Bugging Out Of Shadows (Newsday) 1997

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Bugging Out Of Shadows (Newsday) 1997

Post  DebraRatt on Wed May 16, 2012 12:53 am

Bugging Out Of Shadows
Actor Jeremy Northam emerges into fame
Written by: Georgia East
21 August 1997

Show fear and not only do you die, but you're eaten by the 6-foot mutant killer insect slowly crawling over your body in the dank passage of an abandoned New York City subway tunnel.

It's not exactly Jane Austen.

"Mimic," opening tomorrow, is an old-fashioned scare-me movie. Unlike costar Mira Sorvino, who reported having nightmares during shooting, for Jeremy Northam - the English actor best known for his onscreen relationship with Gwyneth Paltrow in Austen's "Emma" - making the movie was fun.

"It was relatively easy," he says, sitting in a Manhattan hotel room. "It's funny, sometimes the thing that creates the most tension is the easiest to do. It was quite physically awkward to shoot, coming physically head to head with the thing. But it was like being a kid all over again."

Really. Northam, 35, says he was the kind of child who played with insects. "Wood lice I liked because they sort of rolled themselves up in a ball and you could ping them around the floor like a pea," he says with a grin.

The role of Dr. Peter Mann of the Centers for Disease Control is a change for Northam, who spent 10 years in the English theater before appearing on the big screen. He's playing an American for the first time. "Jeremy has the characteristics of a leading man, honesty, integrity, and above all, a vulnerability," says "Mimic" director Guillermo Del Toro.

Northam teams up with Sorvino to take on the killer creatures. They're a husband-and-wife team. Sorvino, an entomologist, created the mutant bugs, the opening explains, to destroy plague-spreading roaches - one part mantis, one part termite. But three years and thousands of generations later, in the humid incubator of the subway system, the bugs have grown lungs, an ability to mimic the appearance of humans (at night, at a distance) and seem determined to eliminate us all.

Northam's character often finds himself on the perimeter as his wife initiates most of the action against the huge creatures. But playing on the sidelines is familiar territory for Northam. In "Emma," his mature and ever-so-wise character, Knightly, often had to react to the silly antics of the main character (Paltrow) and in "The Net" he spent his time stalking Sandra Bullock.

The son of a Cambridge professor and a potter, Northam attended London University, where he majored in English and trained at the Old Victory Theater School. He spent a year at a small repertory theater where he played a different part every three weeks. His debut in film came years later as a small part in "Wuthering Heights," which didn't make the theaters outside of Europe. It wasn't until 1994 that Northam's film career picked up speed, with a starring role as the English composer Peter Warlock in "Voices From a Locked Room."

Now firmly established, Northam's next role is in one of the fall's eagerly awaited "event movies." He plays a judge in Steven Spielberg's "Amistad," a "small but influential role."

Due out in December, "Amistad" is based on a 1839 mutiny in which 53 Mende tribesmen from Sierra Leone were abducted by Portuguese slave traders and brought to America. The story chronicles their effort to be freed and returned to their country.

Earlier this year, Northam went to Newport, R.I., where part of "Amistad" was being filmed. Despite the frigid temperatures, he said working with Spielberg was relaxing and energizing . "It was very free-flowing and actually in the courtroom when we were doing the scenes it reminded me of being in the rehearsal room of a play. People were trying things, playing with things, which he sort of brings out of you and demands of you."

No longer having to scour for parts, Northam finds himself working steadily, and he seems to be enjoying it. "Part of the fun, being in my position at the moment is that I get to do very different things," he said.

He is heading back to Great Britain to complete "The Misadventures of Margaret," with Brooke Shields. With no dark tunnels or predatory insects, the film, he said, is a romantic comedy with shades of Clark Gable. And he gets to play an American again, this time a teacher living in England. Familiar territory.

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