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Jim Sturgess Talks The Way Back, Heartless, Singing the Beatles

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood January 18, 2011 at 8:04AM

Jim Sturgess was deep in the throes of working on a thriller when he auditioned for Peter Weir's The Way Back. The young Brit felt "a combination of intimidation and awe and desperation" going up for a part in a Weir film. "I had quite a strange entrance into the movie," he recalls, "because when I found out that Peter was casting for the film and wanted to see me, I was in the middle of shooting a film back in London called Heartless, where I was playing a kind of psychotic, delusional, manic-depressive, suicidal character in a comedy, a British rom-com." When he met with Weir, he had been doing two weeks of night shoots and looked terrible, and left feeling disappointed. The actor ended up putting himself on tape and sent Weir a letter. "Thank god I did that," he says now, as Weir offered him the key role of a Polish Gulag survivor who leads a gang of escapees across 4000 miles to freedom.
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Thompson on Hollywood

Jim Sturgess was deep in the throes of working on a thriller when he auditioned for Peter Weir's The Way Back. The young Brit felt "a combination of intimidation and awe and desperation" going up for a part in a Weir film. "I had quite a strange entrance into the movie," he recalls, "because when I found out that Peter was casting for the film and wanted to see me, I was in the middle of shooting a film back in London called Heartless, where I was playing a kind of psychotic, delusional, manic-depressive, suicidal character in a comedy, a British rom-com." When he met with Weir, he had been doing two weeks of night shoots and looked terrible, and left feeling disappointed. The actor ended up putting himself on tape and sent Weir a letter. "Thank god I did that," he says now, as Weir offered him the key role of a Polish Gulag survivor who leads a gang of escapees across 4000 miles to freedom.

To prep for the role, Sturgess researched, lost weight, visited Auschwitz, prepared his accent in Poland (where he drank a lot of vodka), and fasted an entire day without food or water. Weir told him to put some weight back on because his character was meant to be one of the stronger survivors. More about Sturgess's career path as a singer (Across the Universe) and actor in my four-part flip cam interview below.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4

This article is related to: Directors, Genres, Headliners, Independents, Video, Interviews , Media, Marketing, Period, Drama, Biopics, Colin Farrell


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.