James Purefoy gets mobbed by Fisherman’s Friends fans in Cornwall: ‘I really love it’

James Purefoy says he loves Cornwall and the singers’ sequel (Pictures: Anthony Harvey/REX/Shutterstock)

Rome actor James Purefoy, 58, on wearing a skirt, why he loves Cornwall and scaring the children dressed up as Captain Hook.

Sea shanty film Fisherman’s Friends was a surprise hit. Were you keen to sign up for this new sequel?

Oh yes, because there’s another brilliant chapter to this real-life story – the band go to Glastonbury.

And the idea of ten, hairy-***ed, shanty-singing Cornish lobster fishermen (in Fisherman’s Friends 2) supporting Beyoncé on the Pyramid Stage in front of 80,000 people is just so trippy, so ridiculous, so exciting, who wouldn’t want to do that? I mean, an actor is really just a rock star keeping his ego in check.

We say we are doing it for art but actually we’re doing it because we like showing off.

Ever been to Glasto before?

I actually come from Somerset, not 20 miles from Glastonbury, but I am ashamed to say I’ve never once been.

There was always a sense that Glastonbury was for the incomers and the hippies. There was quite a big biker culture in our village.

‘An actor is just a rock star keeping his ego in check. We do it because we like showing off,’ says James Purefoy (Picture: Anthony Harvey/REX/Shutterstock)

Were you in a biker gang?

I was! Well, on the periphery, not at the centre, though I perhaps tried to be.

Because I went to boarding school, I was half in and half out of both school and the village, never really quite fitting in anywhere.

Do you get mobbed by Fisherman’s Friends fans in Cornwall? Would you go back?

Every year! I’m going in a week’s time to Port Isaac, which is crazy. But I really love it. I love seeing the lads, I love the beaches, I like going to the pub. And it’s a great place to go with kids.

It’s very safe and the kids just wander off down to the ice cream shop by themselves in the morning, it’s quite 1950s like that. Anyway, I’m not the kind of actor that gets a lot of attention in the street, so people don’t really recognise me.

James Purefoy, third from left, as Jim in the original film (Picture: Rob Youngson/SamuelGoldwyn/Kobal/Shutterstock)

What’s your biggest fanbase?

I did a film called A Knight’s Tale with Heath Ledger and the people who love that film really love that film.

They can quote from it endlessly. It’s just one of those strange films, a bit like Spinal Tap, that became a cult. But generally it really depends where I am in the world. If I’m in New York, people recognise me from a show I did there called The Following with Kevin Bacon.

They might find that a bit alarming because I played a very scary serial killer in that.

Heath Ledger in A Knight’s Tale (Picture: Alamy Stock Photo)

You rocked a man-skirt in Rome. Would you ever wear a skirt in real life?

I have. And years before Brad Pitt, too. I had a girlfriend once, way back in the 1980s.

We were larking around one Sunday morning and I said, ‘I bet I’d look good in a pencil skirt’ because pencil skirts were very in then.

‘How about I wear one down to the pub for lunch?’ So I got into a skirt and I wore a pair of chunky boots and a chunky jumper to kind of butch it up a little bit so it was obvious I’m not in drag, I’m just wearing a skirt, because why can’t I wear a skirt?

‘I said to my girlfriend, “OK, come on then, let’s go to the pub”. Soon as I went through the front door she slammed it behind me, picked up the intercom and yelled, “Hey, everybody out there in the street! Look! There’s a man with a skirt!”‘

Speaking of bold fashion choices, you dress up as a fish finger in Fisherman’s Friends: One And All.

I WhatsApp-ed a photo of myself in it to a group of mates saying, ‘If, in five years time I’m not working at all, you might be able to trace it back to this moment as the decline of my career.’

The singers in sea-shanty mode in the sequel (Picture: Metro.co.uk)

Do you love a costume party?

I remember a disastrous Peter Pan party that my three-year-old daughter had. She asked, ‘Daddy will you come as Captain Hook?’

Actors tend to have quite a lot of stuff stashed away at home. So I nipped up to the attic andI found a wig, a big hat with a feather, leather pants and a blouson shirt.

I fashioned a coat hanger as a hook. When I entered the dining room where all the kids were, three of them burst into tears and demanded to be taken home straight away. I realised I had pushed the characterisation way too far.

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What’s the closest you got to playing James Bond?

Oh goodness, let’s not talk about that. The trouble is, a quote will get taken out of context and make it look like I’m moaning. I’ve honestly had a great life and career without playing James Bond.

What was something weird you were into as a child?

Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach in the film’ A Fistful Of Dollars’ made in 1964 (Picture: Metro.co.uk/Group Published Images)

I really loved westerns. And I loved Clint Eastwood more than was healthy.

I had a hat like Clint’s and had my mum make me a poncho. My mum also let me smoke cheroots! I think I was ten when I smoked my first cheroot. Terrible! But you know, it was the 1970s.

Benign neglect doesn’t even cover it. My dad and mum separated when I was young and my mum worked. So, during the summer holidays, we were just left home alone.

One of my sisters was 13 when I was around seven or eight and she was left to look after us, all day. Nowadays you’d be put in social services for abrogation of duty, I expect! It was a different time.

Fisherman’s Friends: One And All is in cinemas from today

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