Spall's well . . .
“I would have been around 14 or 15. I understand that he wasn’t given a wildly positive prognosis,” Rafe says. “But he got better, and children have an extraordinary way of coping. You tell them awful news and a few days later, they get used to it. I got on with it. I blocked it out of my mind. If we’d lost him, it would have been absolutely catastrophic.”
Rafe was disappointed not to secure a place in Rada. But he never seems to have been short of work. Look hard and you’ll spot him in Shaun of the Dead. He reappeared in the same team’s Hot Fuzz. But he reckons that he didn’t feel entirely secure in his profession until 2011. In that year, we saw Rafe in both Anonymous and One Day.
Then he was cast as the most foolish space traveller in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. That film proved to be both a commercial and critical disappointment. To almost everyone’s surprise, Rafe’s next film, Life of Pi, ended up taking at least 25 per cent more (Ang Lee’s movie is still playing) than its supposedly more commercial predecessor. Spall, who plays the writer who hears Pi’s story, secured the role in unusual circumstances.
“He had shot my entire part with another actor. I believe it was Tobey Maguire,” he says, diplomatically. “And then they wanted to go in a different direction with the character. I was thus in the strange position of being able to watch the whole film. So, I knew we had something special. Mind you, nobody thought it would take €500 million. It’s an art movie, really.”
Life has got complicated for Rafe. Married to Elize du Toit, a star of Hollyoaks, he recently welcomed a second child into the world. The couple live in Maida Vale, some convenient distance from London Zoo and Lord’s Cricket Ground. Having spent most of the summer shooting in Canada, he has had to strive to “make it work”. But he now has a 10-week break before embarking on Owen Harris’s Kill Your Friends.
For now, there is the gamble (for him and Working Title) that is I Give it a Year. On every bus, featured on every chat show (and these pages), the film is certainly hard to avoid.
“Things have got a bit more exciting in recent years,” he confirms. “I am very aware that I Give it a Year is a big deal. It’s all very strange and if this doesn’t do well, then I may not get the chance to be in a romantic comedy again.”
He shrugs philosophically. “But hopefully I will always get to do this job.”
I Give it a Year opens today. The Jameson Dublin International Film Festival opens next Thursday. jdiff.com