most about the books is the inner monologue that Rebecca has and while it is about shopping what I recognized in it was the denial, the comedy in the lies that Rebecca tells to herself. We have all been there– we can all laugh at our own expense.

Have you ever made a ridiculous purchase?

Hugh Dancy: If I have then it was not so bad that it stuck with me. I err on the side of caution. A good thing is having a balanced view of money. I have had to learn that it is occasionally ok to spend a little bit more than you meant to. If you spend your life being under budget then it is not so great. However I do collect hands. The odder the better. It started on a film set when there was a straight set of wooden hands, which I liberated. So it grew from there. For most people hands would be a ridiculous thing to buy but it is not for me. The weirdest hand I have is a fibre glass big hand that was a symbol for some group.

How do you feel about being called the new Hugh Grant?

Hugh Dancy: I get it. It is a requirement to label people. But I don’t object to it so much because I have come to realize that it bears no relation to reality. When it first happened, 10 years ago, it probably annoyed me more. But since then I have happily carried on having my career and doing my own thing.

Is it true that you began your acting career inadvertently, when you were sent to the school theater as a punishment?

Hugh Dancy: It is true, I was at boarding school and had been misbehaving and I was sent to study drama, to the theater at my school. I was sent under duress and never left, I loved it. To begin with I was just helping out with the sets, painting the walls, nailing things into the floor and doing odd jobs. I was sent there to keep out of trouble, but I never thought about acting before that at all. Then I discovered I liked the people doing drama far more than most of the other people at my school. I spent so much time there that eventually someone asked me to be in a play, it had nothing whatsoever to do with my acting ability. I found out that I loved acting and I am very glad it happened.

In the film you have to play a straightforward guy. Is that a harder role to do?

Hugh Dancy: I think Isla has the hardest role in the movie. But yes there is a challenge to playing the straight man. Playing a basically good person can often be interesting because people are usually not so interested in them. So when you get one that is well written it tends to be unusual.

Does the movie have appeal for males?

Hugh Dancy: Yes, I thought it was a movie that I would be interested in.

Why have you made so many movies with Jerry Bruckheimer?

Hugh Dancy: You would have to ask Jerry because he is the one who calls you. I like and admire him. It is always an amazing experience working for him. His attention to detail is incomparable.

Is it becoming a necessity for you to live in America?

Hugh Dancy: No, it is not. As it happens, I have been working in New York a lot during the last couple of years, my fiancee is a New Yorker. But I still have my home here in England.

Had you known Isla Fisher?

Hugh Dancy: No, I had never met her. She is high energy, funny, surprising. I really admire the way she has kept her life private. She works very hard.

Luke and Rebecca are very different aren’t they? How did you make the relationship believable?

Hugh Dancy: I think that it is perfectly credible. We see quite quickly in the film that Becky is not just crazy; there is something very down to earth about her, something endearing, honest and appealing, even while she is making up her stories and getting into a mess. She is an unpretentious person and very charming. Luke is quite different from Becky. He is not remotely interested in clothes and shopping, he is in love with the world of finance, which is an area that she has a bit of a problem with. Luke is quite severe and strict, but he also has a sense of fun. When they get to know each other they do have a lot in common. You see very quickly that they are more suited to each other than you would initially think. Would I fall for someone as crazy as Becky? Yes. I have done it several times with no regrets.

You have modeled for Burberry, doing a campaign for them, did that give you more awareness about fashion?

Hugh Dancy: I learned a lot when I did the Burberry campaign five years ago, I found that it was good fun. I spent a day sitting in front of a car wearing a nice suit, with the amazing photographer, Mario Testino taking my photograph; people pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for that kind of thing in charity auctions. So it was quite an honor and I can’t complain. I appreciate a good suit that is comfortable and fits well, but fashion is not something that I spend much time worrying about on a day-to-day basis.

Can you speak Prada?

Hugh Dancy: No, I’m still on chapter one.

What was the last thing you bought with a credit card?

Hugh Dancy: I took my friends to dinner. Good meals tend to be my extravagance.

Playing journalists seems to be quite a popular career choice for actors. How much did you enjoy it and what kind of research did you do?

Hugh Dancy: I did visit Fortune magazine in New York and also the guy that does the Forbes 400 list. It was interesting to see the pace and the competitiveness and the deadlines. But more relevant to the guy I was playing was, I think, his commitment to the truth telling aspect. I guess I saw a little bit of that exhibited in those offices, but it was clearer in the script.

Can you draw comparisons between the scale and the expense of a Hollywood movie compared to the kind of movies and TV material you started out on? Does it seem like anything goes in an industry this huge?

Hugh Dancy: Well, I think I’ve worked on movies and TV shows of all different scales where money felt like it was being spent unintelligently. And I’ve worked on very big movies, like this one, where the attention to detail is incredible. There’s no sense that the door has been flung open wide and the cash was just flying out. But then I don’t think we’re necessarily in a position to answer that because we’re obviously not the ones writing the checks. So, what it comes down to are just a few people in a room and the work that they’re doing. So, it was myself, Isla Fisher, PJ Hogan, the director, and Jerry Bruckheimer, and that is true of a small TV show or a huge movie.

But what about in terms of the scale of the production?

Hugh Dancy: Oh yeah, it’s different entirely. It’s like a space launch. It’s really how it feels sometimes. I’ve worked on a couple of other movies of Jerry’s and particularly the larger, more action type movies… they feel like a small town. There’s a fire engine, sometimes there’s a crèche… I half expect there to be a church. It’s a community.

How was working with costume designer Patricia Fields on your wardrobe?

Hugh Dancy: I had the odd experience of working with Patricia Fields, who is obviously known for making women look fabulous and yet here we were trying to make me, a guy, and look kind of scruffy. I think that was probably relatively new to her. Jerry Bruckheimer is right when he says that she’s collaborative and interested in character and how you feel. So, it was a very productive work experience.

Do you have any money saving tips?

Hugh Dancy: Don’t spend it! I know it sounds stupid but the essential truth of the books and the movie is really that – put the credit card back in the wallet, or cut it up!

What are your shopping temptations?

Hugh Dancy: Mine are books. I will go into a book shop… that’s the only shop I really like to browse in to kill time and will come away with too many.

What are you doing next?
Hugh Dancy: I have a movie called Adam, which will be coming out on an as yet unknown date later this year.

Interview By: Emma Loggins

– Confessions of a Shopaholic Official Site


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