James Corden may not have been the biggest name in attendance at the press conference for Begin Again , the newest film from John Carney, the writer-director of Once — but he was definitely the funniest. While Adam Levine copped to his lack of acting skills and Mark Ruffalo waxed philosophical about selling out, Corden was cracking jokes about boy bands and keeping things light with stories about drinking on set. It's official: we want him to be our new BFF. Who is James Corden, you ask?
The London native is most famous in the States as the recipient of the 2012 Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Play for his role in the farcical One Man, Two Guvnors. The 35-year-old actor was raised in Buckinghamshire by a musician and a social worker, and loved singing from an early age.
I spent my whole school life forming boy bands. I was in a boy band called Insatiable. We were quite big in the High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire area. We had a song that I wrote called “Girl, You Ready?” which we thought was amazing, but in hindsight I think sounds a bit rape-y. And so it didn’t work. But I think since Adam [Levine]’s heard some of Insatiable’s stuff, I think we’re gonna hook up on some tracks. We’re gonna be called Maroon 6.
Corden's first major role came in 2000 when he starred for four seasons on the drama series Fat Friends as Jaime, a fifteen-year-old bullied for his size. In 2004, he was cast in the play The History Boys at the Royal National Theatre in London. He went on to appear in productions of the show on Broadway, in Sydney, Wellington, and Hong Kong, and in the 2006 film adaptation. Then in 2007, he co-created the BBC comedy Gavin & Stacey with his Fat Friends co-star Ruth Jones. That show ran for three seasons and earned Corden a BAFTA for Best Male Comedy Performance.
After his success with One Man, Two Guvnors, Corden starred in the film One Chance, which told the true story of Britain's Got Talent winner Paul Potts. And now, with Begin Again, the actor is finally being introduced to mainstream American moviegoers. He appears in the film as Steve, the best friend of Greta, the songstress portrayed by Keira Knightley. And what was his favorite part of filming the musical movie? One memory in particular stands out.
I was in a play at the time on Broadway, so I would shoot in the afternoon and get in a car and whisk across town and do the play, and quite often go back after the play and shoot quite a lot — and there was a great time when we were on the subway shooting this montage thing and Mark [Ruffalo] said, “Man, you must be exhausted from just doing the play. You must really need a drink.” And he was holding this Starbucks cup. And I said, “Yeah, I could really use one.” And he just passed me this Starbucks, and it was a vodka tonic. And I really thought, “Well, this is the greatest moment of my life. I’m drinking booze with Mark Ruffalo while shooting a film on the subway.”
Next up for Corden is yet another musical movie, this time an adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's famous fairytale mashup Into The Woods , directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago). Corden stars as The Baker, who ventures into the titular forest with his Wife (Emily Blunt) to break a spell preventing them from bearing children. Along the way they meet a Witch (Meryl Streep), a Wolf (Johnny Depp), Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), and many more popular figures from folklore. The film will open wide on Christmas Day of this year.
Towards the end of the press conference, Corden spoke up about his filmmaking philosophy. It's a little pessimistic at first, but bear with him.
Most things aren’t very good. That’s nothing to do with scale or size or any of those things. Most things aren’t that great, and that’s no fault of anybody — no one sets out to make something bad, sometimes they just are. And the trick is to operate in that 10 percent and acknowledge that sometimes you’ll miss the mark, and sometimes you’ll make mistakes. But those are the only things that teach you to go on and try to operate in that place where you can make something that’s really good. And there’s no better representative of that than [Begin Again], where a group of actors get on board with a director that they love because they’ve seen something that meant something to them [Carney's Once]. And they go, “Yeah, I’m in for this journey with you. Whatever it is and wherever we go, I’m in. And I will absolutely do my best to make sure it sits within that 10 percent.
Whether or not Begin Again falls into that 10 percent of successful films that Corden is talking about, it's nice to see an actor who is so clearly aiming as high as possible. He's already got a BAFTA and a Tony on his mantle, and it feels like he's just getting started. We can't wait until Into The Woods launches him into public awareness that he so well deserves. And in the meantime, we'll be waiting impatiently for that Maroon 6 cover of "Girl, You Ready?"
Catch Begin Again in theaters now, starring Corden, Ruffalo, Knightley, Levine, Catherine Keener, Hailee Steinfeld, and Cee Lo Green.
Images: Getty Images, BBC