The cheekbones of James Norton won the initial skirmishes, but the war goes on.
As the brooding Prince Andrei Bolkonsky in the BBC’s lavish new drama War And Peace last Sunday, Norton, 30, best known for his portrayal as the psycho in Happy Valley and the jazz-loving vicar in Grantchester, has bedazzled viewers.
He rides, he dances, he’s offhand with his clingy wife and, under knitted eyebrows, he has perfected a mean stare. But this is far from a one-man show, there’s a bevy of other hunks decorating Tolstoy’s epic tale. And in the weeks to come they will all have their chance to shine.
Lily James as young Natasha and Tuppence Middleton as the scheming flirt Helene may have shed their inhibitions and clothes, but it’s the men, buttoned up in braid and breeches, who have so far won most of the attention.
So, here is It’s Friday’s indispensable guide to Tolstoy’s latest heroic heartthrobs and hunks.
Director Tom Harper has alerted his fans on Twitter that Tom Burke as the wild Dolokhov ‘makes his presence known this week . . . he’s trouble’, then there’s the boyishly impetuous Jack Lowden as Nikolai, Aneurin Barnard as the, so far, sweet and naive Boris, Callum Turner as the dastardly Anatole Kuragin, and Paul Dano as the bespectacled and befuddled but newly wealthy and so strangely attractive Pierre.
He’s not exactly the thinking woman’s crumpet at first glance, but don’t underestimate him…
Reckless anti-hero: Tom Burke, 34, plays Fedya Dolokhov, a reckless wild card described as ‘wolfish’
WHO: Tom Burke, 34, as Fedya Dolokhov.
A reckless wild card, described as ‘wolfish’. ‘He’s fearless, he wins battles and creates trouble,’ says Tom. ‘His philosophy is “Don’t get married — only have affairs with married women.” He’s chaos, he’s a Russian Byronic anti-hero. He sees normal society as death and has no respect for it. He has this insatiable urge to consume things and I tried to play him as someone of appetite.’
BACKGROUND: From a family of actors, Tom is also the godson of Alan Rickman. Brian Cox, who plays General Kutuzov, acted as a matchmaker for his parents — he went to drama school with Tom’s mother, then helped them get together when all three appeared on stage at Edinburgh’s Lyceum Theatre.
THE REAL MAN: According to State Of Play co-star Marc Warren, Tom is ‘quiet and keeps himself to himself’. He also calls him ‘floppy-haired and cuddly’. He wore fake sideburns and a fake beard for War And Peace.
PREVIOUS ROLES: He’s played Napoleon, Casanova’s son and Barbara Cartland’s brother, but is best known as Athos in the BBC series The Musketeers and for the film Only God Forgives.
WHAT’S NEXT? Series three as Athos in The Musketeers.
HEADSTRONG PARTY BOY
Headstrong party boy: Jack Lowden, 25, plays Nikolai Rostov, a headstrong young man keen to prove himself
WHO: Jack Lowden, 25, as Nikolai Rostov.
A headstrong young man keen to prove himself.
‘He’s just a fantastic young man chasing girls for a lot of the time,’ says Jack. ‘These were guys who spoke five languages, rode horses all day and just went from one great party to another.’
BACKGROUND: Jack had a ‘non-arty’ upbringing in the Scottish borders, where his dad had a schoolboy football trial for Rangers then worked for a bank, and his mother was a veterinary nurse. He left the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama a year early to join an international touring production of Black Watch about the Army in Iraq.
THE REAL MAN: ‘I always wanted to be a footballer and I’ll never stop wanting that.’ Jack enjoyed doing military training for Black Watch and then as an athlete for a stage version of Chariots Of Fire.
PREVIOUS ROLES: After Black Watch and Chariots Of Fire, he won an Olivier Award and Ian Charleson Award for Richard Eyre’s production of Ibsen’s Ghosts.
WHAT’S NEXT? Plays Tony Benn in the film A United Kingdom; and appears with Rachel Weisz and Sherlock star Andrew Scott in the David Hare scripted film Denial, and with Peter Mullan in the golfing drama Tommy’s Honour.
Wealthy womaniser: Callum Turner, 25, plays Anatole Kuragin, a wealthy womaniser, who is in an incestuous relationship with his sister Princess Helene
WHO: Callum Turner, 25, as Anatole Kuragin.
Wealthy womaniser, who is in an incestuous relationship with his sister Princess Helene. Now Helene is engaged to the newly rich Pierre, their father wants Anatole to marry a young heiress. But his mind and his hands seem to be elsewhere.
BACKGROUND: Callum says: ‘I was a working-class kid who grew up on a London estate — I learned more through films than I did through life itself. Aged 11, I watched A Room For Romeo Brass and Paddy Considine scared the living daylights out of me. Later on I realised I wanted to be like that guy.’
Crediting his mother with giving him a love of film, he did acting courses while working as a model for Next and Reebok, and showed off his moody pout for Burberry’s 2011 campaign.
THE REAL MAN: He’s ‘the voice of youth’, sounding ‘bold, real, edgy, positive and easy-going’, according to his voiceover agent’s website. He has an unusual way of preparing for auditions, saying: ‘I go mad in my living room.’
Down to earth — he didn’t go to drama school — Callum says: ‘The best thing about being an actor is meeting people whose films I’ve watched.’
PREVIOUS ROLES: Seduced older woman Helen McCrory in ITV’s Leaving — ‘She really took me under her wing.’
Also appeared with Andrew Scott and Martin Clunes in The Town, in the E4 whodunnit series Glue and in John Boorman’s film Queen And Country. Was named a ‘Breakthrough Brit’ by BAFTA in 2014.
WHAT’S NEXT? The films Writer’s Room from writer-director Gabriel Henrique Gonzalez, and Tramps.
POWER DRIVEN SOCIAL CLIMBER
Power driven social climber: Aneurin Barnard, 28, plays Boris Drubetskoy, an ambitious man who wants to rise in society
WHO: Aneurin Barnard, 28, as Boris Drubetskoy.
Ambitious, he wants to rise in society, and looks like doing so thanks to the army and his pushy mother. ‘It was a lot of fun to play this cocky, ambitious, power-driven young man who isn’t scared to talk to anyone or sleep with anyone,’ says Aneurin.
BACKGROUND: Born in Wales, Aneurin started out with the Bridgend Youth Theatre. ‘I would watch films with my grandfather from the age of six and particularly remember A Streetcar Named Desire when I was 11. I didn’t understand half of it but I fell in love with movies and this thrilling dream world of acting.’
THE REAL MAN: ‘Acting’s great, it’s fun, people might not agree, but for me to be a knight on a horse one day and David Bailey in the 1960s the next was really appealing.’
As a child he was fascinated by martial arts and swordfighting, which has proved useful. He stripped off for BBC2 drama The Scandalous Lady, then criticised the over-use of sex on TV.
‘It has become a selling factor in television and it’s unfortunate because I think the audiences don’t need it any more.’ His own naked scenes ‘did not make the cut . . . there was just a bit of backside and I’ve done that before with the BBC.’
PREVIOUS ROLES: Played David Bailey in the BBC4 drama We’ll Take Manhattan opposite Karen Gillan as Jean Shrimpton; was Cilla Black’s husband Bobby alongside Sheridan Smith in the biopic Cilla; Richard III in The White Queen and the love interest in BBC2 drama The Scandalous Lady.
WHAT NEXT? Set to star in Thirteen, a new five-part BBC drama about a young woman released from a cellar after 13 years in captivity. Also will be in SS-GB about a British detective investigating a murder in England in World War II.
Illegitimate intellectual: Paul Dano, 31, plays Pierre Bezukhov who is intelligent, sincere and outspoken but a blundering and illegitimate son who comes into immense wealth
WHO: Paul Dano, 31, as Pierre Bezukhov.
Intelligent, sincere and outspoken but blundering illegitimate son who comes into immense wealth.
‘He’s a wholehearted person with a beautiful spirit and a buoyancy that as we become adults we tend to lose,’ says Paul. ‘He keeps trying and keeps failing, and trying and failing.’
BACKGROUND: Born in New York, Paul was involved in community theatre from a young age and made his debut on Broadway at the age of just ten.
‘I worked with him when he was 15 in a film called LIE,’ says Brian Cox, who plays General Kutuzov. ‘He can portray people who are not easy in their body and he does it brilliantly.’
THE REAL MAN: ‘He’s quite shy and quite private,’ says Brian Cox. ‘He doesn’t have that Hollywood face, he’s got a real face and it’s a real look. He and [The Social Network star] Jesse Eisenberg are two of the most interesting young American actors there are — they’re very bright, they’re real, they’re New York boys, they don’t go in for all that Hollywood nonsense. I also think Paul’s going to be a very fine director.’
Paul’s girlfriend since 2007 is American actress and screenwriter Zoe Kazan, the granddaughter of theatre director Elia Kazan.
PREVIOUS ROLES: Appeared in The Sopranos and in films Little Miss Sunshine, There Will Be Blood (winning a BAFTA nomination) and 12 Years A Slave.
WHAT NEXT? The films Youth by Paolo Sorrentino, with Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel and Rachel Weisz; Swiss Army Man with Daniel Radcliffe, and a U.S. TV series alongside Helena Bonham Carter called Codes Of Conduct about a young man with a mysterious past who makes his way into New York’s high society.
There is talk of an Oscar nomination for his role as Beach Boy Brian Wilson in last year’s Love & Mercy.
DON’T FORGET MR CHEEKBONES
Mr Cheekbones: James Norton, 30, plays Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, a nobleman looking for purpose and glory, in war, in love or just staring at the sky or at an oak tree
WHO: James Norton, 30, as Prince Andrei Bolkonsky.
A nobleman looking for purpose and glory, in war, in love or just staring at the sky or at an oak tree.
‘He’s such an intelligent and complex individual,’ says Norton. ‘His whole journey is about hankering after something and he doesn’t know what. It’s quite a Buddhist journey as he strips away endless layers of life and eventually comes down to this final nirvana — this divine love.
‘On his journey he tries military glory, he tries falling in love, he tries a calm and simple lifestyle on his estate farming and he tries St Petersburg society. He’s a conflicted young soul’.
BACKGROUND: The son of teachers, James grew up in Yorkshire. He went to Ampleforth school and studied theology at Cambridge before going to RADA.
THE REAL MAN: Fascinated by religion, James travelled to Nepal before going to drama school where he developed an interest in Buddhism which continues. ‘I actually think Tolstoy was quite Buddhist without knowing it — he’s written this incredible lesson on how to live.
‘The real pinch-me moment for me was in the great Summer Palace when Natasha and Andrei waltz and they fall in love in the middle of the dance. There was an orchestra and about 200 Russian waltzing extras in this beautiful gold hall with blazing candles. It was heart-stopping, amazing.’
To keep that moody look, the director had to keep telling James not to smile — he filled in spare time on set playing the word game Bananagrams with Jim Broadbent who plays his father.
PREVIOUS ROLES: He was on stage in Journey’s End and in The Lion In Winter, with Joanna Lumley and Robert Lindsay, before appearing in the BBC’s Death Comes To Pemberley. He made his name as the 1950s vicar in Grantchester, and what he calls a ‘game-changer’ role as the rapist and murderer Tommy Lee Royce alongside Sarah Lancashire in Happy Valley.
WHAT NEXT? He is off to promote War And Peace — backed by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s company — in LA and Hollywood surely beckons. New series of Happy Valley and Grantchester coming soon. ‘I would also love to play a big villain role. When I was 15 my obsession was Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves. If they remake it, I will be there.’
- War And Peace is on Sunday at 9pm on BBC1.