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Young '21' actor the real deal
Source: canoe.ca
Posted on: March 26, 2008 03:19 MST
Filed under: Celebs

Jim Sturgess

LAS VEGAS -- Hollywood is betting heavy on Jim Sturgess.

Jim who? Even the 26-year-old Londoner seems a bit dumbstruck by the attention being lauded on him as La-La Land's latest leading-man-to-be.

"I'm slightly terrified," he says sheepishly during interviews at a Vegas hotel. "It's been weird."

Yet Sony, the studio bankrolling the glossy gambling drama 21, clearly has confidence in Sturgess and, more specifically, the female fans he gained after starring in last fall's Beatles-themed musical Across the Universe.

If you don't know who Sturgess is, odds are you know a teenage girl who does.

Not that he's exactly used to that, either.

It turns out he didn't even realize Universe had made that much of an impact upon its release.

"When Across the Universe came out, I was shooting a film in Belfast," he says. "And it was not a hit in Belfast, so it kind of passed me by and I didn't notice any change at all. It's only now that I've been back in America doing this press tour that I've noticed a few wandering eyes or whatever it might be."

Sturgess is in Vegas -- appropriately enough -- to promote 21, which casts him as Ben Campbell, a math nerd at M.I.T. who, desperate to pay his tuition, joins a secretive fraternity of card-counting like-minded geniuses. Kate Bosworth plays his brainy but beautiful love interest while Kevin Spacey turns up as his coercive, controlling professor. The movie is loosely based on a true story and the subsequent non-fiction best-seller, Bringing Down the House.

So how did the British Sturgess land a role that is described by the filmmakers as "an all-American kid?" Again, he pleads ignorance.

"I don't know what happened. I was told (director Robert Luketic) wanted me to put in an audition and at the same time I was filming The Other Boleyn Girl in rural England in the middle of nowhere. So I was running around trying to find anyone with a camcorder," he says.

"I hit record and walked back and did it, then sent it off and thought that was the end of that. Then he called and said he wanted to meet me in London."

The next thing he knew he was shooting in Vegas, presumably one of the perks of the job. To a point, he admits.

"We actually got sick of it. We were like, 'Let's go indulge in the Vegas lifestyle as much as possible because that's our job.' We'd try to go get money off the production office to gamble. We were in Vegas for a month and a half -- that's a long time. The line between work and our spare time definitely blurred. I haven't gambled since -- until last night."

News of his winnings -- $400 or so after the film's premiere -- isn't lost on Bosworth.

"You're having a lucky streak," she notes.

And one that looks to last awhile.

Sturgess is linked to the role of Spider-Man in the Broadway musical being directed by Across The Universe's Julie Taymor, with U2 supplying the music.

Sturgess is non-committal about whether he'll don the red-and-blue tights, although he has workshopped some of the material with Taymor and Universe co-star Evan Rachel Wood (rumoured to be up for Mary Jane).

In the meantime, 21 is tracking strongly and is expected to top the weekend's box office.

That's good news for all involved, including Bosworth, who is working with Spacey now for the third time, following Beyond The Sea and Superman Returns.

Still, the chance to reunite with the Oscar winner wasn't the only reason she signed on to the film.

"Math is my worst subject," she says. "Here I get to be a genius. It's not often I'm able to say that."

The best man for the job, period

Jeff Ma is Asian, but you wouldn't know it from watching Jim Sturgess portray him.

Should we assume the guy from Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle just wasn't available?

"People would ask me during the process before the movie was made who I would want to play me in the movie," says Ma, who is the basis for the fictionalized whiz kid Sturgess plays in 21. "I never started listing Jet Li and Jackie Chan. I listed people who were great actors who I thought could capture my personality. I'm really happy with Jim. I think he's amazing."

That said, "With Jackie, the escape scenes would have been awesome."

For producer Michael De Luca, Sturgess, regardless of from where he hails, is "the soul of the movie. For us, once we knew it was going to be an ensemble of 21-year-olds, it was going to be fresh faces no matter what.

"We're besotted with WB stars right now so it's not like there's a deep pool of trained actors to draw from in that age range. Jim just rose to the top because he's a serious craftsman and, for his youth, he's super-impressive ... Jim was clearly the best choice."

Just don't tell that to the guy from Harold & Kumar.

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