|THE SMART MONEY IS IN BRUCE PAYNE||
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Thanks to www.agirlwholovesbrucepayne.com for letting me use this article!
Bruce Payne by John Hind / Photography John Stoddart.
Like his contemporary Tim Roth, Bruce Payne is typical of a new breed of British actor: Diligent, Intelligent, Level-Headed. He got rave revues for his part as Flicker in Absolute Beginners but isn't getting carried away.
The Psychological Roots of any determined career seem infinitely varied, but Bruce Payne, an actor based in Kilburn, North London, hones his down to three sources: a mentally enlightening two-year teenage ordeal with Spina Bifida, a meticulous father who was "putting up shelves when I was born" and a youthful obsession with the finer points of editing in German and Japanese films.
The quintessential young, disciplined Eighties artisan, Payne holds no truck with the box-office star-system and hopes that his mother will never recognise him "from one film to the next". He desires the career longevity of "a long swimmer, a lifer ... a 70 - yearer."
This, no doubt, will entail perennial cinematic confusion for his mother, if his four diverse roles this year are anything to go by. He played Flicker, the "pompous and pathetic racist", in the recent Absolute Beginners; a loyal, butch snooker manager in the new, experimental but uneven Billy The Kid and the Green-Baize Vampire; and he will soon appear as Dogger, an "albino-rasta" bounty hunter in Solarbabies; as well as MacNiece, a "murderous" computer hacker and impersonator in Smart Money.
By his friends and acquaintances only, Bruce can also be seen doing blinding impersonations of Sylvester Stallone as Rocky. The state of America is a recurrent theme of conversation in the Payne household. "Do you know there was actually a film made called U.S. Attack, about a fictional raid on Libya? Terrifying... I must say it's proven very difficult getting a morgage while America is run by an actor."
An angry but intelligent performer from a similar mould as Tim Roth, Payne started up as a regular bluffed-entry stowaway on the film lots of Shepperton Studios, wondering whether his consuming ambition was just taking him for a ride. But with nil actual experience he achieved a smooth entry into RADA, where he cut his teeth on roles in Cabaret, The Cherry Orchard, 'Tis Pity She's A Whore and the like, receiving an award for comedy. "They must have given it to the wrong guy," he considers.
Since then his professional work has been "completely non-smiling" but, much to his pleasure, varied and intense. There have been a number of roles in the stage and screen versions of Steven Berkoff's West; he played a different class of queen in Privates on Parade, and the dedicated fanatical undercover hippy policeman Malcolm Pollard in the TV film Operation Julie (in which his mother had the greatest difficulty recognising him).
Payne admits to three varying approaches to auditions, all having proven successful in the past. They involve "learning source-material at length and as much about the director as possible; going in with just one character vibe; or going in completely unarmed - the latter being the most exciting."
The latter is how he attacked the Julie audition, having only been informed of it the previous evening. "The director gave me as good as I gave him - long stares and intense looks. He said he chose me almost instantaneously."
With a performance commisioned, Payne overhauls his home in the manner method-acting zealots are accustomed to, wallpapering all surfaces with relevant photos, clippings, memorabilia and research material garnered from heavy sessions at Hendon Library. He quotes one of his RADA teachers, a certain Madam Fedro: "There is only one reason you cannot work or rehearse - that is when you are dead."
Whilst Payne has earned broad acclaim for what one critic called his "meaty, saving-grace performance" in Absolute Beginners, it will be equally interesting to witness reaction to Alan Johnson's forthcoming Solarbabies ( a Mel Brooks production). Playing the confused but agile Dogger against Alexei Sayle's Malice, the duo travel dusty climes in the rear end of a Cadillac, with a Chesterfield sofa for comfort, being dragged rickshaw like by whomever they can get to pull (usually themselves) ... Could these two be a Laurel and Hardy for the 22nd Century?
Until then, Payne must content himself with closer horizons. Hollywood beckons. "But with a small 'h',"he insits, passport photos in the pocket.
Copyright The Face Magazine June, 1986.