Philip Glenister is not given to musing about his work. He’s a jobbing actor – or at least that’s what he’d have you believe. When asked what made him commit to playing Charles Forestier, a journalist in 19th-century Paris in new film Bel Ami he quips, ‘I was free on a Tuesday.’
But much about Philip is a front. Behind the gruff exterior – which he used to great effect as the brash DCI Gene Hunt in Life On Mars and its sequel Ashes To Ashes – is not quite a softie, but certainly someone who cares about his craft and works hard. He just likes to joke about it.
I ask him whether he had any journalists in mind when playing Forestier, the man who gives Robert Pattinson’s caddish character Georges Duroy his big break. ‘I based it on Piers Morgan,’ he says with a cackle.
Forestier and his wife, Madeleine, played by Uma Thurman, take Duroy under their wing, and she advises him the best way to get on in Paris is via the city’s most influential wives. Duroy embarks on some torrid affairs and steamy bedroom scenes as he scales the social ladder.
So how was it working with such impressive actors on the risqué period drama? Word is, Uma can be temperamental. ‘She’s bonkers,’ he jokes. And then there was Robert, one of the hottest actors in the world thanks to his role in the Twilight films. ‘We were filming at a house in Hertfordshire adjoining a school. The pupils got wind of it and started chanting, “Robert, Robert”. We had to threaten them with cattle prods!’