1883 Magazine
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Fresh from filming Mike Newell’s adaptation of Great Expectations, at 23-years-old, Ben Lloyd-Hughes already has a colourful filmography beneath his belt.  First springing onto our screens with his twisted depiction of the mentally unstable Josh Stock, in iconic teen drama, Skins, Ben stars alongside Ralph Fiennes and Holliday Grainger as Dickens’s pernicious and brutish Bentley Drummle.

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Meeting at 1883 HQ, the interview began with Ben’s rather seasonal offer of a satsuma, which he extracted playfully from the depths of his bag - a move that was so refreshingly grounded it was clear he was a far cry from any of his on-screen ‘bad boys’ that he portrays with such accomplishment and ease.

The most important thing to remember when playing a villain is that they have to not believe that they’re the bad guy, you have to believe that you’re in the right.  It sounds simple but to play someone you know the audience will watch and hate you almost have to not anticipate that, you have to be able to think in his opinion, in his world, he’s the good guy. I think if you have to play the nice guy, you do the same things a lot, you’re there for the audience, whereas the villain can sometimes be outrageous, it’s fun!”

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One in a long line of talented actors - his grandfather featuring in a score of ‘50s titles including The Dam Busters and his brother Henry Lloyd-Hughes, the abrasive school bully in Channel 4 comedy, The Inbetweeners - it was being cast as Josh Stock in Skins, a part written especially for him, that gave him the confidence he needed to pursue a career in the performing arts.

Acting is something I’ve always had a passion for and always loved doing, but it was Skins that really confirmed that I was actually good enough to go somewhere with it.  As a young actor you don’t really know until you get thrown in and have a go.  The whole process of Skins made me realise I’d love to do this for a long time and that maybe I was good enough as well.”

While studying at London’s Guildhall School, Ben worked with his brother on the topical Channel 4 docudrama, Miliband of Brothers, in which they characterise the real-life sibling rivals Ed and David Miliband.

We’re very supportive.  He’s a fantastic actor and he is my brother, I’ve got his back and he’s got mine.  We’re very different people but it’s nice to have someone like him to look up to! It was amazing working together, he’s great, I ended up taking his lead,” Ben recounts modestly; “It was very improvisational, which is something he’s very good at.  He inspired me to raise my game!”

Unsure that Ben’s game needed any ‘raising’, 2012 looks to be a fruitful year for the deserving young star with the release of Great Expectations scheduled for late next spring.

I remember Samuel L. Jackson saying that he loved Star Wars so much that in the remakes he would be a Stormtrooper just to be a part of it. For me it’s the same with Great Expectations, I loved the book so much that I would have been anyone, so to be Bentley Drummle is fantastic!”

A keen reader, listing Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea and William Boyd’s Any Human Heart among his favourite books, it is Great Expectations’ closeness to the original novel that he hopes will herald the film’s coming success: “I remember when I first read the script thinking how accurate it was in text and dialogue to the book. Great Expectations is such an institution that there is definitely ‘great expectations’ for a character and what they should be like. Luckily Dickens is so amazing that it’s all in the book, so every morning on my way to set I would take it out and look at my character again.  There are certain times when you panic, but no one can be the perfect anything, so I just had to work with my interpretation and try and be the best Drummle I could be,” Ben smiles.

It is rare that you can go and see a film and think that’s exactly how I imagined it, but it’s so rewarding when you see the odd scene that they get exactly right.  I read Revolutionary Road last summer and watched the film soon after, and remember being so impressed with some of the moments because they were exactly how I pictured them.”

In terms of future projects, Ben is hoping to further his career in theatre:

With theatre I love the process and having so much time to work at it. Film is amazing, but it can be very quick whereas in theatre you get to spend weeks perfecting your performance which is really rewarding and thrilling when it pays off.  It’s all in the pipeline so fingers crossed!”

Don’t miss Ben in the BBC three-part drama The Young James Herriot, starting this Sunday at 9pm.

Words By Rowan Newman

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