Mad Dogs and Frenchmen: Sacr bleu! What's Gene Hunt doing playing a Parisian journalist Philip Glenister tells all…
22:31 GMT, 16 March 2012
Philip Glenister is not given to musing about his work. He’s a jobbing actor – or at least that’s what he’d have you believe. When asked what made him commit to playing Charles Forestier, a journalist in 19th-century Paris in new film Bel Ami he quips, ‘I was free on a Tuesday.’
But much about Philip is a front. Behind the gruff exterior – which he used to great effect as the brash DCI Gene Hunt in Life On Mars and its sequel Ashes To Ashes – is not quite a softie, but certainly someone who cares about his craft and works hard. He just likes to joke about it.
I ask him whether he had any journalists in mind when playing Forestier, the man who gives Robert Pattinson’s caddish character Georges Duroy his big break. ‘I based it on Piers Morgan,’ he says with a cackle.
Period drama: Philip with Robert Pattinson in Bel Ami, which is set in 19th-century Paris
Forestier and his wife, Madeleine,
played by Uma Thurman, take Duroy under their wing, and she advises him
the best way to get on in Paris is via the city’s most influential
wives. Duroy embarks on some torrid affairs and steamy bedroom scenes as
he scales the social ladder.
So how was it working with such impressive actors on the risqu period drama Word is, Uma can be temperamental. ‘She’s bonkers,’ he jokes. And then there was Robert, one of the hottest actors in the world thanks to his role in the Twilight films. ‘We were filming at a house in Hertfordshire adjoining a school. The pupils got wind of it and started chanting, “Robert, Robert”. We had to threaten them with cattle prods!’
Philip knows much about diehard fans too. Life On Mars and Ashes To Ashes ran for four years in total, from 2006 to 2010, and the public’s love for DCI Hunt kept growing. The success of that role ensured he’s been busy ever since. He has just been seen in the second series of Mad Dogs on Sky1, about a group of friends who go to Majorca and get caught up in a world of crime and he’s been in South Africa filming the third series with John Simm, Marc Warren and Max Beesley. He had his 49th birthday on the set, and got a bit of ribbing from the rest of the (slightly) younger cast. But he doesn’t sound too concerned about it.
'She's bonkers!: Philip on his co-star Uma Thurman, who plays his wife Madeleine
‘Obviously as you get older you start looking after yourself. One has to curb one’s excesses.’ He seems to be referring to boozing, and says he’s ‘pretty much given up smoking’. And he was certainly never as wayward as Charles Forestier, who consorts with ladies of the night; ‘I’m quite dull in that respect.’ He admits, though, that he’s drawn to dark characters as an actor. ‘They’re more interesting to play.’
His real life is anything but dark – a happy home in Richmond, south-west London with his wife, actress Beth Goddard and daughters Millie, nine, and Charlotte, six.
‘A job like this can be terribly fickle. It’s nice to get home and back to normality.’ After an extremely busy few years that have taken him away, Philip at last finds himself with no specific jobs to go to outside of Mad Dogs. He’s contemplating going back to the theatre but says there are no concrete plans. ‘Part of the joy of doing this is what’s round the corner.’
Bel Ami is in cinemas now.
Success : Philip as DCI Gene Hunt in Life On Mars