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Photography by Mr Thomas Lohr | Styling by Mr Tony Cook
Words by Mr Mansel Fletcher

For most men navy is the colour without compare: it goes with everything, it flatters the skin and it's impeccable without being stolid. As a result, the navy jacket is a cornerstone of men's dress, as ably demonstrated here by British actor Mr James D'Arcy. He can currently be seen playing the Duke of Windsor in the Madonna-directed and -scripted film WE, which is based on the romance between the duke and Ms Wallis Simpson. The duke is a historical figure so divisive that the only uncontentious thing that can be said about him is that he was incredibly well dressed. MR PORTER spoke to Mr D'Arcy to find out what it is like to be directed by Madonna, how to be diplomatic around issues of great historical controversy, and how the wearing of kilts compares with the wearing of plus fours.

What was it like to work with Madonna?
It was great. She's terrific, unbelievably prepared, prepared like very few directors I've ever worked with. She was very clear about what she wanted, she'd written the script so she had a strong sense of the story, and she communicated that very easily. It was pretty straightforward and fun.
Were you nervous about meeting her?
The moment of adjustment comes because she's so well known for her artistic endeavours in other arenas. It's always a strange moment when you meet someone who's extremely well known. She's a genuine star and there are very few of them left, but she doesn't trade on it, she gets down to business. Ultimately, she's a very normal human being.
How familiar were you with the story of Ms Simpson and the Prince of Wales?
I'll be honest, I wasn't particularly familiar with it. I knew who they were but I hadn't read much about them.
How did you feel about them after reading up on the subject?
Whatever your point of view I could find [something in a book] that would support that view. As with all human beings, and a story of this complexity, there is no certain truth, although some of the more outlandish claims against them I don't subscribe to.
Did your view change as a result of making the film?
The pervasive view in Britain is that [the abdication] was a dereliction of duty, and the view in America is that it was the greatest love story of the 20th century. I think there is a bit of both in there, but what's fascinating is that people have such strong and certain views about Wallis and Edward. Because I played the role people would tell me, with great certainty, what they were like. I just tended to nod along and say, "Oh yes, absolutely."
Did you enjoy dressing like the Duke of Windsor?
A lot of the clothes in the film were made for me by Martin Nicholls, a tailor, for Dunhill. I had a lot of fittings for these suits and I'm left with far too much knowledge about how to make a great suit. I very much enjoyed the day I got to wear a kilt, but the plus fours I wasn't fussed about. And there was a Prince of Wales check suit that was spectacular.
What was your favourite outfit?
The thing I most enjoyed wearing was a pair of midnight-blue tails. They made me stand differently, they made me feel very debonair; they were incredibly beautiful.
Did you get to keep the clothes?
Dunhill paid for them, so it kept them. It's not as if I'm fat now but I was incredibly thin when I made the film - I was under instruction because he [the Duke of Windsor] was really thin - so now I'd have to breathe in to put them on. I couldn't do anything about my height [Mr Darcy is, at 6'2", more than half a foot taller than the duke] but I could make sure that on the day I wore the swimming trunks I didn't bulge over the top of them. I'm not quite in that shape now.
Did the film affect your personal style?
In some indirect way, because I got a very strong sense of how wearing great clothes alters your mood and makes you feel good about yourself, which I'd never really considered before. In terms of directly influencing what I wear, not at all.
What else have you got coming up this year?
Two days before Christmas I finished filming Cloud Atlas. It's a huge, sprawling epic. The cast includes Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant and Susan Sarandon. It's aiming very high, there's almost no comparison; there were two sets of directors [the Wachowskis and Mr Tom Tykwer] and two film units filming simultaneously. It's six stories, and all the actors play multiple roles, some involving heavy prosthetics, people play different sexes, different races, some of it is set in the future while some of it is set in the past. There is no film I could compare it to for you. It's a crazy project and I have my fingers crossed. I hope it's going to be a masterpiece.

WE is out in the UK on Friday, and in the US on 3 February

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