Anatomy of an Interview (with Martin Freeman)

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pf_main_martin.jpg Must have been a really good night, above.

And so begins every interview with Martin Freeman: �������As the affable everyman on the �������Fawlty Towers������� of our generation�������������� At this point, reporters will veer in one of two directions. The plucky, young thing (with a slight crush on �������Tim�������) will inevitably spill forth about what a fan she is, or she’ll laugh about that time the stapler got lodged in the Jell-o mold. For interest’s sake, we��������ve decided to forego that conversation, the one about being normal.

Freeman is the star of Hot Fuzz, Dedication, and most recently, Jake Paltrow��������s first film, The Good Night, which stars sister Gwyneth, Penelope Cruz, and Danny DeVito. Despite having lots on his plate, he takes a break to discuss Mandy Moore��������s obsession with office workers, drug hells, and the unbearable lightness of being hetero. ��������Nick Haramis, Interview by Una LaMarche

BB: In an interview, you said of your mom, �������The only disappointment was that I’m not a poof, I think.������� Tell us about that. MF: (Laughs.) Well, first off, I talk a lot of shit. I think the context was something about my upbringing. A lot of the time, parents don��������t jump for joy when their kids say they want to get into the arts. So, I think that was just my way of saying that not only was my mum delighted that all her children went into the arts, but that out of four boys, her only disappointment was that none of us were gay.

BB: Yeah, my parents were so liberal��������I think they were upset I wasn��������t a lesbian. MF: (Dead silence).

BLACKBOOK: I noticed that most journalists describe your ailments or hygienic shortcomings��������your legs are different lengths, you’ve got eczema (sometimes), you bite your nails, you��������re only sort of left-handed��������maybe instead of telling us about some fungus, you could let us in on a little-known talent of yours. MARTIN FREEMAN: Well, I used to be extremely good at squash.

BB: Aside from the everyman stuff, all the time, what��������s the biggest misconception about you? MF: That I��������m a comic. Everyone thinks that I��������m a comic or a comedian. BB: Let��������s talk a bit about The Good Night. In it, you��������re forced to choose between Gwyneth Paltrow and Penelope Cruz. That doesn��������t seem like the easiest of decisions. MF: No, certainly not on the face of it. But for my character Gary, for his part, he��������s really not having a great time with his real life relationship. They��������ve sort of stopped communicating. And then he comes across this amazing woman in his dream. She finds him inspiring, sexy, and interesting��������all these things Gwyneth��������s character used to see in him. So yeah, in the context of the film, that choice is much more appealing than the humdrum, fairly sparkless life he has with his wife. BB: Have you ever had the kind of dreams that your character has? MF: I��������ve had slightly recurring dreams, but Gary has whole narratives��������he has a whole relationship, a whole cycle of relationships��������and I��������ve never had anything that intricate. I��������ve had dreams that have been startling and rather telling, dreams that make me think, �������I should do that today.������� BB: What about waking dreams? MF: Like I��������m going to tell you. BB: Maybe if I go first? I always wanted to go shopping with Bowie… MF: (Laughs.) No, those aren��������t my kinds of waking dreams. I��������ve had dreams about meeting people and becoming friends with them��������you know, people I probably won��������t ever become friends with. BB: I hear you hate the phenomenon of modern celebrity��������how do you reconcile creative ambition with the spotlight? MF: I��������d be lying if I said that showing off wasn��������t at the root of what I do. If I didn��������t have a need to be acknowledged or looked at, then I��������d be doing something else. I think there��������s a difference between doing that while sharing something of yourself, and giving absolutely zilch to the world apart from your own private drug hell.

It becomes a boring riff to say one doesn��������t like celebrity, but it does get tedious. And by that, I don��������t mean that things should all be highbrow��������I like crap, I��������m interested in junk as much as the next person��������but we��������ve surely hit a point by now where we need to calm down a bit. BB: What was it like working with Jake Paltrow on his first film? MF: He��������s a good combination of classic film-school training and an artistic sensibility, a real sense for acting as well. He trusts his actors. He doesn��������t tell everyone how to act, but he��������s there for you if you need help.

He��������s written what I think is a really brilliant, heartfelt script. Certainly, I couldn��������t imagine anyone else directing it. I actually think the idea came to him in a dream.

BB: I��������m interested that he chose Danny DeVito as his dream guru. MF: It really works for me given that he was a victim of �������dropping out������� in the ��������60s. He was a slightly countercultural figure. Certainly, hanging around him for a few minutes, you buy that. You believe that. He seems pretty laid back.

BB: You were recently in Dedication with Mandy Moore, who also seems mighty fond of John Krasinski. What is it about you �������Office������� guys? MF: The character of Tim��������or Jim��������is quite empathetic, no? He��������s the audience��������s way into the show. I think it boils down to good, old-fashioned male vulnerability.