James Cosmo (Dawson)
James Cosmo was born in Clydebank Scotland in 1948, he attended the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and also studied at the Bristol Old Vic drama school. Cosmo has numerous credits in film and television. Film credits include Braveheart (1995) where he played Scottish warrior Campbell to Mel Gibson's hero William Wallace, Trainspotting (1996), Troy (2004) and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005).
Question: Have you been here the whole shoot?
James: Yeah, pretty much, I’ve been getting back home for the odd weekend. Pretty full on — just one of those sorts of movies, you’re here as long as they need you.
Question: Tell me about your role and how he figures in the film…
James: I play a character called Dawson who is a farmer in the books, but he is this double-act with George as two local workmen as the young boy Will sees them. He along with George and Merriman, who is Ian McShane, and Miss Greythorne, Frances Conroy, turn out to be these Old Ones, these travelers, who help Will on his journey to find all the symbols.
Question: What with Braveheart, Troy, and the first Narnia film, you seem to end up in period costume fairly frequently…
James: You do tend to get typecast in things, because people see you as your most famous roles. Which is fine, having a niche I work in most. But it is nice to jump out of that occasionally and do something ordinary. But I’m not knocking it. To tell you the truth I am happy sitting on a horse somewhere nice, not that there are any horses in this one. Just doing that action stuff is great fun, and then going back and doing something different.
Question: What makes this film different from other fantasy films like Harry Potter?
James: It’s coming from a very specific genre, like the whole Harry Potter thing. This series of books were reportedly very popular when they first came out, almost the same sort of market interestingly. It’s the flavour of filmmaking for kids at the moment and our producers Walden Media especially seem very keen on promoting this kind of filmmaking. Which is brilliant, because it is a terrific market. I worked for them on Narnia, which has done so well. It must have given them a lot of heart to continue doing films like that. I really enjoy making films like this.
Question: Walden have seen to be threading positive moral messages into adventure stories…
James: This is earthier than Narnia. It is not coming from as specifically a Christian background as Narnia was. It does have a moral message, even with the title — there is good in the world and it must fight its way through against the dark. That is a good thing, lots of films have moral messages, and it is just about how well they are put across, and how good the film is. How overt they are. Maybe Narnia was a bit more overt, but on some levels this film is saying the same thing. I don’t have a problem with that. I think Walden are filling a much needed gap. That sort of film where families can take all their kids – good luck to them.
Question: Is it fair to say the story has been opened up for the American market?
James: Yeah, I think that is a good way of putting it. I don’t think it loses anything in the Americanisation of the family, it fits in quite nicely that this whole thing has been organised in this village at this specific time. It is quite seamless. It won’t offend anyone on either side of the Pond.
Question: Trainspotting screenwriter John Hodge seems an unusual choice to adapt the book…
James: I was surprised. I had worked with David L Cunningham before, I was over in the States when he called me, and he said he was working on this with John Hodge. I went, “John Hodge!! Really?” I haven’t spoken to him, it was nice to hear he was onboard, and it is nice to see a writer changing genre completely.
Question: What is David L Cunningham like as a director?
James: He is a very interesting guy, I worked with him first on a film called To End All Wars, and met him in London — he was just full of enthusiasm.
Question: Is working with special effects as maddening as people say?
James: Somebody was talking about going onto the film Speed Racer, which will nearly be entirely blue screen. To be honest, as an actor, I don’t know how you can make a film like that. Ewan McGregor said Star Wars was an awful experience for him. Blue screen is a very specific tool for very specific uses in specific kinds of film – in a way that is quite heartening, it only fits these kinds of movies. Even in Narnia, the little bit that I did, was all blue screen. And it looks terrific when its down, but it was strange. It’s really hard to maintain any sort of concentration or energy.
Question: What sort of tone would you say this film has?
James: I would think that David is trying to go a bit darker and grittier than say Narnia. Any money they are spending they are spending on specific CGI stuff. Most of it is reality, when the CG comes in it really comes in. Most of it is real life in real places with real people. And I think he is trying to make it slightly grittier.
Question: It feels based in a real historical context…
James: It is, it goes way back. These Old Ones have been traveling for millennia. It is also left open for any other of these books they might want to do.
Question: How was working in Transylvania?
James: It wasn’t anything like Transylvania! It was green and nice and slightly sort of twee German, it wasn’t dark and foreboding. They built some amazing sets, the village, the design has been just phenomenal.
Question: Would you say it has a suitably epic scale to it.
James: Yes, I’ve only seen three or four minutes chopped together at the halfway point to keep our chins up. It does look good. It is not a Christmas movie, but it is set in the ten days leading up to Christmas, the kid chasing around finding the symbols to save the world in this time frame. All the snow was recreated. We went looking for snow, but there wasn’t any. So they had the snow machines out. And you have that nice change between the idyllic English village with the idyllic American family and the contrast with all the dark history.
Dark Is Rising is released in cinemas nationwide on October 19th.