Matt Lucas left his Little Britain creations behind when he took on a film role with a difference in Small Apartments. By James Cooney.
What attracted you to Small Apartments, a black comedy with an indie feel?
I enjoyed the script because it didn’t play by the rules. I also like the idea of trying to stretch myself a bit. The film’s kind of funny but it’s also kind of sad. It’s not slapstick comedy and there’s a really interesting cast. I was also interested in the challenge of keeping an American accent for the duration. I had a dialect coach and used to keep the accent throughout the day.
You get about for most of the film in your underwear. Was that tough?
When we were filming it was incredibly hot and occasionally really cold. Most film sets are freezing cold or boiling hot. Most of the time when you’re in a small room with all the lights on it’s sweltering. But when I saw myself on screen I thought, “Oh Matt, it’s time to go on a diet.”
Director Jonas Akerlund said that he wasn’t sure there was anyone in Hollywood brave enough to play your role of Franklin Franklin. Are you a courageous actor?
I’m not a romantic lead by any stretch of the imagination. It’s not like I’m someone who is really handsome that’s shaved their head and put on a ton of weight… I know my place. It means that some roles are not available to me, but others are. But when I looked at the film and saw the mass of wobbling flesh I thought to myself, “You’re not brave, you’re just stupid.” I try not to have vanity because it can get in the way of good art.
The cast includes everyone from James Caan and Rebel Wilson. Any funny stories from the set?
Peter Stormare, who plays the landlord, tries to sexually violate me in one scene. I didn’t realise that a split second before the take he took out his genuine member. I was in genuine shock, and I think you see that on screen.
Was fellow cast member Johnny Knoxville well behaved?
He is a very warm person. He’s a really gentle soul and he was always interested to hear my theories about the homoeroticism of the Jackass movies. If you look at a guy who’s getting his nuts smashed by a hammer and then jump forward to [Knoxville’s character] Tommy Balls’ death scene in the movie – it’s some leap.
In terms of your career, when did you know you’d made it big?
I never thought I’d made it big. I thought Little Britain had made it big – sometimes you’d be doing a signing with thousands of people clamouring, or when we did our tour and sold several thousand tickets in a day. Then I’d think, “Wow this is really big.” In America, some people know me from Little Britain, but I’m better known in America for a five-minute cameo in Bridesmaids. I don’t generally take myself that seriously as an actor. I like acting, but I’m not Brando and my expectations aren’t hugely overwhelming.
What are your obsessions outside of work?
Soccer. I’m a big Arsenal fan and it has ruined friendships because in the world of theatre, people look at you blankly or walk away when you mention it. My other great and equally damaging hobby is eating chocolate which is supremely detrimental to my health, but I don’t drink or do drugs.
What’s your favourite chocolate?
That’s hard; it’s like asking which of my children I love the most. In times of need, when you’re running for a train and you’ve got 15 seconds as you pass the kiosk, what are you going to grab? I seem to land on a Twix – because I know what I’m going to get. I know I’m not just getting the caramel, but I’m getting the chocolate and the biscuit. And I’ve also got two. I’m partial to a Curly Wurly, too, but I’ve lost two fillings to them over the years.
It’s the liquorice in the middle that does that, right?
It’s the caramel in the middle! You’ve just gone down in my estimation. Right, this interview is over!
Two of Lucas’ most memorable Little Britain creations: ‘Invalid’ Andy Pipkin (below) and Chav Vicky Pollard (bottom).