Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Sunday, January 20, 2019

Interview with actor Hugh Dancy

Tall, handsome and gracious, Hugh Dancy seems perfectly suited to play a Prince Charming character. Seated before a luxurious fireplace in the D.C. Ritz-Carlton, the affable 29-year-old British actor nevertheless seems genuine and down-to-earth talking about his role in "Ella Enchanted," a film adaptation of the young-adult novel by Gail Carson Levine, which opens Friday.

With credits that include major roles in the BBC dramas "David Copperfield," "Madame Bovary" and "Daniel Deronda," and the Hollywood blockbuster "Black Hawk Down," Dancy saw the role in "Ella Enchanted," a children's fantasy film, as an opportunity to briefly depart from his previous work.

"I enjoyed doing something that was going to be light-hearted," Dancy said. "We were never really thinking, "OK, this is for kids.' On the whole, we were just trying to make it fun. I've seen the movie a couple of times with grown-ups as well as children, and that audience enjoys it as well."

Dancy said he would even consider appearing in children's films in the future.

"I think you've got to get really lucky to do something that's deliberately silly without just becoming ridiculous," Dancy noted. "If I would enjoy it as much as I enjoyed 'Ella,' I would do it again because I had a blast."

Dancy first heard about the film from director Tommy O'Haver, whom he met a year before he auditioned for the part of Charmont.

"We talked about what he wanted to do, but I wasn't familiar with the book at the time," Dancy said. "Specifically, we talked about making the character of the prince not so charming, at least in the beginning, and I'm playing around with the preconceptions attached to a character. That's really what intrigued me as well because I thought it would be fun to do it."

Although he has portrayed many literary characters in the past, Dancy said he would hesitate to accept a role in a work by one of his favorite authors, which include Phillip Roth and D.H. Lawrence.

"I think this is true of most people," Dancy admitted. "The books that you really love, [the ones] that echo in your imagination, the idea of them being turned into a film would inevitably involve some kind of compromise. You prefer to keep them pure in the head. Besides, most of the books I like involve people I could never play in a million years."

When he's off the movie set, Dancy enjoys activities typical of a young Brit.

"Mostly, I just go out," he said, shrugging. "I'm fairly gregarious, and if I've been away for a while and I get home, I go out with my friends to this great thing in England called 'the pub.'"

He adds a grin that is charming indeed.

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