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Confetti - Martin Freeman interview


Interview by Rob Carnevale

MARTIN Freeman, the jovial star of TV’s The Office and last year’s Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, talks about wedding comedy, Confetti, on-screen nudity, as well as future plans for his career.

Q. Is the song and dance routine in this an indication of some secret ambition for a future as a musical performer?
A. No, not the song and dance part. I was happy to do it for the movie as well or as badly as was needed. Or as well or as badly as I could actually do. But that’s purely for the film. I’m not harbouring any great desire to become Aldershot’s Sammy Davis Jr.

Q. I imagine the improvising brings its own pressures. But was it also liberating because there’s nothing you can’t do providing it’s true to the character?
A. True, although I found within the first couple of days of doing it that I wasn’t as good as I thought I was going to be at it.

Q. Had you done much before on stage for example?
A. Not really. The reason I thought I’d be quite good at it is because I have improvised around a script before – I’ve been loose with a script before. But I don’t think anyone I know has had to improvise on camera, from start to finish, an entire film. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who’s had to do that. So, the difference between having a script as a safety net and not having it is enormous. When you have a script, you can feel like being loose with it and playing around a bit but you can always refer back to the source material. But when there is no source material, you can’t look at something that might help you out of a hole because there is nothing to refer to apart from a half mad woman who’s having a nervous breakdown in the corner.
So between you, you have to hammer out where the problems lie.

Q. Did you bring any first-hand experiences of wedding day disasters to your role?
A. Nothing that fed into the film. I couldn’t get through a reading once. I was asked to do a reading at a wedding not that long ago but couldn’t get through it because I was crying. It was really embarrassing but it was a genuinely emotional piece – the pre-nup. No it wasn’t! It was impossible to get through, I just kept having to stop and my voice kept going. Eventually one of my brothers had to come over and put his hand on my shoulder while I did it. It took me about 20 minutes to get through something that should have taken one. What made it harder is that I think people may have thought, “oh you’re an actor, you can do it”. And so the fear became: “Oh, he’s an actor, he’s being a luvvy. It’s almost like he’s auditioning.” But I do cry at weddings so I wouldn’t do a reading again, for sure.

Q. If you’d been offered the role of Michael, the naturist, would you have gone for it?
A. I don’t know, to be honest. It’s genuinely difficult to do something like that, having already done a bit of nudity myself [in Love Actually]. They carried it off fantastically. I think it would be a shame if they were just labelled “the nude couple” and the good work they do got over-looked. They are two of the best comedy actors around. Fortunately, Debbie never wanted the nation to see my balls!

Q. You’ve found a fantastic niche in British comedy but I know you started out in drama, are you surprised at how things have turned out? And are we going to lose you to Hollywood?
A. I’m a bit surprised, I suppose. When I was at Central I didn’t think I would be making most of my living just doing comedy. So in that sense, it wasn’t a plan but I always liked doing it and I still love it now. But I can’t see myself upping sticks to be honest. I love London. I love being in London. Everything I have and love is here and at home. I’m more than happy to do really good American films and to come back but I have no desire to live there whatsoever.

Q. What kind of profile do you have in America? Do you get most recognition for The Office or Love Actually or The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy?
A. It’s Love Actually as it goes. I was quite surprised the last time I was there the amount of people in their mid-20s who say: “You’re in my favourite film ever.” I thought surely it couldn’t be Ali G but a lot of people’s favourite film there is Love Actually. I’ve also had plenty of people say: “You were in Love Actually weren’t you? Have you ever done anything else?” It’s like they assume I’ve been unemployed ever since. Over here, it’s more about The Office.