- Photography by Mr Matt Irwin
- Styling by Mr Tony Cook, Junior Fashion Editor, MR PORTER
- Words by Mr Chris Elvidge, Senior Copywriter, MR PORTER
Every man dreams of playing 007, right?" At the photographer's request, Mr Dominic Cooper fixes the camera with an expression of effortless suave: equal parts Sir Sean Connery and Sir Roger Moore, with a little "blue steel" thrown in for good measure. The man who would be Bond appears to have nailed the look, at least.
With Mr Daniel Craig set to return for at least one more instalment of the august spy franchise, it looks as if the 35-year-old star of The History Boys and Mamma Mia! will have to wait a while for the opportunity - but it's unlikely that he'll be too concerned. With a starring role in Fleming: The Man Who Would be Bond, a new four-part series based on the life of the James Bond creator, he may just have landed the next best thing.
"The story of Fleming has been told before, but never quite like this," says Mr Cooper, back in casual clothes after the shoot. "It's creative, it's exhilarating... it's a reflection, I think, of the kind of person that he wanted to be seen as." So James Bond, in other words? Mr Fleming was an intelligence officer with The Admiralty in London before he was an author, after all, and it's often been said that many of the fictional spy's characteristics, from his love of gambling and cigars to his famously rampant libido, were inspired by the author's own. "Well, Bond was his fantasy, wasn't it?" Mr Cooper admits. "He was his Tyler Durden, the amped-up version of him, and the show certainly acknowledges that. So while the series is rooted in Fleming's life story, creatively, at least, it pays homage to Bond." So it's liberal with the truth, then? "Well, we never set out to tell the absolute truth," he replies, a wry smile spreading across his lips. "I look nothing like him, for a start."
It's creative, it's exhilarating... it's a reflection, I think, of the kind of person that Fleming wanted to be seen as
That's certainly true, but it's not like Mr Cooper to let something as trivial as physical appearance get in the way of a good role. Indeed, after his breakout role in The History Boys it's tempting to think that the born-and-bred Londoner could have fallen back on his looks and spent the following years in a series of generic "romantic interest" roles. And while he's clearly not entirely averse to playing those parts - he seemed to spend the entire running time of Mamma Mia! with his shirt off - the broad CV that he has built up over the years reflects a desire to take anything but the path of least resistance.
THE HISTORY BOYS
From left: Messrs Cooper, Sacha Dhawan, James Corden, Andrew Knott and Samuel Anderson in the 2006 British comedy-drama
Ms Keira Knightley, Mr Cooper and Mr Aidan McArdle in the 2008 drama set in 18th-century aristocratic Britain
Ms Amanda Seyfried and Mr Cooper in the 2008 British musical romcom
Ms Rosamund Pike and Mr Cooper in the 2009 coming-of-age drama
MY WEEK WITH MARILYN
Mr Cooper in the 2011 biopic about a week in which Ms Marilyn Monroe spent time being escorted around London
"I loved The Devil's Double," he says, while discussing a few of his more adventurous roles. In the film, he played both the eldest son of Saddam Hussein, Uday, and his body double. "When you're playing a real-life character, people often have a very specific idea of that person, and there will always be critics who expect you to give a certain type of performance. But this was just the opposite. I was really encouraged to be daring as an actor. Plus, it's always preferable shooting on these smaller productions. You're allowed to trust in your acting instincts a little more," he says, contrasting it with the large-scale production of Warcraft, the movie he's just about to shoot, or 2012's preposterous - but surprisingly enjoyable - Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
Having trained in film editing prior to embarking on his acting career, it makes perfect sense that Mr Cooper should feel drawn to the creative side of his craft, and he admits to harbouring ambitions behind the lens - but not quite yet. "I've always loved photography," he says, "and I really admire what directors do. I find myself picking up a lot when I'm on set, too. But it's about finding something that's inspiring to you. It's got to be the right project at the right time. I'm very excited to reach that point, where I'm ready to give it a go."
Could that be something to do if the James Bond gig falls through, then?
"Well, it's always good to have a plan B, isn't it?"
Fleming is on Sky Atlantic HD from 12 February.