Interview with Ben Hur Star Jack Hudson

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As Ben-Hur will be hitting the UK cinemas in early September, The Red Bulletin have interviewed star Jack Hudson due for their magazine issue next month, Huston shares his thoughts on what scares him, pushes him onwards and what it’s like to constantly be in the public eye.

The grandson of legendary Hollywood director John Huston, and the nephew of Oscar-winner Anjelica Huston, his surname carries a reputation that could have opened many doors in Tinseltown. But the 33 year-old has never traded on his famous name or privileged background, proving his own worth as an actor the hard way – with various complex and testing roles.

The Red Bulletin: You’re reinterpreting one of the most famous roles in cinema in Ben-Hur. Was that intimidating?

 Jack Huston: I’m one of those rather welcoming people where cinema is concerned; one of those people who realises it’s an art form, it’s a landscape. As an actor you look for roles that are even half as good as the role of Judah Ben-Hur, it’s one of the great roles. The reason why it’s been done so many times is because it’s just one of the great stories. But the style of acting and everything else changes through time, and on this one I was very pleased to ground the character in reality. I tried to bring a very serious realism to the character of Judah Ben-Hur. People try to change, but they really don’t.

Ben Hur is a tortured character in many ways. You’ve played many tortured men in the past, such as Richard Harrow. How do you draw on your own life to inform these performances?

I always come to these parts from a place of love. I have to ‘fall in love’ with the character to play the character. If you fall in love with the character, you start to feel certain things, and I always become very attached to the characters I play. With this role, like with Richard Harrow, I started to feel things that I didn’t know existed when I first read the script, or subsequent readings. It was six months of a brutal shoot – it was beautiful, but I lost 14kg during the shoot to play the slave, and when you see our faces in the chariot races, that’s really us in the chariots, there’s no green screen.

“I have to ‘fall in love’ with the character to play the character”

So it’s really you driving chariots in the film. What was that like?

It was mad. I mean, when do you get the opportunity to do that in life? That’s the crazy thing about this business; you get to experience things that you wouldn’t normally get the chance to experience. There are moments where you’re absolutely convinced you’re going to die, but I think that only adds to the experience. The way I look at it, these guys were like the F1 racers of their time, it was like NASCAR. This was the first real sport, with the spectacle of the arena and the crowds, and we were feeling what they must have been feeling when we were doing it.

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 “There are moments where you’re absolutely convinced you’re going to die, but I think that only adds to the experience”

 There are many actors who would, and have, used their family name to get a leg up into the spotlight, but you haven’t. You’ve forged your own path and taken interesting roles that have defined you individually as an actor. Was it always important to distinguish yourself this way?

I think that I’ve always been trying to make them proud, stand up and do the best possible work I can do. To achieve that, I think not going the average route makes real sense, because you have to take chances. Playing certain characters meant me taking a big chance, a real risk in some ways for my career.

For every Ben-Hur there must be a lot of roles you didn’t win, how do you deal with disappointment?

It’s very hard to get started in this business, so there is a heck of a lot more disappointment when you start out. It’s an uphill battle and you’re just trying to make your way. I’ve had disappointments, but I think I became so attuned to it, I became a bit of a realist about it. You’re never going to be right for every role, so the ones you are right for are the ones worth fighting for.

 “It’s very hard to get started in this business, so there is a heck of a lot more disappointment when you start out. It’s an uphill battle and you’re just trying to make your way”

This is one of the roles that you’ve fought for and won. Are you ready for the type of attention a successful blockbuster can bring?

It’s one of the few parts of this that I find quite difficult, because I’m kind of a homebody – I’ve got my kids, I’ve got my partner [American model Shannan Click]. I’ve also seen it from that very young age, going to visit my aunt, my grandfather, my uncle. So I understand what comes hand in hand with it. I think there’s a healthy dose for everything. I’ve always loved the work, I’ve always enjoyed the creative aspect, but I recognise that there’s a public persona as well as a private one. I think if you can stand by your work, that’s the most important thing.

Find the full article on RedBulletin.com here

 WORDS: JAMES LUXFORD

Photography: ©Brian Higbee