Hugh Dancy interview

The Jane Austen Book Club star talks food porn, older women, and drinking with Ray Winstone

He’s gone from TV dramas (Cold Feet, David Copperfield) to big-budget blockbusters (Black Hawk Down, King Arthur). Now Hugh Dancy, 32, stars in the romantic comedy The Jane Austen Book Club.

You’re in three movies this year ? Savage Grace, Evening and The Jane Austen Book Club. What’s it like hitting the big time?

I don’t feel like that. Things have got more high profile, but I’m under no illusions. Next year could be quiet.

But aren’t you supposed to be the new Hugh Grant?

We’re English and we have the same first name. It’s as simple as that. One person said it and journalists keep perpetuating it.

Shooting Dogs director Michael Caton-Jones compared you to Leonardo

DiCaprio, saying you’re both eye candy but with depth.

I’ll take that! Well, I mean, at least he knows what he’s talking about, and he’s a great director, so if he says something like that, then thank you very much. Leo’s a brilliant actor, so it’s very flattering, but you can’t really take these comparisons too seriously. I’m still trying to figure out what I can do well and what I can’t. The Jane Austen Book Club was a well-written comedy, a different area for me. I enjoyed playing a comic character more than I thought I would.

You come from a family of academics and you studied English Literature at

Oxford. Shouldn’t you have a proper job?

There was never any pressure and I was always into the arts. I went to boarding school and, at 13, I was sent to theatre studies as a punishment for smoking and drinking. That formed my decision to become an actor. But I did go to uni first.

In The Jane Austen Book Club, your character, Grigg, is a sci-fi geek with a big heart. Do you share any of his character traits?

Maybe a few, but I’m not a sci-fi geek! Grigg is a good guy. He doesn’t have a dark side? I’m not Darth Vader, but Grigg’s nicer than me.

He also falls for an older woman. Any similarities there?

How can I put this? I don’t have a particular type; that includes age.

Is it true you dated Claire Danes on the set of Evening?

I met her then, but we didn’t start dating until filming finished.

Claire lives in America. Will you be moving there anytime soon?

No. The ideal scenario would be to jump between both. But I wouldn’t leave England ? it’s my home. And I’d miss a good pint of Guinness.

So, if you needed a drinking buddy, who would you call?

Ray Winstone. I’ve worked with him a couple of times ? he could show anybody a good time, I think. He’s just a big character in every respect; he’s a great guy, generous to a fault?and you wouldn’t get in trouble on a night out with him because, frankly, who’s going to step up?

Is drinking your biggest guilty pleasure?

Not at all. I love socialising but I’m great at pacing myself. Actually, my favourite pastime is watching the food network.

That’s tragic.

I know! But it’s hypnotising. It’s 24-hour-a-day food porn. I always pretended I was going to learn to cook, but now I realise I just like watching other people doing it. Over here, we’ve got a couple of shows, you know, the sort with someone like Anthony Worrall-Thompson being slightly obnoxious, but, in America, it’s so much bigger. I’ve watched the food network for, like, five hours on the trot.

OK, Basic Instinct 2. Why?

Michael Caton-Jones was directing it, and we’d worked together on Shooting Dogs. But, saying that, I did get paid half the amount I got for the entire making of Shooting Dogs, and it only took three days to film, two of which I was a corpse. Listen, if you spend nine weeks filming a harrowing movie like Shooting Dogs, then you’ve earned the right to spend three days farting around in Basic Instinct 2.

The Jane Austen Book Club is in cinemas from 16 November.

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