Guest Post: A Birthday Tribute to James Purefoy!

James Brian Mark Purefoy is the super talented and ultra hunky British actor, and he turns 47 today, Friday, June 3. And “hunky” is not just my opinion: he was voted “Hunk of the Year” by a British television magazine in 1997. Well, as far as I’m concerned, he’s very well-preserved and deserves a “Hunk of the Year” award EVERY year  😀

He appeared on my radar about three years ago, when he had a small but significant part as the benevolent ruler King Edward, aka Sir Thomas Colville in the delightful dramedy A Knight’s Tale. It’s a movie I originally watched because of Rufus Sewell, who played the underhanded Count Adhemar, but Heath Ledger stars as the wanna-be knight referred to in the title. James started out in theater, however, joining the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1988. When perusing his IMDb page, you find out he was the king of TV movies and miniseries in his early career, appearing in no fewer than 17 between 1990 and 1997.
Purefoy in The Mayor of Casterbridge

I haven’t seen even half of all his work, but two TV movies stand out for me. In The Mayor of Casterbridge (TV 2003), he shines as a convincingly savvy 1800s businessman who helps the mayor’s business thrive. The mayor’s daughter promptly falls in love with him, and he with her, and, of course, myriad complications ensue. It’s one of the best period romance/dramas I’ve ever seen, even if it is a sleeper. He is paired in this film with two of his future co-stars. (Ciarán Hinds and Polly Walker in Rome.)

In Beau Brummel: This Charming Man (TV 2006), he plays the real-life dandy Beau Brummel, who is credited with inventing the modern men’s suit worn with a tie in the early 1800s. His extremely suave and cocky manner steals the show. Speaking of suits, ahem, James is not shy about showing off his very own “birthday” suit. He tastefully bares it all (twice) in this movie (see below) as he also does unabashedly splendidly in the HBO TV series Rome (2005 and 2007). At 6′ 2″, dark-haired and fit, his “costume” (e.g., lack of one) is certainly eye-catching. He is quick to point out that he was NOT digitally “enhanced” in his bare-all scene in Rome. “Mine’s all mine,” he says.
Speaking of the Emmy Award-winning series Rome, James ascends to glory as Roman general and politician Mark Antony and eventually falls far from it, in the end, along with Cleopatra, to the ambitious and power-hungry Octavian. He’s impressive as a fierce soldier. Take a look at this YouTube video of his penchant for fighting, tough-guy style, but making it sound amusing at the same time. And his tender side: Antony tells Cleopatra that they have no options left against Octavian, and he sheds a single tear:
I am not at all one for violence and blood, but his suicide death scene in Rome has to be one of the best of that kind I ever witnessed. He certainly brought immense dignity and pathos to it, and it’s one you’ll never forget. In 2009, JP starred in the modern-day NBC TV series The Philanthropist. He almost plays himself in this excellent, unfortunately short-lived show (8 episodes), which was shot in many locations all over the world. He also starred as the lead kick-ass fighter of evil in the 2009 film Solomon Kane, and most recently in another historical drama, Ironclad (2011).
Right now I’m looking forward to receiving the DVD of his latest BBC TV miniseries, Injustice (2011, 5 episodes), which will be released in mid June. He currently has a starring theatrical role in Terrance Rattigan’s WWII play Flare Path at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in London. Mmmmm, should I put all those frequent flyer miles to good use just to see him in person?… ever so tempting… maybe!
So James has been sneaking up on me for a while, and his immense talent and attraction was brought to its pinnacle in his character Mark Antony in Rome. And I must give thanks to the generosity of my colleague Scot, who loaned me the exquisitely packaged DVD set of all 22 episodes of both seasons.
James is extremely versatile and is capable of ANY role – good guy, bad guy. Tough, tender. Modern or back in time. Stage, small screen or big screen. Cheers to you, James, for being such an amazingly talented, beguiling and underrated actor (somehow I always like the under-appreciated ones best). If you aren’t familiar with James Purefoy yet, you should be, you won’t be disappointed.
Happy, happy birthday!

What are your favorite James Purefoy roles, movies or series? Which ones do you look forward to seeing now? Let us know.