James Wilby

James Wilby


2/20/1958, Rangoon, Burma

Birth Name


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James Wilby was born in Rangoon, Burma (now Myanmar). He moved to England at the age of 16 after living some time in Sri Lanka and Jamaica. He attended Grey college at the University of Durham. James also studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in…more


Trivia and Quotes

  • Trivia

  • Quotes

    • James: (Relating his first childhood memory) When I was four. We were living in Burma at the time. We had a swimming pool cut into the side of a hill and I remember seeing a little girl just crying on the top of some steps by the pool. I ran up to her to find out what was wrong. Her brother was lying in the middle of the pool very still and all you could see was the top of his head. I just froze for one, two, maybe three seconds. I thought about jumping into the pool as I was able to swim at that age but I remember shouting 'help' and my brother who was six and a much stronger swimmer than me, just came steaming up the steps and without thinking, just dived into the pool. He fished the boy out and saved his life.

    • James: (On the naughtiest thing he did as a teen) When I was 15, I was about to be sent back to boarding school. I would leave from Kingston airport and I packed my suitcase and all I put in were three small hand towels. I'd leave my parents and go straight into duty free and buy two or three bottles of rum and a couple of bottles of Tia Maria which only cost about 30p each. I'd then scoot into the loo and wrap each bottle up in the towels very carefully and off I'd go to school. My case acted as a bar throughout the term.

    • James: (On fashion and how trends don't suit everyone) I love clothes but what you wore in your twenties doesn't seem right in your thirties and what you wore in your thirties, doesn't seem right in your forties. I'm pretty much a bit of a grunge dresser. But if I'm going out to a 'do' which specifies lounge suits or smart dress, then you have to think about what to wear and I do like to dress up. Some fashions suit you and some fashions don't.

    • James (Telling how he likes his characters to be different from his real life persona) I tend to look for the things that are different between myself and the character I am playing. I'm always trying to get away from playing me.

    • James: (On how he raises his children and how he believes children in general should be raised) I've always been a believer in letting children live. Giving them the most amount of freedom they can cope with. My children were given tremendous amounts of freedom. If they screw up, then you can come down on them hard. You just need to prepare them for life and the fact that 'life 'aint fair'. I've never had a desperate desire for my children to do well but if a child wants to be a brilliant violinist, then it's got to come from the child and not the parent.

    • James: (On why he has so many period drama in his resume) There's no plan. In fact, I spent two years in the early 1990s refusing to be in any period work and eventually I got Crocodile Shoes, with Jimmy Nail, and played this wonderful character who's coked up all the time and he's a womaniser and a drunken chancer and it was great fun. After I did that I didn't care anymore because after two years of mainly being out of work, I had to make a living. I've got four kids, so I need to.

    • James: (On what attracted him to the role of Adrian in the television drama Little Devil) I like the fact that the story is told from the perspective of the children. It tackles real-life issues with a touch of light comedy. I'm rarely given the opportunity to act in a slightly comedic way and I love comedy. The comedy that comes through the situation which is not contrived is great because it's truthful comedy.

    • James: (On why he has never worked in Hollywood) My view has always been that if they want me, they'll come and get me. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened, but I'm buggered if I'm going to go and sit on my arse in LA. I think it's a graveyard for British actors; there are an awful lot who just disappear. My life is here, I love England, and there's lots of good work here.

    • James: (On how the actors were the extras on Gosford Park and how this meant he spent more time on the set that he had first thought he would) We were our own extras. I thought, "It's not a very big part, they won't want me for too many days," and instead I was there every day. There was very little whingeing and all these extraordinary actors just got on with it.

    • James: (On how he got on with Hugh Grant when he worked with him in Maurice and Privileged) We got on very well but we're like chalk and cheese. He's got a completely different view on the world. That didn't get in the way, but it didn't lead to a great friendship either.

    • James: (On working with Robert Altman while making Gosford Park) It was a joy and a great learning curve, and it was a privilege to have been around him. He loves actors, which is nice because some directors don't like actors, they get irritated by them because we get in the way and we have too many opinions. And he's great fun; you can have a gossip with him. Some directors will go off and pore over the script during breaks but he's up for a laugh.

    • James: (On how he has a selective memory on every thing but his lines) I am lucky enough to find learning my lines really easy. The trouble is that I can't remember anything else, and as soon as I start preparing for a role, telephone numbers, children's birthdays and the names of favourite wines just fly out of the window. It's a real curse.

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