Ben Stott on playing Of Mice and Men's Curley

Ben Stott on playing Of Mice and Men's Curley

26 April 2016

by Siena Gale

Interview: "...he is probably the most insecure character in the piece." Ben talks to us about playing hot-headed Curley, getting into acting and the funniest member in the Of Mice and Men cast.

Tell us about the character you are playing?
So I play Curley. He is the son of the boss, who runs the ranch. He is a complicated guy. I would go as far as to say, that he is probably the most insecure character in the piece. I’m sure a few of the other actors would disagree. A lot of people would categorise what he suffers from as 'small man's syndrome', which is very true. He is a very angry young man, who is constantly trying to prove himself. It is the insecurity that’s key to who he is as a person and how he operates in this world. It is the reason behind everything.


Curley’s character is perceived to be a bad guy throughout the play, could you tell me what good you see in him?
I can only see the good because I have to do it every day. It's not that I don’t have an understanding of the repercussions of what he does or the way he speaks to people, but I have to understand him in order to play him truthfully. So I have to find the good and that is trying to figure out the reason he behaves the way he does. There is a lot about Curley that is not in the play. All the audience gets from him is his current state of mind and behaviour. You don’t get any reasoning for it. I did a lot of work to try and build up a past that could lead to where he is now. I also did a lot of researching to discover why he is the way he is and I think he had a deeply unloved life.

Ben Stott as Curley

Ben Stott as Curley

Would you recommend people to read the book as well as watch the play?
Absolutely! Like any adaptations, they are different beasts in a way. This is an interpretation of that story and people have their own ideas of what they think Curley is, or any of the other characters are like. What we are doing is not necessarily what people have in their minds, but that might make them look at it in a new way. I certainly think the one thing that is so beautiful about the book is the imagery. Obviously, with the show you get a lot of that given to you. What Roxana — the Director — has done really well in this production is to make it so everything is hinted at. It is not a literal set; there is a sort of Brechtian style to the show, which means your imagination still gets to work as an audience member in a similar way to when you are reading a book.


When did you first know you wanted to become an actor?
I was probably around 17. I’d been doing it before, but back home, then, it wasn’t something that people did. People didn’t become actors. They might have messed around at school with the plays to show off.  I think that’s what I did most of the time when I was younger. I later went to a separate college to do my A-levels and met all of these other people that were into performing arts. From then on, I realised I could do this as a career.


What was the first show you worked on?
The first professional job I did was a production of Macbeth in Liverpool. I played Malcolm. It was a baptism of fire. Malcolm is a really difficult part. Shakespeare is a big love of mine, always has been and is one of the reasons I became an actor. I was very young and it was a really, really tricky part. I had a great time, though. I was working with brilliant actors and it was just a lovely first experience.


What has been your favourite role so far?
Oh, that’s really hard. I’d say my favourite role would maybe be Seymour, in Little Shop Of Horrors. I absolutely loved it; I had the time of my life. It was a brilliant version and he is just a great part from start to finish. He goes through every emotion possible and the singing is insane. That was a challenge. It was a great job. But that’s a tough question.


Who is the funniest person in the cast in real life?
Jonah Russell who plays Slim. I think Jonah is ace. He cracks me up every day. He basically takes the mick out of me and it doesn’t wind me up what so ever... I absolutely love it. We also share a dressing room so we do spend a lot of time together. He is very dry and just hilarious.

Jonah Russell (Slim) on stage with Ben Stott (Curley)

Jonah Russell (Slim) on stage with Ben Stott (Curley)

What is your favourite line of dialogue?
My favourite line that I speak is “Nah I’m gonna shoot the guts out of that big bastard!” and the only reason it's my favourite is because it’s a moment you get to see Curley’s psychology and action. Instead of him turning emotional and being upset about his wife, he turns to action. Yes, it's deeply negative, yes it's deeply horrible, but that is how he works.

I also absolutely love the dream speech in the first scene that the boys (Kristian Phillips and William Rodell playing Lennie and George) do, where George is telling Lennie about the future they are going to have. Everyone has a dream and the hope of that is so strong at the start of the play, it's just really beautiful.


How would you describe what the show is like to someone who has never heard of it before? And why should people come to see it?
First of all, the story is a classic in the literal world. This is a very strong, honest version of that story. It has brilliant actors in it and it is a brilliant story about friendship, survival, hope, and in ways you wouldn’t expect, love. Come and see the show because it is an incredibly moving piece and there really is something in it for everyone. There are things that every person can relate to.

Of Mice and Men premieres at Birmingham Repertory Theatre, where it runs from 4 to 13 February 2016. It then tours to Cheltenham, Nottingham, Wolverhampton, Darlington, Blackpool, Cambridge, Brighton, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Oxford and Leicester where it concludes on 28 May.