Bodyguard manufactured him a hotshot but he hasnt always been cozy as the lead. He was talking about bullies, his inner fat cub and brand-new Elton John biopic Rocketman

For some lucky performers, there are instants when their vocation abruptly shifts into a higher gear. The claim proportion comes along, the nations of the world notices, and boom! their whole life is different. This happened to Richard Madden with Bodyguard, in August last year. He played the tight-mouthed, tight-muscled David Budd, personal minder to Keeley Hawes‘ dwelling secretary, Julia Montague, in Jed Mercurio‘s six-part BBC One thriller, and “the two countries ” moved bananas.

Bodyguard was great TV- gripping, unpredictable, sex, with a crazily OTT finale- but none could have predicted the furore it would generate. It was a national event, achieving the BBC’s largest drama audience for a decade. Social media was aflame every Sunday, with much of the hot centred on Madden, his good looks and his stoic “Ma’ams”. There were strands devoted to his eyebrows, as well as other parts of his anatomy. By the final chapter, “hes been” upgraded from” ex-GameOf Thrones person”( he played Robb Stark for the first three series) to potential James Bond.

Yet all this hype and bluster happened while Madden was busy doing something else. That something was Rocketman, the Elton John biopic. Madden plays John Reid, Elton’s first administrator and one-time lover, and the dialogue asked him to sing and dance, neither of which are part of his natural skill set. So while Bodyguard was on, he was getting up to jazz-hands standard, while wearing a pair of 70 s Cuban heels.” I affection those ends, in the end ,” he says when we meet.” A double-breasted suit and a big Cuban heel. I felt quite sharp-witted. They gave me a bit of a wiggle .”

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With Keeley Hawes in Bodyguard. Photograph: BBC

Madden knew that Bodyguard was doing well exclusively because his mum stopped sending him pictures of newspapers and publications.” Like,’ You’re on the cros of this one, and this one, and this one ,'” he says cheerfully( his natural accent is Bodyguard Scottish , not GoT English ).” It was nice, but it was also,’ Please stop moving me this because it freaks me the eff out .'”

Six months on, his planned is choreographed down to the minute.” That sudden loss of time ,” he says.” Everything runs away with you. I’ve been really busy, yet there’s still more request. You run with it, but it’s like, OK, we’re doing press for Bodyguard in America, and now we’re doing press for gifts material, and then there’s the actual awards, and then more and more. And everything rosters into each other, so then you haven’t been in your house for 2 month .”

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With his Golden Globe. Photograph: WireImage

That must be weird.” I don’t mind, genuinely ,” he says.” I don’t like my house that much. It doesn’t suit me. It’s a little three-bedroom family house that I bought because I thought that was what I should do. Mostly, it’s my parents’ mansion. I should have got a really sexy one-bed loft in Clerkenwell .” He was trying to be sensible, but stardom was beckoning.

Madden has had a taste of this all-consuming busyness before: with Game Of Thrones, in his early 20 s, and even before then, when he was cast, aged 12, in a BBC One lines announced Barmy Aunt Boomerang. So, he says, he knows enough for the shift in status not to go to his head- and he can cope with the attention. When he was in Game Of Thrones, he had a woman come up and exactly scream in his face. What did you do?” I waited for her to stop, and then requested her if she wanted a converse .” He smiles, a bit ruefully: what can you do?

Anyway, Rocketman. I’ve only been allowed to see a taster, but it gazes splashy and fun, with full-on musical amounts; at one point Elton and the audience levitate in the middle of Crocodile Rock. Taron Egerton plays Elton, and Jamie Bell is Bernie Taupin, Elton’s friend and lyricist. Madden hasn’t seen the cinema either, which builds things difficult, but we press on.

Rocketman has had some disapproval around whether straight actors should play gay fractions, so I ask Madden about this.” It’s a really terrible itinerary to go down if we start restricting people’s casting on the basis of their personal lives ,” he says.” We have to focus more on diversity and having everyone represented, but I’m also a conglomerate believer in the best actor for the role .” Madden has had high-profile actor girlfriends in the past- JennaColeman, Suki Waterhouse, Ellie Bamber– so I presuppose he’s directly, but some weeks after our interrogation, he’s linked with US actor Brandon Flynn, which would certainly flummox the pundits. He steadfastly refuses to talk about his private life, surmise or not.

Richard
With Taron Egerton in Rocketman. Photograph: David Appleby

Madden has assembled Elton-” A most interesting and interested person, just lovely “; he was at his house the other day. He desired working with Egerton and head Dexter Fletcher( who likewise led the final leg of Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody after Bryan Singer was fired) because they were both” so educated. And that’s how I like to be, as devised as possible, so we get on set and we can precisely play. Even with dancing, the point is to prep to annihilation so that I don’t think about it and can get on with telling the story .” Madden clearly had recreation on Rocketman and wants it to do well. But after a while we return to Bodyguard.

He cherished shaping the succession, he says, but it was tough. It battered him, physically and mentally, because he was in so many stages( stand saying good-for-nothing, tensely defusing bombards, wheeling around in berthed with Hawes and in a automobile pretending to be shot at, which was technically difficult ). He’s self-deprecating about his work in the substantiate-” Slews of attention acting. Dates of it. Or only four pages of’ Ma’am’s”- but when I press him, he says he’s proud of an early background in which Montague questions Budd about his personal life; his marriage is under strain and he is separated from his young family. He likes it because he could have played it so that the gathering could see Budd’s turmoil, but he didn’t. He played it mean and straight. Not likable.

“Likable is the actor’s flaw,” he says.” It’s something I’ve tried to shake off over the years. Most performers want to be liked and we are able to become our toil beautiful , not clunky and stilted. But that isn’t always the best way .”

It didn’t work, though, did it? The not-likable bit. Having so many people fallen in love with him must be strange, specially when he was evoked to be playing an antihero.

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‘ Likable is the actor’s flaw. It’s something I’ve tried to shake off .’ Photograph: Paul Farrell

” I spent my 20 s playing Romeo ,” he says.” Twice, literally, and then versions of it. So I was glad to move into my 30 s[ he’s 32] and be in a region where I might be the rascal. I’m used to playing a guy with a few cases bad characteristics. With that, you think,’ What has prepared you this channel ?’ and you apologize them. But what was interesting with Bodyguard was realising that … sometimes people are bad. Or they’re good, but they change. This character was recreation because he’s devious and snide in his tactics, and a bastard. You’re being night, and you’re not justifying it. I experienced playing that .”

Madden won a National Televisionaward and a Golden Globe for his conduct. When he received the latter, he went up on stage, received the award, went backstage, all stimulated,” And then they said,’ Just walk up these stairs .’ I saunter up and I’m in a area with about 200 journalists .” He answered questions for hours.

Madden is a modern actor: he knows what’s required of him, all the promo, the glad-handing, the turning up. He formerly announced Cara Delevingneunprofessional for not taking such things severely,( she was cynical on morning TV, while promoting Paper Towns ), pointing out that he did six weeks of interviews after playing Prince Charming in Cinderella, and was asked” the same eight questions “. As far as he’s concerned, if you can’t do that with prayer, you shouldn’t bother.

Working, toiling, making. Is that all he’s about?” Not at all !” he complains. He went to the after-Globes parties with friends (” I did get proper drink “), including Gemma Chan, who was there for Crazy Rich Asians.” We were both like,’ What the fucking ?’ She determines her movies elected, I acquired an give. One year ago, we were sitting in my house deliberation we were never going to work again and now we’re at these mad apportion ceremonies. It’s a headfuck .”

Actors
With Jenna Coleman at Glastonbury in 2014. Photograph: PA

Madden has a big friendship group of actors and is often photographed at Glastonbury festival-” my favourite region”- having a laugh, in the thick of Game Of Thrones chums such as Kit Harington, Rose Leslie and Alfie Allen. Despite his prayer and gratefulness around his success, an integrated part of him would like to chill out and do what he actually enjoys, which is to read the papers on a Sunday, listen to Frank Sinatra( Sinatra At TheSands is his favourite album ), or flee to somewhere wild, forget about exercising, drive lovely autoes, maybe even get drunk. But that’s not happening right now.” I don’t have career desire ,” he says securely.” I have life ambition .” It’s just that his job is taking him to good residences at the moment. He tells me he’s thinking of moving to LA.

***

Madden’s behaving savvy is not the result of a showbiz background. The centre progeny of three, with an elderly and a younger sister, he grew up in a small town in the west of Scotland. His father was a firefighter, his mother abode residence until Madden was 11, when she got a job as a educator in his old primary school. His mothers were “hippies”, he says, and their live was pretty open, with friends always piling in for big vegetarian meals. Madden spent a lot of time outside, in the lumbers behind their residence. He has several hurts: he indicates me where he shot his dad’s old-time breath pistol and blew off part of his finger, then managed to wreck the same finger when he nailed a wooden timber to his skateboard, then crashed it.

Toyah
Aged 12, with Toyah Willcox in Barmy Aunt Boomerang. Photograph: BBC

He got into acting aged 11, where reference is connected a class to help with his shyness. One of his first enterprises was a TV adaptation of Iain Banks‘s novel Complicity. In it, Madden is so young as to be almost unrecognisable, with eyebrows that nobody would preoccupy over. The difficult thing about that job was that his attribute was raped. He certainly wasn’t traumatised by the role, but it didn’t attain life at academy easy. Then he got the induce part in Barmy Aunt Boomerang( Toyah Willcox played the eponymous aunt ), so he didn’t really attending school much between the ages of 11 and 13, and when he went back, he fought. He wasn’t academic, plus he had a problem with teachers who didn’t take brats earnestly. His parents were egalitarian, and as an actor he’d become used to grownups listening and paying him respect.” I always had this great interaction with adults ,” he says.” But at institution it was different, and I wasn’t having a good time with having been participating in the telly. I’d lost a bit of the exultation of it. Behaving wasn’t good for my life then. It’s like the opposite thing to forming friends. It’s the one thing to guarantee you won’t have any .”

Never the sportiest of kids, he’d put on weight through on-set catering and became a target for bullies. He tells a great tale about his one and only fight:” I was really fat and this son used to always give me abuse ,” he says.” And I said,’ Right, I’ll fight you at lunchtime’ to get it done with. And it got to the end of PE, and it was time to fight, and he says,’ I’ll just go and get my lunch and then we’ll fight .’ And then he keep walking. And five minutes later, I was like,’ No. Fuck him. I’m not permit him get his lunch. We’re going to fight .’ So I lead accusing after him with 50 kids behind me.

” I find him at Tasty Bites with his roller and sausage. There’s a big crowd around us, and I’m just about to swing my first ever punch, in my first ever fight, and I feel this hand on the back of my blazer. I get dragged backwards and threw on to the bonnet of a Renault 105, this old piece-of-shit car. It’s our automobile. And it’s my mum who’s grabbed me. She got a flat tyre on that street, on that day, saw this crowd of people, went over and understood me. Prodigious! “Shes gone” mad:’ What are you doing? Don’t you be fighting at academy .’ And it saved me because no one ever fought me again. They were like,’ Oh, your mum will come .'”

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Photograph: Paul Farrell/ The Guardian. Styling: Helen Seamons. Grooming: Charley McEwen at Frank Agency exploiting Elemis. Photographer’s aide: Tom Green. Styling assistant: Lily McMurray. Clothes( from top ): check dres, paulsmith.com, and President’s shirt, matchesfashion.com; pink suit, dior.com; ointment suit and shirt, louisvuitton.com. All gushes, jimmychoo.com. Chair, aram.co.uk

He tells this story in a way that really becomes me laugh- like the dialogue for a short film- but it’s also interesting. Not because he was bullied, but because he stood up to the bully. There was self-esteem somewhere under the shyness. Anyway, he managed to plod through school. When he was 16, he realised that he missed acting, so he went back. It was excruciating, as his confidence had taken a battering, but he continued and applied for drama school when he was 18.” If I’d miscarried, I would have reapplied the next year ,” he says.” I couldn’t do anything else .”

He went in and immediately lost weight-” I didn’t want to be the fattest son in drama school”- primarily by cutting out carbs. He still does this if he has to get into shape for a character; that and going to the gym, which he does first thing, because he wants to get it over and done with as he knows it so boring.

” I don’t like the search of me in the reflect ,” he tells me, and I speculate him. He doesn’t have the body language of someone who does. Even though he’s never short of romantic interest, there’s something in Madden that doesn’t feel handsome. It “re coming out” in his comments about himself- like when he says that his favourite era for men’s suits is the 50 s:” I enjoy a high waist, always good for a fat boy .”

Actors
With Michelle Fairley in Game Of Thrones. Photograph: HBO

He is handsome, of course, though in a low-key way. But crikey, he actually lights up in front of a camera. I see this the next day, on the photoshoot. The stylist and photographer are using a famed 1974 Terry O’ Neill film of a louche David Bowie as a reference point, and I’m not sure Madden will go for it. The suit is pink, with huge shoulders and tent-like, pleated trousers. But to my surprise he cherishes it and immediately throws himself into character, chucking moves and influences in front of the shutter. Suddenly, I get a glimpse of how brilliant Madden is at what he does. He’s completely committed.

***

A couple of weeks later, we speak on the phone. The job alteration is continuing and he has moved to Hollywood:” The beach is nice to visit but I’m a Celt. Factor 50 every day .” Plus, excitingly for him, as he has to drive everywhere, he’s got himself a Jaguar S-Type.” It’s very sexy, very loud, with a bit of snarl … You can’t write that, I sound like a proper twat. But I love cars, I adoration driving .”

Actors
With Lily James in Romeo And Juliet in 2016. Photograph: Johan Persson

He sounds very happy, despite everyone being cross on his behalf because he wasn’t be appointed for best performer at the Baftas.” It’s not conserve me up at night ,” he says.” I’m really stimulated for Keeley because she’s nominated, and that the show is, too. I’ve been very bungle already .” Plus he’s too busy to worry about it. He’s landed a part in Sam Mendes‘s firstly world war drama 1917, about which he’s elicited, even though it means that, just as he moves to LA, he’s going to have to come back to England to film.

The only tiny worry on the horizon, if he’s honest, is whether he’ll be able to go to Glastonbury next month. He’s desperate to organise his planned in order to be allowed to. And yes, he camps-” In a tragic one-man tent that’s too hot when it’s hot and freezing when it’s cold, and I “ve been coming” with icicles on my whisker”- although this year he’s thinking he’ll pitch himself somewhere near his friends, who all glamp.

The last-place duration he went, in 2017, “hes found” himself in the Lovebullets tent-” Wild Elrow circus madness, dancing to Fatboy Slim, bright “. He wants to have the same experience this year. I don’t have the heart to tell him that his life genuinely has changed, and now he’s far too famed for that .

* Rocketman is secreted on 24 May.

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