Ben Chaplin

Birthday Girl and Murder by Numbers

Interviewed by Anwar Brett

The 31-year-old British actor's career has constantly switched between Britain and Hollywood, so it's no surprise to find his two new films come from both sides of the Atlantic - he stars with Nicole Kidman in the British comedy-thriller "Birthday Girl", and Sandra Bullock in Hollywood thriller "Murder by Numbers"...

So many roles you've played recently - "Murder by Numbers" among them - have been American characters. Does that affect the way you play the role?

It depends. Some accents can inspire you and take you to a different level, while others can restrict you. You never know what they are until you try them. They all take work, there are no easy accents. The ones that you think are easy are the ones you're bad at.

In "Birthday Girl" you are an Englishman once more. What was it that brought you to the attention of director Jez Butterworth?

He knew some of the stuff I'd done on stage. When I was attached at the beginning, it was a low-budget small film shooting in England, then it became a bigger budget thing with half of it being shot in Australia.

During that part of the shoot, did you have to be careful going out, avoiding a healthy looking tan for the sake of continuity?

I did, and actually that's caused me problems before. On another job I did, I went on this boat trip on my day off and got hammered by the sun. When I went back the next day, I was a completely different colour. The poor make-up artist burst into tears.

There is a long sequence at the start of "Birthday Girl" where Nicole Kidman is almost mute, and you are convinced that she cannot speak a word of English. Were those scenes tough to play?

Not at all, it was fun. The stage direction was very strong in those scenes, you got a smell of the place and really knew what was going on. And it was lovely doing those scenes, because it gets back to what it's all about. Talking can disguise a multitude of sins, you can just imitate the right emotional noises, but you can't do that in scenes where you're not speaking.