The Times, 16 March 2013.
At 32, he has done Shakespeare, Keats, BBC drama and Bond - but Ben Whishaw is still poster boy for the shy. He tells Andrew Billen about fans, hair cuts and taking the West End stage with Dame Judi.
Pedants quibbled over the authenticity of Abi Morgan’s The Hour, BBC Two’s drama about the birth of current affairs television in the Fifties, but one thing the production got so right was Ben Whishaw’s hair. Whishaw played Freddie Lyon, a trouble-making journalist who was a spit for the young Charles Wheeler, the corporation’s great, feisty former Washington correspondent whose hair piled in layers on top of his forehead, adding intimidating inches to a slight man’s height. Freddie Lyon’s hair was a similarly magnificent confection: an epic in Bakelite black, a Brylcreemed token of the ego that powered the integrity.
“Charles Wheeler?” Whishaw laughs. “I don’t even know who that is.” Despite his long CV, which stretches back from a break-through Hamlet when he was but 23 to the James Bond film Skyfall, he is only 32, not yet born when Wheeler was on the Watergate trail. But much in the way The Hour’s investigations proceeded - as much by luck as judgment - I may have hit on something. Whishaw is a versatile actor, as the five parts he takes in the film Cloud Atlas attest, but if he has a trademark, his hair is it: foppishly parted when its owner played Sebastian Flyte in Brideshead Revisited, tousled and pop starry in the Keats biopic Bright Star, nerdily in need of conditioner in Skyfall, in which Whishaw was the new Q, Beatle-like in Criminal Justice - and in his soon-to-open West End play, Peter and Alice, written by the Skyfall co-writer John Logan, who knows?
Yet for years, his hair was an embarrassment to him. “I used to shave my head when I was a teenager. I hated my hair. All through drama school I had it shaved. I did a talk to students at RADA a month ago and I was looking at the passport photos of my year group and I saw my shaved head. It was too big, too much.”
Fourth and Main’s behind-the-scenes video for Ben’s photoshoot this issue.
On another note: I’m really glad I’m not a model, because all photoshoots look horribly awkward beyond belief. But Ben’s rather beautiful, so I won’t complain about watching.
“There are whole movements I wrote imagining us meeting again and again in different lives and different ages.”
I think it’ll be the first time in my life that I’m gonna really get in a theatre to watch a Bond movie, purely for this Ben; I’d watch anything Javier’s in as well, but he’s in lots of movies as a leading actor, and those movies happen to be the kind of movies I’ll go to theatres to see, especially his Spanish films, so I don’t particularly feel the urge to see Skyfall for him as the major villain, though judging by reviews, this villain may be the most intriguing one in the Bond franchise and I never had any doubts that Javier would be great.
Fourth & Main sure knows how to market! They’ve shared these behind-the-scenes pics from their photoshoot with Ben. The spread will appear in their 2nd issue, in September—can’t wait!
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006)
Ugh he’s gonna be so badass as Richard II