1883 Magazine
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Tom Mison’s used to rubbing shoulders with some of Britain’s best cinematic exports, but his roles in both David Nicholls’One Day and Lasse Hallestrom’s Salmon Fishing in The Yemen have put the wheels in motion to establish Mison himself as a great British actor. He’s done everything from Shakespeare to art house fairy tales, but 2012 could very well be the year that Mison stops waiting in the wings and takes centre stage. Tom Mison talks to 1883 about hiding with Kristin Scott Thomas in Morocco, his love for Masterchef and a hidden talent for the ukelele.

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You’ve worked alongside a lot of Hollywood heavyweights in the past as Ewan MacGregor, Kristin Scott Thomas and Emily Blunt. What was that like?

They’re so brilliant at making everything so happy and great, I never found it intimidating. And because they’re so good, it makes you up your game a bit. So it’s never scary, it’s just exciting. They’re all so nice, they made it such a good atmosphere, I wish there was gossip I could give you! But it was such fun and we really enjoyed ourselves, which then makes you forget you’re on an unfamiliar film set and it’s just friends playing around together.

Almost too much fun...

It’s too much fun to be work! It really is. It’s amazing, you have to keep reminding yourself, it’s so weird that people get paid to do this.

Perhaps if you did something incredibly harrowing, it might not be so much fun?

It might not be, but you still need to have fun even if you’re doing something really distressing. I think that’s the most important thing of the job, just enjoying playing around, and using your imagination. Whether it’s a tragedy or a comedy, it’s the same part of your brain you’re using.

Some actors, after doing incredibly tough and emotionally draining pieces say they feel burnt out afterwards, and experience a kind of post-dramatic stress. Is this something you’ve noticed?

Yeah, there’s a downtime after you finish a job, and a lot of actors suddenly get cold after they finish a job. Perhaps everyone around them gets unwell, and they’re just focusing so much on staying well with Dr. Acting, that as soon they finish, they get sick. Last year, I played Hal in Henry VI, so on the days when we did both parts, that’s six hours of Shakespeare in a day, which is incredibly draining. So I did the sensible thing and went off to Mallorca afterwards...that’s what everyone should do when they finish a job.

Do you find you’re still inhabiting the character a bit after you finish?

Yeah, kind of. No matter what you’re playing, and how much you get into the Day Lewis approach (Daniel Day Lewis famously uses method acting on the sets of his films) there’s part of it that runs over into your real life. I’m not at the stage yet where I can turn it on and off. It does creep over, not in a way where if I was playing someone awful I’d start shouting at my mother, but it does kind of creep over. You have to remember that there are bills to pay and you’ve got to go and get milk and sit in Bella Italia and have a coffee.

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So the normalcy brings you back.

Exactly, which I think a lot of people find really difficult, after all the excitement, it’s hard to get into a normal life again. But I love it. Because I love that in a normal life, there are moments where you can be a prince or a solider in Afghanistan.

Is reality a let down?

No! Never. I’m always happy to pop on some slippers and watch Masterchef. I watched a bit this morning with breakfast...I really think Greg Wallace is one of the best people on television. I think he’s amazing.

There’s a lot of British actors in SFITY. Did you bring any British traditions to the set, afternoon teas on a Wednesday, perhaps?

(Laughing) I think the Britishness came from our approach to it. That if you get a group of British people out in the desert, and I think it was so alien to us...The sandstorms in Morocco, some of it was filmed in this kind of valley, which is where they build this salmon farm. Certain times of day, it would be like a wind tunnel, and we’d have to hide in these Bedouin tents. You don’t expect to be hiding in a tent with Kristin Scott Thomas.

Were you particularly familiar with Lasse Hallestrom’s work before? What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? is one my favourites.

Oh that’s amazing! Leonardo DiCaprio is so good in it. There was a time when a lot of people did doubt (Leo’s) talent, and pigeonhole him, but you have to remember how good that film is. And now he’s showing everyone’s brilliant. You never get bored of him. I was so excited to work with Lasse, he’s made some excellent films, Chocolat and My Life as a Dog are brilliant. He’s a man who won a lot of Oscars for a reason.

Not to mention the work he did with ABBA...

Who could forget the work he did with ABBA?

You also did a small fashion film a while ago, for Poltock & Walsh, with Rupert Friend?

No, I don’t know this got out like that. Oh, I know how it was! It wasn’t made to be associated with anyone, but then they (Poltock & Walsh) played it at their party. It was an odd premiere for a short film. There is no link between the film and the brand! I’m not sure why on earth people think it’s associated, why people would think P&W would want a story about two boys in lederhosen trying to kill themselves.

I hope that’s all it says on the DVD wrapper.

It just says “Lederhosen”. The costume guy actually flew over authentic Austrian lederhosen, they were amazing. I genuinely wish I’d got to keep them.

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How did the project come about?

Me and Rupert were living together for a long while when we were both out of a job, and thought why don’t we try and write it. Then we gave it to these friends of ours, the Brownleigh brothers. And they were just perfect, and you’ll be hearing about them a lot soon. They’re brilliant storyboard artists, and gave us lederhosen...They made this Brothers Grimm style fairy tale. It was just us messing around with a lot of whiskey.

Oh that’s where the darkness comes in.

(Laughing) Rupert and I were interested in old fairy tales, which are really dark, but also really funny ones. There was a play a while ago, where there’s like three little kittens who play with matches and they’re warned not to and then they set themselves on fire and perish - see, you just laughed at it!

I’m laughing that you’re laughing.

Oh, my fault. And a boy who won’t stop sucking his thumbs so they get cut off, I mean, really sinister. But so sinister they’re funny. That’s the best kind of humour; when you don’t know if you should be laughing or not.

What was your back-up plan, if acting didn’t work out?

I never gave myself one, because then I’d be tempted to fall back on it. Every actor has a time when they’re not working. Luckily I got mine out of the way quite early. If I’d had a fall-back plan, I would have used it. I had a job in a pub for 10 days...was asked to leave for being too sarcastic to the locals, who I didn’t like, and they didn’t like me. I never wanted to be a waiter who was claiming to be an actor, too. But they’re probably brilliant, lots of them.

Do you have a hobby you love nearly as much as acting?

Well yes, the ukelele. (I exclaim I’ve been to see the Ukelele Orchestra) Have you?! I’ve been, too, they’re fantastic. Michael Gambon’s a fan, too. I took a friend who’s a big muso and he loved it. I’ve played for a while. It was more influenced by the Orchestra than Mumford & Sons.

What’s your go-to tune?

I’ve been playing this morning, Bang Bang My Baby Shot Me Down. But I’m not very good, not nearly good enough.. it’s definitely just a hobby! 

Words By Daniela Morosini

Photography By Gabriel Green

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