Attitude Magazine - April 2001

Keeping up with the Jones

Happily married heterosexual James Callis is about to become very famous indeed.  As the gay best friend in Bridget Jones's Diary

Hell hath no fury like fans of a bestseller when Hollywood gets its hands on it.  Just ask Tom Cruise. Fanatical readers of Anne Rice's Interview With A Vampire wanted to drive a stake through his heart, douche him with holy water and plug his orifices with garlic when the pint-sized, fair-haired, squeaky-voiced superstar landed the role of tall, dark and mysterious Lestat.  Ask Renée Zellweger, too, whose casting in the movie of Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary has been met with similar vitriol - a pretty Texas gal playing a plump, not-so-pretty English lass.

Moviegoers can see for themselves when it opens over here this month, but Renée's co-star James Callis reckons everyone is going to be pleasantly surprised.  "I suppose I shouldn't admit that I haven't read the book", says the dashing 29-year-old Londoner, "but I've seen the film and it delivers a lot of laughs. It's also touching and Renée is brilliant in it."

James is lucky to have escaped the scorn of Fielding fans himself, since he's a happily heterosexual married man playing a character called Tom who's an equally happy homosexual.  Was it hard to go gay on screen?

"No, I'm an actor, just like Renée's an actor," he says, adding that Tom is there to give Bridget advice about dating, not cop off himself.   His advice is pretty good, too.

"I tell her to circulate oozing intelligence, but she's going to a publishing function so that's good advice, really.  Of course it wouldn't make sense if she was going to an Eminem concert.  She'd probably end up getting stabbed in the throat".

Renée had some off-set advice for James, too:  Beware of complex proteins on your Christmas dinner.

"Renée's got a degree in social anthropology or something and she's a very bright cookie," he says. "I remember one day her telling me that the reason I feel tired after a turkey dinner is because of an enzyme in the meat called tryptophan.  I was like, "Oh, right, I thought it was because I got sloshed at Christmas".

James was born London, educated in Harrow and York, then attended the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts.  His television work includes Soldier Soldier, The Scarlet Pimpernel and Sex, Chips & Rock'n'Roll, and he's appeared on stage in Old Wicked Songs opposite Bob Hoskins, but Bridget Jones is this first big-screen assignment and quite literally his dream role.

"Well not so much mine as my sister's", he explains.   "A year beforehand my sister rang me up and said "I've had a dream and you are going to be starring in Bridget Jones's Diary and a year later I was!"

Sexual preferences aside, is he anything like Tom? "He's cheery, compassionate and interested in in having a good time.  I'm game for a laugh like him but I think, and hope, that I'm more serious.  He's fun-loving and a bit of a stirrer."

Tom is also a wannabe pop star who's coasting along on the success of a one-off hit single, but James has no desire to follow the Jason Donovan/Adam Rickitt/Sid Owen three-step programme - i.e. 1. be an actor, 2. become a singer, 3. get laughed off the face of the planet.

"I write music and play the piano and when I was younger I really did want to be a popstar", says James.  I still write music but I've no desire to perform it.  I'd rather act. Some people do both but then you get that thing, "Fucking hell, what does he do? Does he act? Does he sing? Does he work for Cable & Wireless?"

Next up is an independent film called Beginner's Luck, which also stars Steven Berkoff and Julie Delpy.  James plays a hapless theatre director in a comedy based on his own adventures with a touring thespian company when he was 18.  They hated each others' guts, ended up penniless in Paris, then got deported for squatting.

If Bridget Jones's Diary is a hit (highly likely) and Beginner's Luck wins a cult audience (highly possible), James could find himself riding the fast-track from jobbing acting to household name - in which case he'd have the confidence to chat to Minnie Driver next time they bump into each other. He saw his co-star from an episode of Murder Most Horrid at an awards ceremony recently, but decided against popping over for a chat.

"I was going to go over and say "Hi Minnie, remember me?" but I imagined the look of horror on her face as she said "Who the fuck are you?" so I didn't bother.

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