James Marsden: the other guy makes his move
After a run of playing jilted boyfriends in tights – and X-Men – James Marsden is on a roll, with turns in 2 Men, Endangered and as John F Kennedy in the Oscar-tipped The Butler
“But the romantic stuff is not my favourite genre,” swears Marsden. “I don’t have a problem doing it. But I never seek it out. It’s more the fact that as an actor certain projects come your way because maybe you look a certain way or maybe people know you can do this because you’ve done it before. And you can fight back and work to change it. But you have to keep working. So you will say ‘yes’ sometimes.”
Far from seeing himself as a romantic idol, Marsden insists he’s still the goofy guy from drama club.
“For me, it was always about being a good mimic,” he says. “I liked putting on somebody else’s clothes and becoming a character. It was not only fun; it was like a really interesting experiment. And I felt like I was good at it. I felt like this was something I could do.”
So I’m guessing he’s not a method actor?
“No way. I can’t take myself that seriously. I wasn’t classically trained. I don’t have any philosophy of acting. I can get in the zone, but I can still switch off. And I think that’s a useful skill because there are so many things happening on a set. I don’t know how you create an environment where you really are the character. Then what are all these people doing here? How do you forget about all the guys running around with cables and lights and cameras and people chatting about football games? If I had to stay in character I think I’d go crazy.”
James Paul Marsden – Jimmy to his friends – was born in Stillwater, Oklahoma in 1973 – the middle son between two older brothers and two younger sisters. His parents were both in sciences: his mother was a nutritionist and his dad was professor of animal sciences and industry at Kansas State University. As a teenager, Jimmy enrolled in Oklahoma State University with a major in broadcast journalism. He left after two years, plumping instead for a move to Hollywood and a series of auditions.
His parents can’t have been too happy when he ran off to join the circus, surely?
“Well, I think they quickly realised that I was not science material,” he says. “I wasn’t going to join the family business any time soon. My talent lay in another area and they were very understanding of that and very supportive. When I moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career, my dad supported me for a year while I was doing drama classes and musicals.”