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Gentlemen's Journal – Sibling rivalry in the first family of British film
Though I doubt either would be particularly thrilled by the comparison, the Fox family and the Royal family have a great deal in common. They’re both sprawling, ancient dynasties with deeply unconventional upbringings; they’re both representative of plucky British defiance against the new world order; and neither of them is going anywhere anytime soon, whether you like it or not.
In fact, Laurence and Jack, brothers from the current ruling generation, are a little like William and Harry, albeit from an alternate universe — both are tall, in their mid-30s, well-spoken and handsome. But there the similarities end. We doubt, for example,
that were we to put a dictaphone between the princes and ask them to interview each other, we’d get stories of inter-sibling murder, rank nepotism, and bludgeoning James Corden to death at bedtime. Here, in their own inimitable words, is the brothers’ candid take on living as actors and life as a Fox.
Jack interviews Laurence:
JF: Laurence, thanks for coming. We couldn’t get who we actually wanted, so we went for you. Now, I know you
are a bit of a jack-of-all-trades. What do you think
you’re best at — singing, acting or dancing?
LF: I’m definitely not very good at dancing. I know that
because I’ve seen videos of myself and I want to cry.
Baby giraffe legs. I’m not very good at singing, either; I’m good at howling. And I don’t do much acting nowadays.
I try not to move my face and just look mysterious.
JF: Is it true that the rhythm is going to get you?
LF: Yes. Well, the rhythm’s always going to get you. Your
heart rhythm will eventually stop and you’ll die.
JF: What is the worst lyric you’ve ever written?
LF: MY WORST LYRIC? “SHE HANDS OUT HER CASE FOR CHRIST. I AM DEAD AND SHE’S ALIVE ”
JF: I see. Do you still get nervous in auditions?
LF: Yes. I don’t want to be there, I just wish they’d give me
the job, like any sane human.
JF: Who is the best actor in the family?
LF: You are. By a long, long shot. Or…
JF: No, no — you can stop right there… that’s all we need for the ego. What’s your idea of perfect happiness?
JF: Isn’t that a gym?
LF: No, it’s a line from a play I just did.
JF: Oh. What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given? Is it “Laurence, you should do this interview with Jack, it’ll be great?”
LF: The worst piece of advice I’ve ever been given is any piece of advice I’ve been given.
JF: That’s pithy. I’m not sure that it means anything but I like it. What are you most proud of in your career?
LF: I’ve only had one career and that’s Lewis. So making Kevin Whately look like a half-decent actor. No, what
I’m most proud of in my career is that I still have one.
JF: Which subject gets you most animated?
LF: Feminism. Because I’m a real feminist and I don’t think there are enough of them in the world. I love the writer Camille Paglia.
JF: Don’t know her. What traits do you think you have inherited from our father?
LF: Deep impatience.
JF: What do you most dislike about your appearance?
LF: I don’t like my long giraffe neck.
JF: Better that than no neck, though. What are you most excited about for 2018?
LF: That my house will be ready. And my meadow will be growing. And I’ll have little orchards and a little log cabin.
JF: What word or phrase do you most overuse?
JF: Which role would you most like to play? Perhaps you could play “young dad”, and I could play “younger dad”?
LF: I’ve told you I’d like to play Benedict Cumberbatch or Tom Hiddleston, in a film of their life, directed by them.
JF: I’ve started to think maybe the whole world has got it right and I’ve got it wrong, and Tom Hiddleston is actually an amazing actor.
LF: You’re just an actor — actors always think any actor who’s doing better than them is a complete bastard.
JF: That’s probably it. What would you most like to change about the world of acting?
LF: I’d like all of the actors to stop and there to be only
one part. “You just do whatever you like, and we’ll
stop and applaud every five minutes.”
JF: “Congratulations Laurence, you’ve made call back!
It’s you versus you!” Okay, what advice would you
give to your 16-year-old self?
LF: Don’t start smoking, mate.
JF: Finally, what do you most admire about me?
LF: I think that you’re stoic, you’re not over-emotional,
and you’re very, very kind.
Laurence interviews Jack:
LF: Thanks very much for joining us, Jack. I’d like to ask you a few questions if that’s alright?
JF: It would be my pleasure.
LF: Why did you become an actor? The “why” wasn’t meant to sound so loaded, by the way…
JF: I never wanted to work behind a desk. I couldn’t abide the thought of it. Although, eventually, that’s probably where I’ll end up. I liked the idea of being an actor, and then I wanted to be an actor because I liked being an actor. But initially it was definitely just because I liked the idea of it.
LF: What is the most striking memory from your childhood?
JF: Me and you used to play Lego, do you remember? We had boxes and boxes of it and I had to pick out three-ers and four-ers and give them to you.
LF: I do that with my own children now. “Get Daddy a
three-er. I’m building a spaceship!”
JF: That was one of my strong memories. That and when
Dad blamed you for breaking the hi-fi.
LF: He was changing the plug, and then the phone rang, and then the hi-fi didn’t work, and I was put forward as a sacrificial lamb and beaten for it.
JF: But to be fair you did also set fire to Lydia [their sister].
LF: Yes, I did try to kill Lydia. I think we should move on. Jack, how would you describe your personal style?
JF: Like you but better.
LF: Who is your biggest acting influence?
JF: Dad. He’s the best, as a general influence, and also as an acting influence. But I haven’t watched many performances of his. I’m saving them for when he’s
dead. Do you do that? People get really freaked out
when I tell them that.
LF: Do you have any stage superstitions?
JF: I used to listen to Ariana Grande before I went on
stage with Dear Lupin, and then I changed it to Katie Perry’s “Roar”; I feel like that’s a cliché, but then they
did hear me roar. I think that’s why The Stage didn’t
like the play.
LF: Did you not get a good review? I was once described as having a face that belonged in the winner’s enclosure at Aintree. But at least it was the winner’s enclosure. Jack, when was the last time you lied?
LF: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
JF: Take the rough with the smooth, I think.
LF: Which director would you most like to work with?
JF: Scorsese. Or Tarantino. I’d like to work with him
because I think he would be completely nuts. My favourite Tarantino moment is in Django Unchained when he appears as an American soldier with an Australian accent.
LF: What is your biggest failure or regret?
JF: Not going into professional football. Now that I’m 32
I think to myself, “I’m the same age as Wayne Rooney.”
LF: Who would you say is the biggest attention seeker
in our family?
JF: It’s a close-run thing between me and you. I’ve got a strong memory of you really upsetting Dad once because he was trying to watch a WWII documentary and you kept pretending to be a German fighter pilot. I remember Tom [another brother] snapped a pair of sunglasses he was given on his birthday and threw them into the neighbour’s garden. I used to write Mum and Dad letters saying I was going to leave. I was six and I’d slide them under the door. They used to say things like, “I’m going this time, you won’t know where I am.”
LF: They probably didn’t care. What is your idea of
JF: Sleeping well at night. I can’t sleep well at all at the moment. The other happiness would be having
James Corden sing me to sleep.
LF: And then watching someone take a hammer to him, perhaps? Which word or phrase do you most overuse?
JF: I say the word “like” a lot.
LF: What was your least favourite subject at school?
JF: Maths. I used to get presence slips at maths. Most
people got absence slips to say that they hadn’t gone
to class, but I went so little that I got presence slips to
say that I had gone to class! But then I did it for GCSE, and for A-level. I got a U in it at A-level.
LF: I got an X for one A-level — Japanese. Didn’t turn up. Finally, what’s the biggest cliché in the acting world?