Interview: James Corden celebrates his transformation into a movie star

TTHE EXPRESS Oct 28, 2013

If just a fraction of those people watch the movie about his journey to that life-changing moment, One Chance, then James Corden will be celebrating his own transformational moment: to that of movie star.

“I don’t know about that” says a relaxed and trim Corden who plays the crooked-teethed former Carphone Warehouse salesman. “I think we’ve made a really nice, sweet and uplifting film and we’re all very proud of it.

But I certainly don’t feel like ‘this is it! I’m in one film people like so it’s done now.’”

One man who does, however, is Harvey Weinstein, the legendary movie mogul and one of the picture’s producers along with Simon Cowell. He believed in the film and Corden so much that he bought the script from Paramount when the studio went cold on the project.

Last week he was predicting awards for the Gavin & Stacey star who has conquered the stage and small screen but thus far on the big screen is best known for a misstep – 2009’s little loved Lesbian Vampire Killers.

“James Corden is definitely going to be up for a Golden Globe or an Oscar, it’s that kind of performance” trumpeted Weinstein last week.

The producer knew Corden was perfect for the part after seeing him in the Broadway transfer of comedy smash One Man,Two Guvnors for which Corden won a Tony Award, beating favourite Philip Seymour Hoffman.

So would Corden agree that Harvey is his Simon Cowell, steering him to big time stardom? Corden smiles at the suggestion. “I’ve got a lot of time for Harvey, I like him very, very much. I’ll be forever thankful for his unrelenting encouragement of me and my career from the moment he came to see me in the play. He hasn’t really let up.”

Indeed, at the Toronto Film Festival last month Weinstein bought for distribution a movie in which Corden stars alongside Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo called Can A Song Save Your Life? Shortly afterwards the star was signed up by powerful Hollywood agency CAA.

An Oscar nomination for One Chance may be pushing it (the competition is intense this year) but a Golden Globe nomination in the musical and comedy category is certainly within reach.

Corden gives a touching and funny performance as the shy, insecure Potts who pursues his unlikely dream while working at Carphone Warehouse in Port Talbot, encouraged by his girlfriend Julie-Anne, played by Alexandra Roach.

He admits that when he first heard that Paul Potts’ life was being turned into a film, his initial thought was: “Really? Honestly? Why?’”

However, after meeting the American director David Frankel, whose credits include hits like A Devil Wears Prada and Marley & Me, he quickly “got it”.

“David said: ‘Let’s be clear, we’re not making a film about a boy who wins Britain’s Got Talent. We’re making a film about a boy from an industrial steel town in Wales who dreams of being an opera singer in a world where no one really listens to opera, let alone wants to be a singer.”

In other words it’s another classic British underdog story in the vein of Billy Elliot or Brassed Off but with a more lighthearted comic tone (Sacha Baron Cohen collaborator Dan Mazer did a script polish).

The role is a perfect fit for Corden who is very funny and improvised several of his own jokes.

“I think the important thing for me was to find a charm in him that makes you root for him. That’s what’s important and I would hope that I’ve pulled it off.”

He may not have suffered bullying like Potts did  – at school the quick-witted Corden defused any potential tormentors with his humour  – but he certainly understands the urge to perform.

“I don’t really remember a time I didn’t want to” says Corden, 35, who grew up in Hazlemere, Buckinghamshire and started acting straight after leaving school aged 17.

In the film Potts says he is only truly happy when listening to or singing opera. I ask Corden if he’s only truly happy when acting.

“I certainly felt that when I was doing One Man, Two Guvnors” he says. “There were nights when I was doing that show that I genuinely genuinely thought ‘I never ever want this moment to stop’ because it’s so intoxicating. That feeling of 1200 people laughing on a look or an arched eyebrow. You feel like a conductor and laughs are your orchestra. You’re just in complete control.”

The big difference between him and the Potts of One Chance who suffers the taunts of his steelworker father is the support he enjoyed from his dad growing up, a musician in the RAF.

“I grew up with a dad who would say ‘the difference between doing something and not doing something is doing something. So do it. Don’t talk about it. The only thing stopping you doing it is you.’

“If you grow up in a household like that you really do have a sort of confidence which instead of asking ‘why should it be me?’ constantly asks ‘why not me?’”

That confidence nearly got the better of him in 2009 when all his success seemed to be going to his head, along with large amounts of alcohol.

He famously stuck it to Sir Patrick Stewart after a perceived insult at an awards ceremony and, while picking up a second BAFTA for his TV show Gavin & Stacey, complained that he hadn’t been nominated for a third.

That was before a few career setbacks and family life calmed him down; he married TV producer Julia Carey last year and they have young son Max.

Now he’s more popular, prolific and hard-working than ever. We meet in London during a quick break in filming his latest movie, Into The Woods, a big budget adaptation of the Eighties musical by Stephen Sondheim based on the plots of several Brothers Grimm fairytales.

H’s part of crackerjack cast including Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp and Emily Blunt. Corden plays The Baker, a role once earmarked for Billy Crystal in a previous incarnation of the project.

“When I did the workshop in New York last year it was genuinely always at the back of mind that I’d do the workshop and then they’d cast someone very famous” says Corden. “But God bless Rob (director Rob Marshall) for sticking by me. I’ll forever be thankful for the sort of risk he’s taken on me because it’s part of my dreams really.”

Corden won’t even be giving himself much of a break over Christmas. He’ll be using the time to write a Christmas comedy with Mathew Baynton, his co-star and writing partner on recent TV hit The Wrong Mans.

It’s called School For Santas and Corden is developing the project with UK hit maker Working Title. “We thought it was important to write it at Christmas” he says before telling me the plot. In confidence.

All I can say is, it sounds like another tailor-made Corden classic.