I now say to Michael Winterbottom
], ‘Well what am I doing?’ He doesn’t talk much, he doesn’t say much when he directs. We have a few conversations and then you sort of get on with it. [
Our working relationship
] is very workmanlike but it’s quite intuitive and feels very organic, and we don’t have lots of long conversations. He just turns up and says, ‘Let’s do this,’ and you do something and he goes, ‘Maybe do a bit more of that,’ and you say, ‘Why don’t I do this?’ and he says, ‘OK.’ You just try things and some things are real some things aren’t.
“I knew who Paul Raymond was, and I’d read about him. I’d seen him on the back of these soft porn magazines so I knew a little bit about who he was and I knew that he’d had tragedy in his life - his daughter died - and he had been quite rich and he seemed to always dress immaculately.
“So just from the bare bones of the story I was like, ‘Who is that guy?’ He seemed quite interesting, interesting enough for us to do enough research and we found some interesting things out about him. At one point he was Britain’s richest man, and you think, ‘How did that happen?’ He died owning half of Soho. All that became very interesting to me.
When playing a real-life character
], I find out what they were like in reality and try to imagine what it would be like to be that person. Or to try and think, ‘He was real,’ and not be scared by that that. And of course when you’re surrounded by the paraphernalia and the people it becomes very easy because you’re sat there and there’s someone being your wife, someone being your daughter, and so it’s easy for you to re-imagine yourself as them.
“Having said that, you don’t feel slavebound, so I would use aspects of me to put on top of that. You can’t eviscerate yourself completely from the role - I’m sure Daniel Day-Lewis can but I can’t! - so I put a bit of me in with a bit of Paul Raymond: you come up with a sort of cocktail. It’s not a documentary, it’s an impressionistic portrayal of a real person. I think I made Paul slightly wittier than he was, I think he was a bit drier than I portray him but there’s certain things about him, an essence of truth about him. I think I capture his slightly stuffy repressed nature and I think it’s very true to how he was."
The Look Of Love
opens in the UK on 26 April 2013.