All Hail James Purefoy

12.12.2006

By Alastair McKay

From there, all roads led to Rome, with one of his first big-screen roles being alongside Kevin McKidd (Rome's Vorenus) in the 1998 film Bedrooms and Hallways. 'It was the first'probably the only'British gay 'romcom,'' he says. 'It was all about the fluidity of sexuality. Never say never. You'd be a fool and an unwise man to say never. I haven't as yet had a gay relationship'not since school anyway'but I never say never. That would just be foolish. I know lots of people who've been straight and turned gay; I know lots of people who've been gay and turned straight. I think the more of a big deal we make out of that stuff, the harder it is for people to act how their heart wants to act.'
And at school? 'Anybody who went to an English public [i.e., private] school in the 1970s will have had some kind of a gay experience. You bang 500 adolescent hormonal boys together at exactly the time when they're exploring their sexuality, and don't be surprised if some shenanigans comes out of it. Or shocked.'
With Rome coming to an end, Purefoy has signed up for the pilot of Manchild, Darren Star's male Sex and the City, with John Corbett, Kevin Smith, and Paul Hipp: 'Four blokes in varying degrees of fucked-upness who are trying to deal with the various crises that we at 40ish have.'
Purefoy's character is reportedly a 40-something who sleeps only with girls under 25. In real life he is a serial monogamist. He is currently involved with an art historian''she's supersmart and very strong-minded''and has a 9-year-old son, Joe, from his relationship with English actress Holly Aird. Joe is too young to see much of what his dad gets up to.
'I wouldn't show him Rome,' Purefoy says. 'I don't think he wants to see his dad do that. There are some scenes I've shown him, but I keep my hand hovering over the pause button. I know what's coming. There's gonna come a time when he will watch them. And then he'll go, 'What did you do?'
'He's always saying to me, 'Is he the baddie or is he the goodie?' I'm always saying to him, it's never quite as simple as that. There are baddies and goodies in Star Wars, but I don't really do Star Wars. In some things there are bad people who've got good hearts, or good people who've got bad hearts, and it's just a little bit more ambivalent and ambiguous. Life isn't always black-and-white.'
Mark Antony, he concedes, is mostly bad: 'He's flawed, but he's human. I think the audience can tell that there's hot blood running through those veins.'

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