Actor Dominic Cooper, most well known from his role of Sky in the film version of Mamma Mia!, has also appeared in History Boys, Starter For Ten and An Education. In his latest film, Tamara Drewe, he plays a rock star drummer who seduces Gemma Arterton’s Tamara. Dominic was recently in London with Gemma, director Stephen Frears and co-star Tamsin Grieg, and he spoke about drum lessons, being typecast and making music.
How different is it for the cast to have the graphic novel as a resource, even if the character looks nothing like you?
Dominic Cooper (DC):
It’s a wonderful representation that she’s drawn on a drummer in a band, who often hides behind the shadows of the rest. You never know who the drummer is, even from your most favourite band, I’m sure they could walk past you and you wouldn’t have a clue who they were.
I think it was important that we made this particular character slightly more exuberant and more of a frontman really. We spoke a fair bit about that, and about the look of him. So I didn’t find it helpful... it was great to understand how she perceived him but I think for how he was perceived in the film to make it a bit more... to have more rock and roll about him really, in terms of his dress and his hair and in terms of his attitude. And have him be a bit less of a drummer, really.
What are your musical influences, and is Nathan Cooper [credited with some of the music] any relation?
Yeah, he’s my brother. I think when I knew we had to put a band together and had to be believable as a successful band around now, that young teenage girls would be obsessed with, I thought it was important to make sure that the music was believable. I think more often than not when you see bands in films they’re absolutely terrible. My brother is in a band, so we thought he could - and we kind of auditioned it and Stephen liked the sound of music that we were putting together. And we collaborated and wrote some stuff that we got to perform in front of an audience who were obligated to like the music. So that was perfect really.
Was that a real festival?
Yeah, a very family orientated, friendly festival who didn’t necessarily like the language we were using, and shouting towards them. They seemed to enjoy it, it was good fun, and it was great to make music and work with my brother on the music.
Is Jailbait Jodie [song on the end credits] due a release?
Do you ever worry about being typecast as caddish characters, as you seem to have played a few?
I don’t really see them as being that. Do I worry about it? Yes. They’re fun to play, you can’t ask for more than doing this sort of, some of these characters, there’s a danger of them becoming caricatures. There’s a simplicity to this guy, and yes he is arrogant and full of himself, and he’s off bonking in the bushes. But they’re always exciting parts to play. I’d much rather that, as long as they’re challenging and different, each one is very different from the next. So not really, I don’t feel they have all been like that.
Did you check out Terence Stamp and Julie Christie in the film of Far From The Madding Crowd?
He had the sword for the seduction scene, and I was given a pair of chopsticks to do the same.
How is it for you when you go home, given the career you now have?
When you spend so much time away from home, travelling around doing things like this, talking about yourself too much which is often very painful. But actually to come home and just be amongst people who know you extremely well, who you can’t pretend to be anything other than yourself in front of, is a relief really. It gives you a sense of who you are again. You just don’t get any time at home, it’s such an existence of feeling very unsettled and travelling around. It’s great.
And that’s what’s beautiful about the character of Tamara, who has obviously been very upset by the death of her mother, and is longing to know who she is and where she belongs. I suppose we all try and do that, and if you have that, if you’re lucky enough to have that and you’re lucky enough to have a group of friends and a family somewhere – and all of my friends are from school when I was four or five, it’s perfect, you remind yourself who you are and that you’re no better or more special than anyone else no matter what you do or even if you have a film and TV career.
Were you in bands in your youth?
Yeah, they were dreadful. I was the lead singer, but they were all not very good. There was a terrible mixture. I had one brother who was very much into bad 80s Nik Kershaw-Howard Jones-Duran Duran music and a much older brother who was into soul, and my mum was into classical, so I had an amalgamation of very, very different music styles which came out as something quite appalling.
Where did the drumming come from for this?
I had some lessons, and got really into it and loved it. I went completely over the top and bought myself a drum kit and thought I’d do it for the rest of my life. I got letters from Camden Council asking me to leave the premises immediately, a number of times. And now of course as soon as the film wrapped it went into a box and I’ve not seen it since. But I took to it quite... I loved it actually. And the drummer is definitely the hidden hero of a band, they really hold the music together. It’s actually a really difficult job, and as I said before they’re very much hidden, they’re not the celebrity, they’re not the frontman so they get the best of both worlds really. But I loved every minute of it.