Mind your Thunderballs! Happy Valley star and Bond candidate James Norton looks worlds away from villainous role while doing yoga NUDE and playing a slapstick clown in snaps from his early film roles and university days
He terrified viewers as the violent and twisted psychopath Tommy Lee Royce.
But James Norton’s early acting role as a clown in a university stage production of comedy Circus couldn’t be further away from his Happy Valley character.
The London-born actor, 37, looked worlds away from his best-known role as he strutted around the stage in a striped leotard and red swimming trunks during his student days at Cambridge University.
Wearing a black trilby hat and carrying signs with drawings and words on them, Norton was just 21 when the Footlights show was staged back in 2006.
While at university, he also starred in a production of Julian Mitchell’s Another Country playing Guy Bennett, the only openly-gay student at a British public school.
James naught on! James Norton’s early acting roles couldn’t be further away from his Happy Valley character (pictured in the 2014 film Bonobo)
Rupert Everett played the role in the 1984 film version of the play while both Daniel Day-Lewis and Colin Firth have played the character on stage.
Norton, who was also part of Cambridge’s Marlowe Society, performed in a production of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline, directed by Sir Trevor Nunn in 2007.
The actor studied Theology at Fitzwilliam College from 2004-2007 and applied to RADA while he was still there.
‘Theology – nothing to do with theatre at all. I think I did more theatre than theology when I was there, but they were all slightly painful student dramas,’ he told Phoenix magazine back in 2013.
‘My degree doesn’t have any relevancy to what I’m doing now. I never talk about it and it never comes up in auditions.’
Norton attended the £40,000 a year Ampleforth College in Yorkshire as a child.
‘I acted all through school and when friends came over to my house to play football I would force them to write a script and we would do all of these annoying plays in the bay window,’ he said.
‘My friends would dread coming. I was one of those precocious kids who would write, direct and star.
Who’s that guy? He terrified viewers as the violent and twisted psychopath Tommy Lee Royce on Happy Valley but his first acting role was a clown in a university production of Circus
Unexpected: Norton, who is still in the running to be the next James Bond, had some rather strange on-screen roles before making it big in Granchester, War and Peace and McMafia
Role: He stripped naked to play a hippy in 2014 film Bonobo about a middle-aged widow and her attempts to convince her daughter Lily to leave an alternative commune
Impressive: In one scene the actor can be seen doing handstands in a garden without any clothes on
Oh my: The London-born actor, 37, bared all in the early film role
Crikey: James wasn’t shy strutting his stuff on the screen
Co-stars: He starred opposite Only Fools and Horses actress Tessa Peake-Jones
‘I acted throughout school and university but I was too afraid to say that it was my ambition and I thought it would never happen.
‘I was lucky enough to go to Cambridge and do Footlights and while I was there I applied to drama school. By that point, I realised that what was once a far-fetched dream became a reality.’
Norton, who is still in the running to be the next James Bond, had some rather strange on-screen roles before making it big in Granchester, War and Peace and McMafia.
Stage star: He looked worlds away from his best-known role as he strutted around the stage in a striped leotard and red swimming trunks during his student days at Cambridge University
Wow: Wearing a black trilby hat and carrying signs with drawings and words on them, Norton was just 21 when the Footlights show was staged back in 2006
Expressive: James gave his all to the theatre production
Acting roles: James studied Theology at Fitzwilliam College but always had a passion for acting
He stripped naked to play a hippy in 2014 film Bonobo, in which he starred opposite Only Fools and Horses actress Tessa Peake-Jones.
In one scene the actor can be seen doing handstands in a garden without any clothes on.
An impressive 7.52 million people tuned in to watch last Sunday’s final episode of Sally Wainwright’s beloved Yorkshire-set Happy Valley on BBC One, starring Sarah Lancashire as Sgt Catherine Cawood.
Role: While at university, he also starred in a production of Julian Mitchell’s Another Country playing Guy Bennett, the only openly-gay student at a British public school
Inspired by: It’s a role Rupert Everett played in the 1984 film version of the play while both Daniel Day-Lewis and Colin Firth have played the character on stage
Brooding: James perfectly portrayed a troubled teen hiding a secret when he worked on the play in 2006
Royce met a grisly end when he was stabbed by a gangster following his escape from custody and then set himself on fire in Miss Cawood’s kitchen.
Producers were determined for the kitchen blaze to be as real as possible and so turned to British stuntman Leo Woodruff to act out the nail-biting scenes.
Leo, who has performed stunts on Bond’s No Time To Die, Batman and Marvel films, had to set himself on fire twice so BBC show bosses could capture the perfect sequence.
A TV insider said: ‘The Happy Valley producers wanted to deliver as sensational and realistic a final scene as possible and though the first moments when Tommy sets himself alight are done using computer generated imagery, the rest was real.
Destined to act: The actor studied Theology at Fitzwilliam College from 2004-2007 and applied to RADA while he was still there (pictured with Dominic Mafham in Journey’s End at The Duke of York’s Theatre in 2011)
Two’s company: James starred alongside Frances Barber in That Face play at the Crucible Studio Theatre in Sheffield in 2010
One to watch: James played Frances son who had to care for the family because his mother was an alcoholic with serious mental health problems
‘The moment where he is seen standing up and writhing around in agony as the flames take hold is where Leo really was set alight,’ the source added to The Sun.
‘He was wearing specialist protective clothing and gel on any areas of exposed skin, he then fell to the floor, as planned, and was immediately extinguished by fellow stunt coordinators.’
Speaking to GQ, James praised writer Sally Wainwright for giving the finale a very ‘human’ feel.
Another role: He starred with Fiona Button in Posh at the Jerwood Theatre in London in 2010
Raucous: Posh followed 10 decadent Oxford students with goals of drinking themselves into a messy stupor and then trashing a private room, for which they will pay the going rate
He said: ‘The ending was sort of perfect, in a Sally Wainwright sort of way. It was fireworks but it wasn’t fireworks. It was sitting over a kitchen table and that is where Happy Valley really thrived.
‘That’s the heart of the whole show. Cups of tea over kitchen tables in kitchens in Yorkshire. It’s not a big stunt set pieces on wires and jumping off cliffs, and guns and fireworks. It’s gentle, it’s domestic, it’s human.’
James also spoke about the ‘constant question’ of whether Tommy is a ‘psychopath’, saying he’s done evil things but that there is ‘humanity’ in the character.
One to watch: James starred with Tom Felton in Belle a 2013 period drama film
He said: ‘I have talked about this with people in the production and Sally and Sarah. The hints were almost laid in the very first series, in episode five, when he’s just been stabbed and he’s facing his own mortality, his own death.
‘And he’s sitting in that high rise and he bursts into tears. He thinks, “s***, I’ve wasted my life and if I had a different childhood maybe I could have been something in me.”
‘And if you think back to there, that was where Sally was already planning and carving out this ending I think, because there is humanity there.’
Critics and fans have agreed with James, with many viewers hailing the episode as ‘a masterpiece’ and ‘one of the greatest television finales of all’.
Explosive: An impressive 7.52 million people tuned in to watch last Sunday’s final episode of Happy Valley in which James’ character met a very sticky end
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