- Photography by Mr Blair Getz Mezibov | Styling by Ms Ashley Furnival
- Words by Mr Mike Hodgkinson
For a man who has just disgorged himself from the transatlantic red eye, Mr JJ Feild appears remarkably spruce. The 35-year-old actor is making light work of his MR PORTER photoshoot in a warehouse studio on Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, and has clearly given jet lag the bum's rush.
Since beginning his movie career in 2000, Mr Feild has amassed an impressive collection of genres: period drama (Northanger Abbey), submarine thriller (K-19: The Widowmaker), football saga (Goal! III), British rock'n'roll indie (Telstar: The Joe Meek Story), live-action anime remake (Blood: The Last Vampire), multimedia art-house experiment (The Tulse Luper Suitcases) and visceral sword-and-sandal revival (Centurion), to list but a few. His latest film, Sundance Festival favourite Austenland, adds romantic comedy to that repertoire.
As soon as the shoot wraps, Mr Feild joins MR PORTER for a digressive chat about youthful wanderlust, bespoke suits, golf and more.
I'm the straight guy, which is nice, but
I'm the worst giggler ever. My job was
to try not to laugh
Your latest movie, Austenland, uses period drama as a platform for comedy - how did you get involved?
I had done Northanger Abbey. My agent called me and said [director] Jerusha Hess - from the team that made Napoleon Dynamite - wants to have a cup of coffee with you. I'm such a fan of Napoleon Dynamite. Basically Jerusha said: "I don't need you to read. I just need to know if you're willing to make fun of yourself." I said: "Happily." I'd never done straight comedy like this. I'm the straight guy, which is nice, but I'm the worst giggler ever. My job was to try not to laugh.
You were born in Colorado and raised in London. Were you predisposed to foreign adventure?
I was always sent off to the US for summers and I love to travel. When I was 17 my brother and I went to Tibet, by any means necessary: we trekked, hitched, walked, bussed. I'd read about Mt Kailash, which was seen as one of the sacred centres for most of the Asiatic religions. We did what's called the "kora", which is when you walk around the mountain.
Sounds epic - what impressed you most on that trip?
The kindness of strangers. We were really unprepared, and many times we were given shelter and food by people who didn't have shelter or food. That unparalleled generosity of heart will always stay with me. We slept rough in bivvy bags, which are basically large plastic bags. I had been reading an incredible book, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying [by Mr Sogyal Rinpoche]. So I was fascinated by the Tibetan form of Buddhism. That's what took me there.
From left: Mr Bret McKenzie as Martin and Mr Feild as Mr Henry Nobley in Austenland, 2013. Photo by Giles Keyte. Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
What are you reading at the moment?
James Lee Burke novels. The Dave Robicheaux series set in New Orleans. I love New Orleans. A couple of years ago my sister, my brother and I drove from Nashville down to New Orleans on a sort of musical pilgrimage and ended up at New Orleans Jazz Fest. It's one of the few places in America where you can feel hundreds of years of history. It's still alive and happening in the sounds and the smells and the flavours.
Everyday style - do you gravitate towards any particular designers?
I love James Perse for casual and John Varvatos for smart. I could live out of those two. And I could spend a lot of time on bespoke suits. There's a whole tradition and feel about being fitted for a suit. Going back for your first fitting, second fitting. I love the chalk lines. There's a brilliant guy for alterations on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood - Francisco's Tailor. Phenomenal. I've taken suits that have been ruined, suits where my body shape has completely changed. And he'll completely rework them.
We hear you enjoy a round of golf - when did you get hooked?
I learnt golf at drama school. All the cool people would go off and play. There's a lovely comedy actor called Simon Farnaby who was a scratch golfer and he taught me everything I know.
What's your sartorial preference on the course?
I'm a bit of a traditionalist. I would happily wear Dunhill on a golf course. I like classic English: leather shoes, some nice slacks and a clean, crisp, traditional top. When I play golf with my friends I'm the one who doesn't wear shorts. I don't like seeing my knees when I'm swinging a club. It makes me nervous! Here in LA, it's all shorts, cigars and driving the course in a cart. That's something I'll never get my head around...
Austenland is due for release later this year