By Ellen McCarthy, The Washington Post
May 16, 2008, 12:00 am TWN
Meanwhile, in a small town outside London, Sturgess was working as “a pot-wash boy” and sulking that his buddies had all gone off to college, thus breaking up their sure-to-be-famous rock band.
Partly to please his parents (and mostly as a ruse to find a new band) he enrolled in a two-year film and theater program in Manchester. But something about this new world of art felt natural, and Sturgess began writing and acting, eventually landing an agent who persuaded him to try his luck in London.
He did, and luck led him, via another band and another band breakup, to a crack at a role in a Beatles musical movie. (Which he thought, by the way, “was a really (expletive) idea.”) But when he was cast and learned that the film, “Across the Universe,” was being directed by Julie Taymor and had Evan Rachel Wood as a costar, the whole thing “spun my life completely out of control.”
Meaning, he was given a part in “The Other Boleyn Girl” and asked to audition for the role of the Jeff Ma character, whose name was changed to Ben Campbell, in “21.” Sturgess, 26, had never stepped inside a casino, much less played blackjack or known how to count cards.
But he got the gig as the movie’s lead, and over the course of those unlit stogies and an awful lot of goofing-around time, came to know Ma and comprehend the events he’d assumed were all fiction while reading the book.
“I just couldn’t believe that he’d done all these things,” Sturgess says.
The two are buddies now, partying together during the press tour and kidding around between interviews. And the thing is for this moment, anyway -they’re once again dipping into the role of big shots. Handlers, red carpets, suites at the Four Seasons even when they’re zipping through town so quickly it doesn’t require an overnight stay.
Around each other, though, they’re still clowns. But if nothing else, this adventure will at least give their parents a little boost of assurance.
“They’re so excited,” Sturgess says, smiling. “And, I think, shocked and relieved that I’ve managed to pull something off.”