Before deciding to become an actor, I read Classics at university and my favourite lyric poetic epic is still the Odyssey. Homer’s eponymous hero – the guy we’re all rooting for – is a man of many wiles: a sailor, traveller, warrior, lover, and adventurer. But perhaps the most important reason why Odysseus achieves the glory of eternal renown is simply because, after 10 years in Troy, and a further 10 at sea, he makes it back home. He returns to his family: to his wife Penelope, to his father Laertes, and to his son Telemachus. His very status as a hero depends upon the success of his return home. I was thinking about Odysseus last weekend at Los Angeles International airport. As Colin Firth accepted his heroic, long-deserved best actor Oscar for The King’s Speech – a familial odyssey for George VI of a slightly different kind – I was on my way home. I caught the early part of the ceremony in the departure lounge, and boarded my London-bound Virgin Atlantic flight just moments after Kirk Douglas had shown us what old-fashioned-movie-star charisma used to be. So I calculate that at near enough the exact moment that Colin Firth’s feet left the ground so, too, did mine (in a more obviously practical sense). I fell asleep during take-off. I’m not sure Colin Firth has landed yet.
I had been in LA to help put the finishing touches to Marvel Studios’ next comic book super-hero adventure movie, Thor, directed by Kenneth Branagh, starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins. I’m proud to say that I am continuing a long tradition of British baddies and play the film’s villain, Loki, Thor’s younger brother and the Norse god of mischief.
It is a Marvel comic/epic Norse odyssey all of its own in which Thor, the god of thunder, is cast out of Asgard and has to find a way home. As the damaged and jealous Loki, I do my best to stop him. The film is an explosion of brilliant, bright-coloured thunder and lightning, with stormy family dynamics at its centre, and, I hope, will be huge fun.
I was glad to be coming home, though, not least because I was coming back for the release of another, very different film, of which I am extremely proud. Archipelago is the new feature written and directed by Joanna Hogg. It’s her second film. Her first, Unrelated (2007), was my first job, just two weeks out of drama school, and Joanna and I were as surprised as anyone when the film was taken up and championed by critics and audiences alike, and Joanna was hailed as a new, astonishingly confident, British auteur. I played Oakley, an arrogant, irresponsible, sexually cavalier 19-year-old, and both learned invaluable lessons about the craft of screen acting, and won some stripes on my lapel to be proud of. In Archipelago, I play Edward, a 28-year-old who has just left a burgeoning career in an investment bank, and has committed to the beginning of his own personal odyssey: 11 months of voluntary service with Aids-suffering communities in Uganda. His mother and sister have organised a family trip to Tresco, 25 miles off the coast of Cornwall, as a send-off. They are all hoping his father will come down to the island later on, but he never materialises. As you may have guessed, the tensions created by his struggle for personal freedom and self-definition, outside of the family unit, are crushing and suffocating. In order to define himself, Edward needs to travel, to journey, to adventure, to set sail, in order to be able to come back, to come home.
Joanna Hogg is unique, because she makes films about the people she knows – the English upper-middle-classes – and in a manner inspired by the film-makers she loves – Eric Rohmer, Michael Haneke, and Yasujiro Ozu. I don’t know anyone like her. She makes very European films about very British people. Her work is unashamedly austere, challenging, and open-ended. The camera is still, the takes are long, the pace is slow. Her characters are quiet, passive, often remote. Nothing much happens, nothing much is resolved. But beneath the surface is a quiet desperation, an undercurrent of a powerful subtext begging to be articulated. In my playing of Edward, Joanna asked me for a vulnerability, a compassion, a sensitivity, for the quiet pain of a young man who bottles up all his own emotions lest they take up space in the room. It’s very English in a very particular way. It rarely gets put at the centre of a story in cinema. Most of us understand drama as arising from conflict. Drama is extremity. That’s what the Greeks tell us. Or is it?
One week after shooting wrapped on Archipelago, I sold my flat in Kentish Town. One week after that, I moved into an architect’s studio in Venice Beach, California – my home for the six months it took to make Thor, and I’m unashamed to say they were some of the happiest of my life. I ran along the Pacific coast every Saturday morning, with the sun on my face, in February, and never for one second took it for granted. One month into Thor and I was off again – this time for my sister’s wedding – to Chennai, in India, where she now lives with her husband Yakov, and where they hope to start a family. Five days of blindingly bright Indian colour and non-stop Bollywood dancing accomplished, and then I was back and happily ensconced in Venice, and, like Odysseus with Calypso, I thought I’d be there forever. But home called me back, and before I knew it I was in London again, preparing for Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris (guess where?), and the prospect of a role in Steven Spielberg’s film adaptation of War Horse.
I left drama school in the summer of 2005. It has been the most amazing odyssey ever since. I’ve worked in Paris, Moscow, New York, Milan, Reykjavik, Brussels, Ystad in Sweden, Santa Fe in New Mexico, Los Angeles and, of course, London. I never know where the wind will take me next. I often miss my family when I’m away. And yet, every film, every story is about family in some way. While we were filming Thor, Anthony Hopkins once leant over and whispered, “You know, all the great actors – James Mason, Robert Mitchum, Peter O’Toole, Richard Burton – they were all such open, charming, optimistic people, but they each had a little suitcase of pain, and that’s what made them great.” I have lived out of many suitcases, and it’s my frequent professional obligation to turn up on set and excavate some pain. Sometimes you have to go a long way round the houses to come home. I haven’t had to fight quite so many gods and monsters as Odysseus. But it’s been one hell of a journey, so far.
Story line: You felt in love with Ashton during the summer. When it ended, you thought you were going back home, far away from where he lived. But you stayed and by chance, you went to the same high school. What you didn’t know was that Ashton was a member of the T-Birds and he told a whole different story about you to his friends. And of course, Michael, Luke and Calum didn’t miss the opportunity to try and win you over.
AN: This one shot was set in the movie ’Grease’. Well, at least at the beginning. Then I lost the plot… Hope you like it, though!
Gina parked the car andlooked at me, excited. “Are you ready?” she asked me. I wasn’t ready. I evenwasn’t sure if I wanted to be there. It was ironic because I spent the whole
summer dreaming of living in the States. And now that my parents decided to
stay there, I had doubts. “I thought you wanted to be here” she said, confused.
And I wanted but maybe it was because I spent the most amazing summer ever and
I didn’t want it to end. I fell in love. His name was Ashton and I met him two
months ago; we were at the same place spending our vacations. He was the
sweetest guy ever. The last day, I told him that I was going back home, far
away from the States. I thought it was the end but he promised me it was the
beginning. I didn’t understand him when he told me that but I believed him.
Then, he grabbed my hand and told me that he loved me. “Maybe you find another
Prince Charming” Gina said, finding out what I was thinking.
“You think it’s possible?” I
“Yes. You have to meet the
T-Birds. They’re the hottest guys from high school”.
“T-What?” Gina laughed and
got out of the car. I did the same thing. She grabbed my arm and we walked
together. We didn’t have a class until ten but Gina wanted to introduce me her
group of friends. They called themselves The Pink Ladies and I don’t know what
I was expecting but those girls were very different from what I had imagined.
They were sassy, funny and fearless. I was so different from them! I felt out
of place but Gina assured me they were nice girls and that I didn’t have to
worry about nothing. So, when they invited me to the sleepover, I said yes
Here I was again; ready to
pass my last year of high school. I got out of the car and I greeted my best
friends, who were part of the T-Birds. We were the most popular kids in high
school and we had our own style: we dressed ourselves with leather jackets, we
had a cocky attitude and we used a lot of hair gel, at least Luke did.
“New cute chick with The Pink
Ladies” Michael announced. I turned around and I looked for the most rebellious
girls in that high school. I found them quickly; they were sitting around a
picnic table. A lump formed in my throat when I saw Y/N there. What was she
doing there? She told me that she was going back home, far away from here. I
was happy to see her; really happy to see her but I told my friends that she
was a summer fling, that she didn’t mean a thing. I didn’t want to look like a
pussy in front of them.
“It’s seems Ashton has
already a thing for the new girl” Calum joked.
“Shut up” I said. “It’s Y/N”.
“The girl who was crazy for
you?” Luke asked.
“Oh boy, you’re screwed”
Michael laughed. “But man, I have to tell you… She’s hot. If you don’t want her,
I certainly want her”. I laughed, ironically.
“Good luck with that, mate”.
“Yeah, you’ll see” I looked
at Michael while I clenched my jaw, angry. Was he going to try to hit on Y/N?
“That’s not fair” Luke said,
pouting. “I think she’s cute too. What if I want her?”
“Sorry, you don’t have a
chance, Luke” Michael said.
“What’s going on with you,
guys? You’re so desperate” I said, trying to calm them down. “Beside me, Calum
is the only normal in here”
“I don’t think ‘normal’ is
the appropriate word. I’m the smartest. I’m not going to lose my time saying
that I have more chance than them when I can go and talk to her” he said,
smiling, as he approached to The Pink Ladies.
“Come on!” I exclaimed, not
believing how desperate my friends were. Fuck.
I was screwed. It was my fault, though. And I knew it. But it was too late to
solve it. I hoped Y/N didn’t like any of the guys because if she did, I was
really screwed. Or maybe I was already screwed. Because when she saw me, her
eyes lit up and a smile formed in her mouth. God. I missed her. My heart started beating faster and I had to
make an effort because the only thing I wanted to do was kiss her.
“Ashton?” she said, excited.
“Oh, hey Y/N. I thought you
were leaving” I said with the coldest tone I could find. She looked at me,
“So, he’s Prince Charming?”
Gina asked, smiling. My friends started to laugh.
“I don’t know what she told
you but I’m not Prince Charming” I assured. “Anyways, we were here to ask you
girls if you’re coming to the dance” I said, smiling flirtatiously and looking
everybody but Y/N.
I didn’t understand why
Ashton acted this way and it hurt me like hell. When I met him, he was the
nicest, charming and romantic guy. And now, with his friends, he was an
“He told me that he loved me”
“Girl, you were dreaming” Kelly
said as she put on her red lipstick. “Irwin isn’t the kind of guy who holds
hands and says ‘I love you’”.
“You don’t know that!” I murmured.
“Yes I do. We dated”. She
wasn’t telling the truth, wasn’t she?
“Don’t worry, Y/N. We’re
going to have fun tonight and you’re going to forget Ashton in the blink of an
eye” Gina said, cheering me up.
“I don’t know… Maybe I
“Yeah, maybe you shouldn’t.
Maybe your parents get mad because you’re having fun” Kelly mocked.
Before I could reply her, the
guys honked the horn of the car. The girls exclaimed, happy and ran to join
them. I didn’t want to go but on the other hand, I wanted to show to Kelly that
I could have fun. Maybe I wasn’t like them but I knew how to have fun.
Ashton didn’t even look at me
when I got in the car. Kelly, Gina and Michael were also in there.
“You look beautiful, Y/N”
Michael flattered me. I blushed. “Someone important in your life?”
“No” I said loudly. I could
hear Ashton sighing and I smiled.
“Good” Michael said.
The ride was entertaining.
Michael was a very funny guy and my stomach hurt from laughing so hard. Ashton
seemed pissed but I didn’t care. We arrived at the nightclub a few minutes
later. A lot of kids were trying to get in but the security guards didn’t let
“I got it” Ashton said as he
went to talk to the guards. A few seconds later, we were inside the nightclub.
He smiled, cocky, and grabbed Kelly’s hand and pulled her into the dance floor.
Before I could realise what was happening, Calum appeared in front of me, with
a wide smile.
“Dance?” he asked as he
offered his hand.
“I’m not—“ Calum didn’t let
me finish. He held my hand and pulled me into the dance floor. I couldn’t help
but laugh when he started spinning me around and doing funny movements. I
quickly forget that Ashton was there too. I was having so much fun with the
girls and his friends. They looked alike, with the leather jackets and the
cocky attitude, but Michael, Calum and Luke were nicer than Ashton.
Gina lent me his pink jacket
and for the first time since I was in the States, I felt part of something.
“You’re one of The Pink Ladies now” Gina exclaimed.
“I’m not sure Kelly is going
to be okay with that” I joked.
“Forget about Kelly and have
fun! You have the guys drooling over you”.
When my feet started to hurt,
I told Calum that I was going to get some air. Calum gave me the thumbs up and
I laughed. I went out and breathed in the air, recovering from the dance.
“Hey, you shouldn’t be alone”
I turned around to see who was talking to me and I find Luke, slightly smiling.
“I just needed some fresh
air” I smiled.
“Are you having fun?“
“I wasn’t sure to come at
first but this is fun”.
“Ashton?” he guessed.
“And Kelly” Luke rolled his
eyes and smiled.
“Ignore them both”.
“Look who we have here” a
deep voice said. Luke and I turned around and we saw a group of boys, wearing
also leathers jackets. Something didn’t feel right about them. “Do you have a
new chick, Hemmings?” one of them said.
“Go inside” Luke said,
serious. I listened to him and I was going to get inside when the same guy who
talked, grabbed me by the arm.
“Where are you going, baby?”
I tried to get rid of him but he was stronger than me. Luke tried to help me
but some of the guys held him. He tried to get rid of them but he couldn’t. I
began to feel afraid. These guys didn’t seem to be joking.
“Leave her alone” suddenly,
my body relaxed. I recognized his voice and when I got a glimpse of Ashton, I
could saw that he was furious. His jaw was clenched and his hands closed as
fists. Calum and Michael were beside him holding a baseball bat and for the
first time since I met them, they seemed dangerous. The guys left me and they
took a few steps back.
“There’s no need to be like
that, boys” he said. “We were just messing around”.
“Then go and mess around
somewhere else” Ashton spat. They dithered but they finally left the place. The
boys looked at me, checking that I was okay. I slightly smiled and assured them
I was fine.
“This always works” Calum
said, pointing the baseball bat. “We weren’t going to use it” he laughed.
Finally, Ashton took a step
forward and said: “Well, I think you boys had your time with Y/N. It’s my turn
“But—“ Michael began to say.
“Go, Michael” Ashton blurted
“That’s so unfair!” he
exclaimed while the boys laughed.
“Are you okay?” he asked me
when they boys left.
“Now you care?” I spat.
“I always cared” he assured
“Yeah, sure. You told your
friends a whole different story. I thought what we had was real. You told me you
loved me!” He looked at me, sadly.
“I was afraid my friends were
going to make fun of me. What we had was so authentic… Then you told me you
were leaving and it broke my heart. I was protecting myself by acting like an
asshole. I’m sorry” he said sincerely. “I understand if you want nothing to do
“I shouldn’t” I said. “But I want
to. But I promise, Ashton, I promise if you hurt me again, I will end you”.
Ashton laughed softly as he
grabbed my face and kissed me passionately. “I won’t, I promise. You’re the one
that I want, Y/N” he said. I smiled as I grabbed his jacket, I stood on my
tiptoes and I kissed him again.