Were you already a fan of Richard Curtis?
Yes and no. That’s a difficult question to answer as I don’t want to upset Richard! I was a tremendous fan of his early work, such as Blackadder. You know, like a lot of thirty-something men, you think Richard’s films are, if not ‘chick flicks’, then films of the heart and they’re easy to look at and dismiss. But the scripts are always amazing no matter what happens in them, and if you spend any time with Richard at all, which I have in making this film, and so I will now defend him and his honour to the hilt, you realise that that’s what he’s like.
He puts a lot of himself into every film, which not many people do. It’s easy to be negative. I sometimes look at Richard and wonder, ‘Ooh, I wish he would be a bit more grumpy.’ But he’s a very positive person. I love him. He’s like comedy’s headmaster. For the first few months of working with him, I just wanted to stand near him hoping that he’d notice me and like me.
Did you immerse yourself in ’60s music to prepare for playing a DJ?
I did. Absolutely. I didn’t listen to any post-1969 music for the whole time I knew I was going to be a part of the project. I think it was five or six months. On top of that we lived on the boat for four days, three nights and rehearsed on there. You were surrounded by music all the time.
Any favourite tunes?
‘Yesterday Man’ by Chris Andrews, which made it onto the soundtrack. I like to think it’s because I played it constantly during rehearsals. ‘Friday On My Mind’ by the Easybeats, which is great. If an alien came down and you wanted to give him an example of quintessential ’60s music, you’d have to play him/her/it that.
Was it enjoyable filming on a boat?
Yes it was. Half was filmed on the boat in Weymouth and the other half at Shepperton Studios. Every morning we would get on the ship, the music would start, a horn would sound and we would set sail. We’d go out of Weymouth Harbour and into the Solent [the stretch of sea separating the Isle of Wight and the British mainland], we’d anchor up and we’d be on there all day. I think it’s quite strange for the southern coast of England, but the weather was really nice all the time. There was a little bit of bad weather, but not a lot. And just to hang out on a boat between shots, or while you’re at lunch, is great. There were fishing rods and you can play a bit of cricket…
So it was like a cruise?
Yeah. It was. The downside to that is that eventually we had to go back and into the studio and recreate all the interiors to the ship and shoot all of those scenes. In fact, that’s where much of the sea-sickness occurred as the boat was on a massive rocker. They could make it rock really rather hard.
The bulk of the film is about petty squabbles and rivalries between DJs. Were there any rivalries on set?
No, no, no. I wish I could give you some insight into the ego on board a film set, but everyone was amazing. Philip Seymour Hoffman came on board a little later as he was shooting a film elsewhere, and it was like two mighty Silverbacks meeting for the first time. But he is a real gentleman, and even though he’s one of this generation’s finest actors, he’s also a very good comedian.
You have a rather racy love scene in the film.
Well, it’s fairly racy I suppose.
Are you happy doing those types of scenes?
Any preparation techniques?
Straight in. Pants off. I think if you’re going to have a problem with it, you’d have seen it in the script six months before. But you know, it’s business, it’s work. You have to walk that tightrope of respecting the person you’re in the scene with – in this case it’s Gemma Arterton – and making it look like you’re actually in love. And you’ve got to brush your teeth a lot.
Would you ever adopt the look you have in the film and carry it forward to now?
I have carried it off in real life before. I went through a phase of having the Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses, but with an optical lens in and, obviously, a polo neck and a cardigan.
Was that short-lived?
It was. I was a waiter at the time and I kept getting groups of men coming in and going, ‘Roy Orbison! It’s Roy Orbison serving us! Let’s hurt him!’ At that time I was too vain to pull it off.
The Boat That Rocked is now on general release.