With his curly mop and oversized jeans with braces Reece Ritchie looks like an old fashioned circus clown.
Admittedly there’s no squeaky red nose, spinning bow tie or bucket of glitter, but the fact that the 25-year-old is matching the outfit with some outlandish funny faces for INDUSTRIA’s photographer means he comes across as more Bozo than Blue Steel.
Which is a good thing as it fits nicely with a swerve in Ritchie’s career direction: after a string of serious roles in the likes of 10,000 BC, Lovely Bones, Prince of Persia and TV drama White Heat, he is attempting to earn his comedy spurs alongside David ‘Only Fools and Horses’ Jason in BBC sitcom Pearly Gates. Set in a Yorkshire undertakers, Ritchie plays a part time curry house worker/hearse driver and with Jason directing as well as starring in the show it’s meant the Suffolk actor has had to bring his A game to impress the comedy legend.
“I don’t want to be an actor who just calls it in. That’s why I push myself to try and do different things. In this it’s the first time I’m ‘the comedy guy’”, he says. “I had to drive a 1940s hearse and the clutch was quite tricky, there was no way you could put it into first without it jerking forward. However when you reversed it the ride was smooth. I’m already shitting my pants as I have to drive around these steep Yorkshire hills with a national treasure in the back so I turn around to David and say, ‘Just to warn you but the clutch jumps and there’s nothing I can do’. Sure enough we start filming, lurch forward and I can see him in the mirror going, ‘Fucking hell’. The stunt guy then reverses it back for another take and of course, as it’s in reverse, it goes nice and smoothly. When I climb back in David goes, ‘How come when ‘e does it it’s all bloody smooth, and when you done it we’re all bloody hitting our heads against the windows’. I turn around trying to justify myself and he’s got this twinkle in his eye and is in fits of laughter.”
It would be wrong to say Ritchie is a stranger to comedy having appeared in CH4’s Pete Versus Life and recently in All In Good Time, a gentle rom-com from Calendar Girls director Nigel Cole about a young Indian couple struggling to seal-the-deal after their wedding, but on both occasions he was the straight man.
“I like the fact the movie doesn’t go into twee territory, my character is a man who lives in his father’s shadow and doesn’t know how to assert himself. He’s just trying to find his way in the world, it’s a funny movie but I’m the one character who has the world on his shoulders”, says Ritchie. “I feel there’s a nice cyclical quality to this movie as this is my first leading role and the casting director for this also cast me in my first movie 10,000 BC when I was 19 which was a shock horror way of entering the industry.”
And working with directors such as Peter Jackson, Mike Newell and Roland Emmerich means that the fresh faced drama student who was flown to New Zealand to play a mammoth hunter has had a pretty steep learning curve.
“My drama school taught the method way of acting, you need to know the colour of your character’s front door and what he had for breakfast. So that’s what I thought acting on a film would be like,” he says. “For the whole first part of 10,000 BC I had these animal skin boots on but we turn up in Namibia to shoot the second half of the film scenes and I’m handed my costume which has prehistoric sandals. I’m thinking, ‘Where did he get this new footwear?’ I walked up to Roland Emmerich, who’s obviously a very busy man, and said to him, ‘Roland where did my character get these sandals from?’ He turned to me very straight faced and went, ‘I don’t know. Maybe there’s a branch of Shoe Express in the desert’. It was at that moment I realised there’s a big difference between drama schools and film sets.”