A&E's 2001 Interview w/ Ioan Gruffudd
How does it feel to have the two new Horatio Hornblower movies about to come out?
I'm very, very excited because I've seen them both, and I think they're brilliant, I must admit. I think Andrew Grieve, the director, has done a fantastic job, and it looks fantastic, and all the other actors are superb, and I'm quietly pleased at what I did as well. And I they're just as good as the first series, so I'm very pleased.
What did it feel like to come back to the set of Hornblower after being away?
: I must admit, when I heard that we weren't sailing, that we didn't have a ship this time, that we had a set instead, I was a bit disappointed. But it was much easier because we could put the camera wherever we wanted to, and we could use special effects to good effect. I think that's part of the reason why it looks so much better this time. I was also a little apprehensive personally, putting on the uniform again. I put a lot of expectation on myself and felt a bit of expectation having had the first series been so successful. But that sort of wore off after a week or so, and I sank into the character much better after that and I loved it.
How did the experience of the first series affect your approach to Hornblower in the latest movies?
Once that confidence came back, I did enjoy playing him just as much. You can't really compare the two series, because in the first one he was just a boy growing into a man. And this time, he is a man, so I didn't have that sort of transition to act. But also I've matured and developed a lot, physically as well as emotionally, and as an actor I think I've developed a lot as well. So, he is going to be much different and much stronger this time.
:Some people have expressed concern about the two new movies being different from the book. What do you think?
We can't just do the books, because some of the stuff is just not possible. We have to develop the characters. But we also have to get permission from the C. S. Forester estate if we want to make any changes. And you have to beef up the stories as well, so there is poetic license. I don't think we take too many liberties with that. But I can understand people being worried about thatbut that's what the books are for. The books are the originals, and we tried to [stay true to them] as much as we can, but sometimes we can't.
Was it difficult to portray the close friendships in these stories, what with all the action and adventure?
This time it was easier because it is a very character-driven piece. I think they both go hand in hand. Through the action, you get to know people quite well, because it's a lot of fun. And I have kept in touch with people like Jamie Bamber and Sean Gilder, who played Styles. We have formed a friendship from the first series that still remains. The new actors who came in feel that warmth and that friendliness and I think that helps them to relax into it.
It seems a real camaraderie has formed between the actors of Hornblower. Why do you think that is?
We've spent six months with each other, and you don't often get that in television and in filmto spend such a long time together. You do in the theater, when you travel around doing a tour. You spend so much time with people that inevitably you're going to get to know them quite well.
Have you read the books and which one is your favorite?
I have read them all, and Hornblower and the Hotspur I like a lot.
How does it feel to be a part of a series that has such an incredibly concentrated following?
I'm overwhelmed by it, to be honest with you. When I first saw the Internet sites, I wasn't aware of them. Somebody had mentioned them to me, and I must be honest, I'm computer illiterate. I don't own a computer and I don't surf the Web daily, and I don't write emails. So I was blown away by it. I just couldn't get over it, and I still can't get over it. And I'm so, obviously, quite flattered by the whole thing, because they are talking about the scenes that I've been involved inand also to be part of those brilliant books that C. S. Forester wrote. I'm quite honored that it has had that affect, and I want people to know that I do appreciate it immensely. And that I'm very proud of the response.
Was there anything that surprised you about all the Hornblower sites on the Internet?
I was overwhelmed. But also because I didn't understand how the whole thing works, I was a bit scared. I said, Wow, gosh, this is quite extraordinary. But then I'm always touched with the efforts that everybody makes. I'm so proud of that. That devotion to it is extraordinary, and I will always be forever grateful for it, because it does introduce new people to Hornblower and probably to read books. To be part of something like that, I'm very flattered.
Why do you think the Hornblower stories have touched people so much?
I think it's because of the historybecause they're loosely based around something that actually happened: the British Navy fighting and the Napoleonic War. The history attracts people. And also seeing men in that environment,and such a tough environment it isseeing how vulnerable they are. And how honorable they try to be. I think there is a certain nostalgia about honor. And I think it is diminishing a bit in the 21st century. People aren't as honorable.
What has been one of the best experiences about working on the new films?
I personally love working with everyone immensely, but if I have to single out an actor that I love working with, I love working with Paul Copley, who plays Matthews. I'm just completely at my ease when I act with him.
To what would you attribute the ease you have with Paul Copley?
You can't put a finger on it. You know, some people you feel very comfortable in their company, but sometimes there are those people that you feel comfortable with when you're acting. It doesn't feel like acting when I'm with him, because I respect him so much as a person and as a actor and there's something about the relationship that Matthews and Hornblower have, that we've developed, that is quite endearing. We have this mutual respect for each other, even though in rank I'm higher than him.
Of all the films, which has been you're favorite and why?
Of the first series, I love The Frogs & the Lobsters. In that movie, Hornblower has developed into more of a man, I think, compared to when he first arrives. And I enjoyed the location and story and action.
How would you describe Hornblower's personality?
He's a very cerebral sort of character. Where I sort of act on instinct and emotion, he's very cerebral, very thought out, very clear. He's compassionate towards everybody and towards his cause and towards the fight for justice against injustice. He's very loyal. I think he's charming because of that. He is vulnerable. He's very human and very heroic. He is heroic because he is so human. People find that amazing, extraordinary. He's got this ability of getting people to do things they don't necessarily want to do by instilling confidence in them, and not shouting at themhe's not a leader in that sort of sense.
How much of Ioan would you say comes out in the character of Hornblower?
Well, I suppose quite a lot. It's difficult not to, because it is me playing him. This is going to sound egotistical, because he's such a brilliant character, but I suppose there are aspects like the loyalty and the compassion and the honorable aspects of him that I think I possess. But as I said, I'm probably more instinctive and emotional than he is. Also, Hornblower is tone deaf, and I'm actually quite musical. Hornblower is scared of heights, and I'm not really that scared. But we do both get the same seasickness feeling. But I don't actually get physically sick. But I get that sort of feeling.
Of all of the locations you've worked in so far, which one has been your favorite and why?
Menorca [Spain]. Portugal was fantastic as well. Just the fact that you could go swimming in the Mediterranean at the end of every day was a bit of a treat.
How was it to work with the old cast again?
Just wonderful. I think we all jumped at the chance again. And we all knew how tough it was going to beit is a tough shootbut I think the fact that we get on so well and we make it fun is part of the reason why we all want to come back and do it again. And as I said, I love working with Paul specifically because of the way he makes me feel at ease. Jamie, we get on like a house on fire. He's of the same age as me, and there's more of a social aspect, as well as on screen. And Robert Lindsay wanted to come back and did it, his bit. And then there are actors who hear about the series, who then, when they get offered a part in it, think, Oh yeah, I should do that, because I know that they had a great time making the first one. So, Paul McGann was convinced by hearing about the first series that it was going to be a laugh.
Are there any funny anecdotes from the set that you can share with us?
I can't think of any. Constantly waiting for the poor armorer to load all the muskets and pistols, that was a tough job. Because we wanted to make it look so authentic. And then of course they wouldn't fire every timeas they would have in those days.
If the possibility exists, would you want to do more Hornblower films?
Oh, absolutely, absolutely.
That's great news for your fans.
And for me.
As a well-known actor from Wales, is there anything you try to do to inform others about your country or culture?
Well, whenever I get the opportunity publicly, doing press interviews, I always like to mentionand I'm also very proud ofwhere I'm from and who I am and the language that I speak and the culture and the heritage that I possess being a Welshman. So, I suppose little by little I'm educating people about Wales.
Can you teach us a word in Welsh?
Yes, "cariad" is the word for love.
You recently appeared in the movie 102 Dalmations Can you tell us about the experience?
It was such a contrast to Hornblower. It was a massive, massive budgeted film, so they have much more time and care to takeover shots. But because I wasn't in every single frame like I am in Hornblower, it occasionally got quite tiring because I was waiting around a lot on the sets of all these extravagant shots. It was absolutely fun too! To come in every day, and see the dogs happy to see you is an invaluable thing.
Can you tell us about any upcoming projects for you?
I don't actually have anything at the moment. I'm waiting to hear on a lot of things. Nothing is concrete. I've been taking a lot of meetingsa lot of big Hollywood films. But as I am not yet an established name enough, you know how it works. It's difficult. I just want somebody to take a risk with a newcomer as such, like they did with Hornblower. They didn't know who I was and they took that risk, and it's developed into this phenomenon. So I'm just waiting for a producer and a director to take a risk on me in a big Hollywood film.
Did you always want to be an actor?
No, not always. I knew that I had this ability and this talent, I think. And that was the strongest thing at the time when I decided, right, what shall I do with my life, at the end of school. I thought if I went to train as an actor, then I could do it; I couldn't just leave school and then just become an actor. I really wanted to be trained in it. It came on very late, actually. It wasn't like a dream of mine since the age of five.
What do you do in your free time?
Well, there's a big game coming up in Wales. Wales is playing England in a rugby match, and that's one of my big passions. And that's coming up on the third of February, so it's very close, and already I'm starting to feel the excitement about it. I know it sounds pathetic, getting excited about a match, a game.
Thank you for the interview, Ioan.
No, no, thank you. And I just want to say to all those peopleI know it sounds cornybut I do appreciate all the support and the interest, and it does mean a lot to me.