Wilde Thing; He's the New Lusty Lord of Period Drama - with the Floppy-Haired Looks of Hugh Grant and the Upper-Crust Vowels of Edward Fox. as He Prepares to Play a Lovelorn King, STEPHEN CAMPBELL MOORE Tells MOIRA PETTY Why He Just Can't Help Being Posh
Byline: MOIRA PETTY
The setting is Italy's glorious Amalfi coast; the period, 1930s.
Snaking along the road comes a sleek Alfa Romeo, which is brought to a sudden, juddering halt by its driver, Lord Darlington, the most dashing - and dangerous - of playboy peers. He has another man's wife in his sights, but Stephen Campbell Moore, the actor portraying the lusty lord in the new romantic comedy film, A Good Woman, had eyes only for the vintage 70-year-old car.
'They didn't want me to drive it, as there are only two left in the world,' he says.
'To start with, there were three guys with a rope pulling the car as I sat in it. Director Mike Barker said, "It doesn't look as if you're driving it."
I said, "That's because I'm not." I took it down a mountain on a practice run, and you could feel the vibrations as you drove. Then we filmed the scene where I had to slide into a driveway. There was a wall nearby and the guy responsible for taking care of the car looked as if his life was flashing before him.' If Stephen, 27, sounds as excited as Mr Toad taking to the open road for the first time, he has good reason. In the sumptuous new film, an adaptation of Oscar Wilde's late Victorian comedy of manners, Lady Windermere's Fan, he stars opposite Helen Hunt and Scarlett Johansson. And soon, he and Joely Richardson will be seen on TV in the lead roles in Wallis & Edward, about the 1936 abdication crisis and the love affair that prompted it.
Stephen's lean, intelligent face and sensitive performance is already familiar to audiences from the 2003 movie Bright Young Things, directed by Stephen Fry, and adapted from Evelyn Waugh's novel Vile Bodies. All three films are set in the 1930s and, with each succeeding role, Stephen has risen up the social ladder, culminating in his portrayal of King Edward VIII.
Far from being worried about typecasting, Stephen is ecstatic at landing such high profile parts. Educated at public school in Hertfordshire, he says, 'I speak with an upper-class accent, so the chances are that I will be cast as an aristocrat and in period pieces. I live in New York at the moment, and I'm a blank page there. I've just been in Los Angeles, meeting producers. I'm not trying to make it huge in Hollywood, but I'm not snobbish. If I get a blockbuster film, great. They're often good.' He has made New York's East Village his base as his Italian girlfriend Ra, a video artist, has a fellowship at Columbia University. When they met in Rome, almost eight years ago, it was, confesses Stephen, 'love at first sight', although neither could speak the other's language. Within a few months, Ra had followed Stephen to London, where he was a drama student at the Guildhall; now he has returned the compliment. 'Most of my work has been in Europe, so I have to make sure I keep earning enough to afford all the travel from New York.' His career ascent has been steady, with roles for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre, and on television in Byron and in the acclaimed Trollope adaptation, He Knew He Was Right. In A Good Woman, Stephen certainly looks the part, swanning about on his yacht and cultivating young American beauty Meg Windermere (Scarlett Johansson), while her husband (Mark Umbers) strikes up a suspicious relationship with Helen Hunt's American femme fatale, chased out of the U.S.
by a cabal of her lovers' wives. Later - as readers familiar with Oscar Wilde's original will know - there is a surprising revelation.
Translating the play from the society drawing rooms of England in 1892 to the jet-set's summer retreat in the 1930s works surprisingly well. The locations are breathtaking; the costumes and other period details visually enchanting. 'I like the fact that the film's not pretentious, but slightly irreverent.' It is Stephen who delivers one of Wilde's most famous lines, 'We're all lying in the gutter, but some of us are staring at the stars. …