Game of Thrones actor James Cosmo on life in Surrey and his latest film, The Glass Man
PUBLISHED: 12:57 04 January 2021 | UPDATED: 14:37 04 January 2021
His acting career spans over 50 years and includes diverse roles from sinister hitmen to Father Christmas.
I am chatting to James Cosmo in the middle of Lockdown 2 and tropical birds are squawking in the background, which is confusing as he lives in Ottershaw, Surrey.
‘Those are the green parakeets,’ he explains. ‘There are lots of them flying around our house and like us, they love it here. It is quite rural and we have the most wonderful oak woods out of our back gate. A group of volunteers look after the woodland and keep an eye on the wildlife, so we are really blessed.’
Long stretches of time at home are rare for James, who has been continually working since his first role in the film, The Battle of Britain, in 1969. Since then he has played truly memorable roles in Braveheart, Game of Thrones, Trainspotting, The Chronicles of Narnia, Highlander and many more.
In The Glass Man, a psychological thriller directed by Cristian Solimeno, he plays a menacing loan shark. The film premiered to rave reviews in 2011 but was hit with legal problems after just one screening, which delayed its release until December 2020.
The film highlights - with alarming reality - themes of toxic masculinity and male mental health. Having watched it again prior to its re-release James says, ‘It is still so fresh and pertinent today. Themes of stress, debt and pressure have been so relevant over the past year and the mental strain on people has been enormous. We follow the story of a man whose life crumbles around him when he falls into terrible debt.
‘He tries to carry on as normal but inside he is dying. It shows how life can turn in an instant and how the male DNA seems to make men never confess that they are struggling.’
James’s roles are often wild, brutish and physically demanding, apart from his more gentle Father Christmas role in The Chronicles of Narnia.
A powerful presence at over six feet tall he loves horse riding and outdoor activities. ‘I adore horses’ he says. ‘I first sat on a horse at the age of 19 and have loved filming with them ever since. The are so intelligent and, compared to actors, they are much more fun and smell better. Ask me about a film 20 years ago and I won’t remember a fellow actor’s name, but I will certainly remember the horse.’
On a more relaxing note, James is also a keen fly fisherman and belongs to a syndicate that fish at the Wotton Estate near Dorking.
‘It is absolutely beautiful there in the Surrey Hills. As I drive there from my home, I am reminded how diverse and stunning the Surrey countryside really is. Newlands Corner takes my breath away, the ever changing light and the incredible distant views. I love to image horses travelling that route hundreds of years ago.’
For James, fishing is a meditative sport that brings great relaxation. ‘Fishing is in my DNA’ he says. ‘I find it supremely relaxing to just focus on one thing, and being surrounded by the sounds of our beautiful countryside is an added bonus. A day’s fishing is a day wonderfully lost in your own thoughts.’
With such an impressive acting career it was no surprise that James was awarded an MBE for services to drama in the New Year Honours list in 2018. He has also been recognised with a BAFTA Scotland Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Alfred in Donkeys in 2011 and was named Best Actor in a British Feature Film for his performance in The Pyramid Texts at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2015.
‘I’ve been so lucky,’ he says. ‘I have played some fabulous roles and I have worked with some wonderful people, not only actors but also directors and film crews. I am pleased to say I have always done my own stunts, although I am more cautious nowadays. I used to feel like a battle ship sailing forth, guns blazing, now I feel more like a battered sailing boat, drifting along at a slightly slower pace with my sails rather tired and worn!’
While much of the film business is on hold, James’s wonderful Scottish drawl is in demand for the narrating of audio books. While he admits he looks forward to his next role he says, ‘Time is on hold but I feel very lucky to live where I do, a stone’s throw from lovely countryside, at home with my family and with a new film recently released. Truly, life is a blessing.’
James stars in Cristian Solimeno’s film ‘The Glass Man’, which is available now on digital download. He also appears in EE’s Film Stories in collaboration with BAFTA Scotland.