The 6' 2" actor was born on the 3rd of June, 1964 in
Taunton, Somerset, England. James B. M. Purefoy was raised in the Taunton/Yeovil area of Somerset, England. He attended the Sherborne School, an all boys, mostly boarding school, nearby in Dorset. Some other well known Sherborne School "old boys" are Jeremy Irons, Nigel Dempster, John Le Carre, Sir David Spedding, the former head of M16, and Cecil Day-Lewis. James Purefoy earned ten "O" levels before entering the London Central School of Drama where he earned an "A" level in Drama. After a six--month tour as "the boy" in "Equus," Purefoy received his Actor's Equity card. He then joined the Royal Shapespeare Company (RSC) where among other roles, he portrayed Edgar in "King Lear," Ferdinand in "The Tempest," and Macduff in "Macbeth." Purefoy moved on to Television and Feature film work mentioned in the filmography here.
as Marc Antony in ROME
Tide of Life ...perhaps
Former 'Hunk of the Year', actor James Purefoy, has had problems attracting interest from the opposite sex.
"There was one woman whom I was absolutely infatuated with, but she had no interest in me," lamented James.
"I was very young at the time and thought the way to prove my love was to write a book for her. It ran for pages and pages and I had it bound in leather to give to her. But it still didn't have the desired effect.
"I can't remember what it was called or even what it was about. It doesn't matter now."
Vanity Fair Star James Purefoy reveals how single fatherhood leaves no time for romance. "I am prouder of JoJo than ever. It is difficult being a dad. But you adjust and get on with it".
Despite having acted since he was a teenager and starred in a number of his films - such as "A Knight's Tale" and "Mansfield Park" - James Purefoy isn't used to being the centre of attention. He looks genuinely embarrassed when he enters the marble lobby of the Regency Hotel on Manhattan's Park Avenue and a woman exclaims: "My God! He's gorgeous! Who is he?"
But the 6ft 1inch actor is going to have to get used to being in the limelight. His latest film, the high-profile "Vanity Fair" had its world premiere in New York last week. Also starring Reese Witherspoon, it looks set to cement James's reputation as one of Britain's most exciting acting talents and propel him to the next level in the fame stakes.
Dressed casually in jeans and a white shirt, the actor is upbeat and friendly - if a little mystified by all the sudden attention he's getting, and not just from women in hotel lobbies. "I am 41 and they're calling me 'a rising star', "he laughs. "Well, it's better than being a falling one!"
That's not something he's likely to have to worry about anytime soon if the buzz surrounding his forthcoming release is anything to go by. Adapted by Julian Fellowes and directed by Mira Nair of "Monsoon Wedding" fame, the film is colourful and bold new version of Thackeray's timeless tale of class struggle and social climbing.
In the film James plays the dashing Rawdon Crawley, who ultimately marries Reese's Becky Sharpe. It was a role he wanted so badly he followed the director halfway around the world to get it. "I stalked Mira Nair", he deadpants, before breaking into a laugh. "I chased her around the globe. It felt they would need a much bigger star to play opposite Reese, so I had to try and convince her. I was working in Galgary when I heard Mira was in New York, so I flew there to meet her. Then I flew from Canada to London to see her again". James smiles sweetly, as if to let you know he's just another harmless actor desperate for the right role, not a psychopatic stalker of directors. "Either she thought I was right for the part or she was very frightened. Either way, she gave me the job".
So what was it like working with Reese? "I haven't got enought nice things to say about her", he says simply. "She's a kind of movie industry of her own, so I expected her to arrive with the big entourage and a phalanx of advisers and PR people, but she didn't have any of that - just one young assistant who basically looked after her daughter Ava while she was working. That was it! I was shocked".
He was also impressed with the way Reeese quickly fitted in with the rest of the cast and crew. "Most of the cast come from subsidised theatre, where the play's the thing, and they bring that approach to a film as well", he says. "Reese dropped so easily into that. There was no ego, no diva attitude at all - which is all the more amazing when you are realise she was nearly eight months pregnant at the end.
"I've got a son so I know what pregnant women can be like - and they can be scary"! he laughs. "But Reese wasn't scary at all and you'd never have known she was even pregnant because she never once developed any kind of hormonal mood swings or anything like that. She was plucky, brave and remarkable. She just got on with it". Because of Reese's pregnancy, which was written into the script, James didn't get to hang out with his co-star after filming, which largely took place in Bath, Cheltenham and London. However he did become her social secretary, telling her where to go to eat and what to see in the capital. "She was mad about this one restaurant, Osteria Basilica in Notting Hill, so I always made sure she could get a table there".
Did James find filming the love scenes uncomfortable? "A lot of actors complain that love scenes are awkward, but I don't find that", he reveals. "If you have a career - like I guess I have - where you do a few of them, you have to just deal with it like anything else".He gives a little snort. "I mean, kissing Reese? How hard is that"?
Born in Taunton, Somerset, James began his acting career when he was in his teens. Having studied drama at A level, he moved to London and enrolled at the Central School of Speech and Drama, later joining the RSC. He has enjoyed a varied career on both stage and screen, and was recently rumoured to be one of the contenders in the running to replace Pierce Brosnan as James Bond. "I honestly haven't heard a word about that", he insists. "I feel that if I was to seen driving in any movie in a dinner jacket and a fast car, that'd start a rumour. Of course, it'd be a great honour. it's such an iconic role, such an interesting part. But you'd also have to think really carefully about doing a job like that, because it's full of pitfalls. I think it's a very risky thing to do as an actor, especially if you want a long an varied career like I do. In terms of longevity, it would stunt it". James, whose interests also include cooking and sculpting, has managed to avoid being pigeonholed as a romantic lead, despite his classic good looks. It is, he says, a very conscious choice. "I always wanted longevity and to be acting right to the moment I die. I always felt it was vital to keep moving and changing and not get typecast". So would he turn down the chance to play 007 if offered the role? "No, I probably wouldn't,"he laughs. "My son would be just so angry if I did. He'd probably never forgive me".
James was reported as saying the birth of his son Joseph in 1997 was his proudest moment. How's fatherhood today? "I am even prouder now", he smiles. "Jojo's here with me in New York and part of the reason I took this big new TV series "Rome" (which he is currently filming) is because I can shoot in in Rome and be with him. Before, I was always away a lot in LA or wherever, and it was difficult for him and difficult for our relationship, with me being away for such long periods in places where he couldn't come and visit easily. But now I can leave work at 3.30 pm and be at home in London in time to tuck him into bed at 7.30 pm. So doing the series for the next four of five months will give our lives some sort of consistency". Time spent with his son is a major reason why the actor would never move to Hollywood. "Although he'd probably love California", laughs James. "Also I'm just too English at heart, I'd miss too much about home".
Ask James how they spend time together and he grins like a big kid himself. "We play lots of Spider Man games - he's totally obsessed with Spider Man. Someone asked me if I'd seen aal of Reese's other films and i would have if I'd had a girl - or if Reese had been in a Spider movie! JoJo dictates all my cinema viewing and he loves movies, so we go together a lot. We also play soccer and games and I force him to do his homework. I'm really quite domestic with him".
Home is currently a house in London's Shepherd's Bush, which the actor totally gutted and rebuilt. "That's where all my money's gone", he admits. "It became this huge, year-long project, but I just couldn't find another house I liked close enough to JoJo's mother, so this was the solution".
Although the pair never married, James says he's still good friend with JoJo's mother, "Waking the Dead Star" Holly Aird. who plays Dr Frankie Wharton in the popular crime series. "We used to live together and now we live just around the corner from each other", he explains. "But we're still very close and see each other a lot. And JoJo lives with her most of the time while I go off and film, as she works mainly in London".
It is difficult being a single parent? "It is", he admits quietly. "But you adjust and get over it. So when JoJo comes here to New York with me like now, it's just me and him. There's no nanny. But it's a weird double life. On the one hand, I do his laundry and make sure he does his homework and eats his vegetables, and on the other I'm busy playing Marc Anthony and leading a legion of a 1.000 men on horseback! It's very odd". Because his son and work are his priorities right now James, who dated Gwyneth Paltrow before she got together with Chris Martin, doesn't have a girlfriend. "It's just so hard maintaining a solid relationship when you're away so much", he says, a little sadly. "I used to have a girlfriend in New York, but it was so hard holding that together and being able to come over and spend time with her, what with JoJo and filming. It just became more and more difficult".
Is there any truth in the rumours that Gwyneth broke his heart? He shakes his head. Are they still in contact? No, but i think if we saw each other we'd be quite able to chat amicably", he explains. "I'm very happy for her and everything that's happened in her life".
Does he ever want to get married? "I honestly don't know", he answers softly. "If I met the right woman, sure. We'll have to wait and see".
Interview: Joanne Nathan/Featspress 2004. Main photos: Sven Arnstein/Staystill
Degrees of Seperation
James Purefoy starred in Bedrooms & Hallways with Jennifer Ehle (of Sunshine and Pride & Prejudice) Hugo Weaving (of Proof with Russell Crowe ), and Kevin McKidd (of Trainspotting with, Ewan McGregor and Jonny Lee Miller , and Hideous Kinky with Kate Winslet . In 1999 James played the part of Thomas Bertram in Mansfield Park which starred Jonny Lee Miller and Frances O'Connor . In A Knight's Tale Purefoy starrs with Rufus Sewell of Dangerous Beauty (which stars Catherine McCormack of Braveheartand Shadow of the Vampire). Heath Ledger also appears along side James in A Knight's Tale. Ledger appeared in The Patriot with Mel Gibson of Braveheart which also starred Sophie Marceau.
Last updated: September 30, 2006