Hugh Dancy promotes mini-series Deadline Gallipoli and talks about life as an actor, husband and father
ACTOR Hugh Dancy, the 39-year-old Brit, receives a lesson on the Gallipoli legacy and the ins and outs of Aussie Rules.
You play British war correspondent Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett in the new mini-series Deadline Gallipoli, which marks the centenary of the campaign. Did it feel like you were working on something quite meaningful?
My feeling is that you have to put aside any sense that a story you’re telling is important, because as soon as you think that’s going to carry you along in some way, you’re doomed.
It doesn’t matter if it’s comedy or horror, you just have to get down to the nitty-gritty.
I’ve worked on projects before that dealt with significant moments in history, but it was certainly a learning curve when I arrived in Australia [for filming] to fully understand the significance Gallipoli has here.
I hear you attended your first AFL game while you were here?
Yes, I went to a few of them, actually.
I went with Joel [Jackson], who plays Charles Bean in the film.
He is West Australian and steeped in Aussie Rules, so we went for a pint and he drew a beer picture, dipping his finger in, to explain the rules.
I reckon, by the end of the game, I had a good grasp of it.
I don’t know if I could play it, but I was pretty good at watching it.
You’re filming Season 3 of Hannibal – of which YouTube has some fabulous blooper reels. It’s a weird sight to see people laughing next to a gruesomely murdered body. Have you become desensitised to seeing gore?
Well, the thing is, you’ve got this gruesome, bleeding corpse in front of you, but behind it are people lounging around, having a sandwich, waiting for you to finish your acting so they can get on with their job.
You wouldn’t want to be queasy at the sight of blood in your job right now…
The funny thing is, my introduction to Deadline Gallipoli came through [Australian director] Michael Rymer, who worked on Hannibal.
He told me to look at the script and said it would be a “nice palate cleanser”.
I thought he was right – it was a breezy character – then I got 20 pages in and thought, “Hmm… it’s not really light comedy, is it?”
Going back a little, I read that acting was forced on you as punishment at school – is that right?
That is true.
I was only 13, so we’re not talking about getting into a lot of trouble, but I was sent to theatre while at boarding school to keep me busy.
All I was meant to do was nail this, paint that… and then the more time I spent there, the more I liked it, and I never left.
Your parents are academics. How did they react when you told them you were sticking with acting?
I know my parents love me and have a healthy appreciation for my intellect, but I’m not under any illusions they thought I’d be an academic, put it that way!
They were supportive, but I think when they saw my work to begin with, they were horrified and thought it wouldn’t last.
Frankly, from what I remember of that work, they were justified [laughs].
Your wife, Claire Danes, stars in Homeland – how many times a day are you asked for spoilers?
Maybe people are asking me all the time and I don’t notice it.
Maybe you’re asking me right now? I always say I know nothing… it’s not true.
Claire has said she drinks a lot more tea and booze since marrying an Englishman. Have you picked up any American habits?
I wasn’t really into them until I married an American.
Booze-drinking covers all the bases; I don’t think it’s only the English, especially after spending time in Australia.
No nation holds a monopoly on that kind of habit.
I might have to have a word with my wife.
What’s next for you?
The way our lives work is that, shortly after I finish here, we’ll have a few weeks’ break and then Claire is back on Homeland.
So everything flips.
And you’re on dad duty with two-year-old Cyrus?
Exactly. That’s the idea.
I guess that works out well – having different filming schedules?
For the two of us as a couple, it’s incredibly balanced.
For us both to be working on things we love still, several years in, is remarkable.
* Deadline Gallipoli airs Sunday April 19 and Monday April 20, at 8.30pm on Showcase.
Download the Sunday Style iPad app from iTunes for Hugh’s thoughts on his dad’s accidental 15 minutes of fame