Phoenix James talks here about acting, creativity, favourite films, art, big movies and computer-generated imagery in an interview by Jacob Smith.
When did you first act on screen?
My first on screen appearance was performing my poetry on a BBC television show in front of a live audience in 2004. I began acting for film in 2009. I appeared in my first lead acting role in a short independent movie in 2010.
When did you first know you wanted to become an actor?
I didn’t actually know I wanted to become an actor. I still don’t know if I do. I do it and can do it well and really enjoy it but I am kind of still deciding if I want to become an “actor” or not. I began performing on stage in 1998 as a full time poet and also modeling. I later fell into acting as a natural progression. Above all things, I’ve always enjoyed creativity and creating, and the entirety of the creative process and the expression of creativity and art in its endless forms so I guess, looking back, there was always a great possibility and a potential for acting to have happened at some point, I just didn’t know it consciously.
What was the first show/movie you ever did?
The first TV show I did was called Slam Poets produced by Baby Cow Productions for BBC Three television in 2004. The first movie I starred in was an independent short film called Baby Anne, written and directed by Andrew Soko in 2010.
What has been your favorite role so far?
My favorite acting role so far, that’s a tough one. I think Love Dog is still my favourite role thus far. I say that one mainly because it’s the most in depth, topical and layered acting role I’ve done. It’s a short 20 min independent movie I starred in along with actress Hussina Raja written and directed by Rohith S. Katbamna in 2011.
What is your favorite movie of all time?
I don’t actually have a favourite movie of all time. I’ve seen and love way too many to name just one, but among my thousand or so favourites are Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (an animation movie voiced by Matt Damon and others), Good Will Hunting, Rocky, Remember the Titans, Men of Honor, Shawshank Redemption, Love Jones, Heat, Scent of a Woman and Synecdoche, New York to name just a few. I mostly love films about the strength of the human spirit, the overcoming of adversity, triumph.
Some people think that CGI nowadays looks terrible, why is this the case do you think?
I think some people say that CGI looks terrible because sometimes it does and when it does, it takes the viewer out of what the movie experience is supposed to be for them. It takes the make-believe and false reality out of a moment and reminds them it’s not real. They lose that sense of escapism into some other world, which at that time they don’t want to lose but be encapsulated in. They don’t want to be reminded that it’s all been set up, that’s its all acting, or that there’s cameras in the room, that it’s all done on a computer afterwards and that the actors are not really in space or that the building didn’t really blow up or the plane didn’t really crash etc. CGI in a movie will either enhance the experience or take away from it depending on how well it is done or how effectively it is used.
With so many big movies coming out within the next 5 years, do you think movies will become better or will they be less good because of the attention on making as much money as possible?
I think with the event of more and more big movies being made and released, they will only become better. The more that great and compelling stories continue to develop that people want to tell and see on screen and technology advances that provides the ability to do that in the best way possible within the competitive industry that it is, I think that movies will only become bigger and better. I think consumer demands and expectations will continue to grow as this happens and movie makers and producers will continue to aim to satisfy the consumer along with attention on and an intention of making as much money as possible. It’s an art form, it’s a business, it’s all about progression, and as with all things there is both good and bad but all in all, productivity and growth happening presents the opportunity for the industry to produce far greater quality along with quantity than ever before.
Finally, can you tell me a little bit about your process on becoming a Stormtrooper in the upcoming Star Wars movie and what was it like arriving on set?
It was being a part of movies such as Skyfall that opened up the opportunity for me to be a part of Star Wars. Working well with all of the people I did there and on other movies and film projects and doing great work went a long way to forming that process for me becoming a Stormtrooper. I always enter every situation with the intention of doing and being the very best I can with every opportunity I am presented with. I grew up with Star Wars, the very first movie released 3 months before I was born, growing up I played with the toys, I loved the Star Wars movies, I’d always wanted to be a Stormtrooper as a kid. When the opportunity came to actually be one, it was a dream and a fantasy come true. Arriving on the film set of Star Wars was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had thus far working within film. The Star Wars sets are some of the very best I’ve ever been on.
Jacob Smith born on October 11th 1999 recently began his first year at Tumba Gymnasium/Xenter Film&TV School in Sweden. For the past 3 years, it has been his ambition to work in the film industry. He has chosen to interview Phoenix James as a part of one of his current projects at the school. Jacob lives in Stockholm, Sweden.