Former Burberry boy and total brunette babe Tom Hughes, is the call-centre protagonist of darkly romantic comedy, 8 Minutes Idle.
Not just a pretty face (he was handpicked by Christopher Bailey for a Burberry campaign, in 2010) but funny, clever, and cat-friendly too, Tom Hughes is one of the dreamiest actors around. Having left RADA five years ago, young Tom has gone from playing a swish lawyer in Silk to a badass rebel in Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s Cemetery Junction. Now appearing as Dan in 8 Minutes Idle, a call centre worker who gets kicked out of his home, has a crush on his co-worker Teri, and, in one very funny scene, has some 'me time' all over his boss’ desk, Tom proves there’s really nothing he can’t do. We love you, Tom.
Congratulations on 8 Minutes Idle! It’s really funny, I really enjoyed it.
Thanks, that really means a lot. It’s a really small production and we all wanted it to be really good, so we put a lot into it. It’s a film about people our age so I’m really happy you enjoyed it.
In the film, Alice asks Dan, "are you a call centre hero or a call centre villain?’’ what would you be?
Definitely a call centre villain. I’d be too badly behaved to be a hero.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
Well most jobs have been at big companies so I wouldn’t want to say anything bad about them. But one job was at a music company - I lasted six days.
Why was it so bad?
Everyone was just very competitive and out to make a name for themselves. But I was just a kid trying to earn some cash so I could go out on the weekends. It wasn’t what I actually wanted to do.
What was the hardest scene to shoot?
We were filming in some of the most beautiful locations in Bristol, which was amazing, but there was this one scene between Dan and Teri that we had to film at night. It was a really delicate scene in which we had to really get across the delicateness of their relationship, but behind us people were starting to come out of nightclubs and we had to just film around that and stop drunk kids from trying to jump in front of the camera - which is exactly what I would have done.
Which was more embarrassing to film: the sex scene or the wanking scene?
Haha, filming a sex scene is weird. But there’s another person involved and it’s very mechanical. Masturbating while wearing a burgundy jacket is something nobody should do in public. But it was necessary to the plot and we all had fun making the film. Hopefully people wont take the piss out of me.
Tell us about your relationship with John the cat?
John the cat. He was a cool cat; I miss him, actually. He spent most of the film up in the ceiling, so they had to make a special ceiling that I could climb into. And it was just me and the cat, and I was speaking to the director just through a microphone. I was lucky he was a nice cat, otherwise it wouldn’t have been great as it was a very small space.
The scene where you had to kill the fish was really funny.
I just want to say that no fish were harmed during filming! Actually, when I read the fish scene, I knew it had a pull to it; I knew it would it be a funny scene. But when I was filming it, I was so concentrated on trying to make it funny that I couldn’t really take anything else in. Comedy can actually be really hard to film.
There were a lot of hilarious toilet scenes, do you have any funny tales from the washroom to tell?
Not really, no. I don’t know what age it is when you learn the proper etiquette of how to behave in the men’s toilets. Are you not supposed to talk? If there are four urinals, do you always go to the one on the far left?
Well at least you have some funny fictional ones.
In the film, Dan gets kicked out of his family home and has to sleep in the office. Where’s home to you?
I moved to London a while ago and I live in Camden. I’m from the North West of England, so I think it’s nice to come to London and still live in the North West part of it.
Dan starts off living at home with his mama, enjoying the home perks of a fully stocked fridge. Is that something you ever miss?
I’m not actually that big on food. I’m more of an 'eat to live' kind of person than a 'live to eat' one.
Can you cook?
I can cook. Everybody can cook.
But can you cook well?
Put it this way, I don’t have people round for dinner.
Looks like take-outs it is.
Anyway back to acting, why did you decide to become an actor?
Well I never actually used to watch films when I was younger. For me it was always about music. I played the guitar, which I loved. But there comes a certain point as a guitar player when you either have to find yourself a songwriter and a band or you just have to be happy playing it alone on the side, not as a career, but because you just get a real buzz out of it; I could play blues music all day. I was actually in a band for four years; I also tried writing, but I was shit at it. With acting, though, I did some plays when I was at school. And apparently I ran off stage when I was younger and said to my mum, ‘‘this is amazing, I want to do this for the rest of my life!’’ I didn’t think it would actually happen, though. But there’s something about acting, which I get this real buzz from; it’s not about playing another character, or making films that inspired me when I was younger or even making someone else’s work come to life, it’s more about the feeling that I get when performing. It’s the same with music. It’s just this certain pull.
You’ve played a variety of roles, a lot of bad boys but also the lovable hero. Which do you prefer?
Well at the moment I’ve got really floppy hair so it’s perfect for playing the more foppish type. But, it’s not really as simple as that. There’s a lot of industry people that ask "do you want to be the hero or the villain?’’, and no disrespect to them, I’m just not interested in playing those kinds of two-dimensional characters. I like characters that are more interesting, that have a conflict within them. Not necessary a darkness about them, but something that makes them more human, more relatable.
Would you ever consider directing?
In the future I think directing is something I’d definitely like to look at. But now I’m so busy – and I’m really lucky to be busy – I just don’t have the time. I’m either acting or doing music in my spare time.
You’ve done quite a lot of period pieces, is that because of a preference or just because it’s the nature of the job?
There are some period pieces that are just about being historically accurate to the time, which are great, but not really something I’m that interested in. I am interested in the etiquette of the period and how people acted socially, but I’m not really into a period piece for the sake of it. I’m actually not really into fashion either, so I won’t go "Cool! I get to wear a Baracuta jacket.’’ Obviously it is pretty cool that I do get to wear a Baracuta jacket, but it’s not really about that. If the story is something that is relatable, then it doesn’t matter what period it is set in. Which is why Shakespeare is so amazing. No matter what the story is about or when it is set, Shakespeare is something everyone can relate to.
What are you up to the moment?
I’m rehearsing for a play at the Donmar. Another period piece, actually. It’s set in Versailles in 1918, around the period of the Treaty of Versailles. But there’s so much else going on around that. It’s written and directed by Peter Gill. I feel so honoured to be working with someone like Peter. I did a reading by him for my drama school audition and I put on a play by him while I was there.
Wow. You’ve come full circle then. Have you told him?
Yeah I did. I’m actually incredibly lucky; I left drama school five years ago and ever since I’ve wanted to do a play. And now, not only am I doing a play, I’m doing a modern play - which is exactly what I wanted to do - by someone who I’ve always admired, at somewhere like the Donmar. It’s great.
8 Minutes Idle is in selected cinemas and available for download now.