Living for the Weekend – Chris New interview

Gritty new romance Weekend is Britain’s answer to Brokeback Mountain – a sizzling exploration of gay identity that’s as smart as it is sexy. Star Chris New chats to Josh Winning about celebrities, gay rights and getting his clothes off…

Weekend’s getting loads of really positive buzz. Are you ready to become a celebrity?
People get very funny about becoming celebrities. In the acting world, all you do is constantly battle your ego, and that’s why people like becoming famous – they give in to their ego when everybody starts telling them they’re brilliant. Michael Jackson, Britney Spears. I’d rather do the washing up.

You actually whip your clothes off for the film as well, don’t you?
I do. I do a Ewan McGregor. I was a bit nervous ’cos you can’t act when you’re naked. You can’t really say, ‘This is the character’s penis,’ it just is your penis.

Weekend’s had a very warm reception Stateside even from non-gay audiences. Are you surprised by that?
The good thing is there seems to be a consensus from audiences saying, ‘Come on now, stop thinking this is just a gay film. There’s got to be more to this.’ It’s surprising what’s happening in America. It started on one screen in New York, and now it’s gone to 16 or 20 screens. That must mean it’s not just a gay audience that’s going to see it.

Do you think it’s a sign that being gay is becoming more and more accepted?
I think it’ll just happen naturally, we don’t need to force it. If we would just relax about it a bit, we’d find we’ve moved quite a long way. I’ve got older gay friends who I like to sit around and talk with about what the world was like when they were my age. Obviously for the majority of them being gay was illegal, so that creates an almost unimaginable mindset. One of my friends is Ian McKellen, obviously he’s had an amazing history, and it’s great to talk to him about this stuff. We have a gay film night at his house where we watch classics and documentaries, and it’s really interesting to hear what happened in people’s lives.

Ian McKellen’s been very active in gay rights, hasn’t he?
When I was growing up in Swindon, I didn’t understand what the gay movement had done for us. I’d heard of section 28, which meant my teacher couldn’t discuss being gay with me. There was one lunchtime when I was 13, he said, ‘Is there something you need to tell me?’ And I was like, ‘Nope.’ The law was that he couldn’t raise the idea, but he was trying to say, ‘I know you’re different and you’re allowed to talk about it.’ It was a very brave, generous thing to do. He could’ve lost his job.

Your love interest in Weekend, Tom Cullen, is actually straight. Isn’t that every gay man’s dream?
Not my dream! Straight men do nothing but pester me! I’m never the one going after the straight men – the straight men are usually coming to have an experiment with me. Whenever straight boys are like, ‘I just thought we’d mess around a bit,’ I’m like, ‘Go home, decide what you want to be, I don’t want to be your play thing.’ I’m a married man now. We didn’t actually buy rings, we bought iPads. We’ll get rings one day.

Do you think straight actors playing gay roles get all the praise, but not vice versa?
I’ve mentioned that to Tom, asked him if anybody’s said to him, ‘You’re very brave,’ and he’s said, yeah, people have. A lot of the scripts that come through for me are usually for a gay character, but if it says, ‘Gay. Funny. Best friend of girl’, I say no straight away. Then suddenly you’ll get a script like Weekend which is so different, it’s a huge relief. You have to jump at those scripts. Bob Hoskins calls good scripts ‘bum-nummers’, because he reads them on the toilet and if he stays there it must be a good script!