Ben Schnetzer, American Star of 'Pride,' Finds Success across the Pond

By Kane, Laura | The Canadian Press, September 24, 2014 | Go to article overview

Ben Schnetzer, American Star of 'Pride,' Finds Success across the Pond


Kane, Laura, The Canadian Press


'Pride' star Ben Schnetzer triumphs in U.K.

--

TORONTO - Ben Schnetzer is used to being the only American in the room.

Born in New York to stage actor parents, Schnetzer's star is now on the rise in England -- landing plum roles in two of this year's best showcases of British talent.

In "Pride," opening Friday, he plays a passionate gay activist determined to help striking miners in 1984 Britain. Meanwhile in "The Riot Club," recently released in the U.K., he's a posh member of an elite Oxford society.

The affable 24-year-old said he was the only Yankee actor on both sets.

"You become 'Ben the American guy.' Every time you say 'dude,' every time you say 'man,' every time you say something vaguely optimistic, you'll hear, 'Oh Ben, you're so bloody American,'" he said with a laugh.

He speaks with a hint of a London accent -- a "point of contention" among his American friends, he admitted -- which he picked up while studying at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. After graduating last year, his career quickly took flight with a starring role in "The Book Thief."

"I feel really, really lucky," Schnetzer said during an interview at the recent Toronto International Film Festival. "When I was debating whether I wanted to go to school in the U.K. or not, my mom said, 'I think you might open doors over there that you would otherwise never have a chance to open.'... I'm glad she gave me that nudge, because she was right."

"Pride," from director Matthew Warchus, also stars Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Paddy Considine and Dominic West. The film tells the true tale of "pits and perverts," the unlikely partnership between miners and gay activists during Margaret Thatcher's divisive rule.

Learning that both groups were so marginalized was a "rude awakening," said Schnetzer.

"This is not that long ago, so I think it's a testament to how far we've come," he said. "It's not something to be taken for granted. Human rights can never be taken for granted and hopefully this film, among many other things, can remind us of that."

His character, Mark Ashton, is the passionate founder of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM). He's determined to help striking miners whose families are starving -- persevering even when countless villages refuse donations from his group.

The real Ashton died of AIDS just a few years later, in 1987. …

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