One of the up-and-coming talents on the British scene is Hammersmith-born Toby Regbo, currently making a splash in the role of John in internet thriller uwantme2killhim?
Regbo already has an appearance in a Harry Potter flick under his belt (Deathly Hallows Pt.1), as well as popping up in Anne Hathaway romancer One Day and bagging the lead role of Jim Hawkins in recent TV series Treasure Island.
But uwantme2killhim? marks the young actor’s first sizeable outing on the big screen, and, as we enjoyed the flick ourselves, we thought it only right to try and grab a few words.
MR: Why did you decide to become an actor?
TOBY REGBO: I sort of fell into it slightly at the beginning. I did plays at school and when my Mum said I should pursue it more I went to a drama group that was called Young Blood. Then I started going to auditions. I just liked performing and I liked being funny though I still haven’t done a comedy. A few years ago I did a play at the Royal Court and there were a few really funny lines in that. On my first job I went to India for Sharpe when I played a little soldier which was great. I only had to work for four days and I spent three weeks in India and I thought it was fantastic, the best job in the world.
MR: Being cast in Harry Potter must have been great and tremendous responsibility because of the Potter fan base?
TOBY REGBO: It is so hard pleasing that many people and the film production company has done an amazing job.
MR: Were you nervous about joining such an established team?
TOBY REGBO: Not really. It didn’t hang on my performance.
MR: Being cast as Jim Hawkins in Treasure Island must have terrific?
TOBY REGBO: It’s my Mum’s favourite book. I have an amazing version of it with Ralph Steadman drawings. I also think that The Muppets Treasure Island is one of the best films ever made. It is brilliant. Pirates are some of the darkest characters and there is also something about the ocean that is so alluring, very interesting matter. To film Treasure Island I went to Puerto Rico for four and a half weeks and then we did the rest of filming in Ireland where it was pretty cold. But Puerto Rico made up for the cold.
TOBY REGBO: I was seen for both the roles of John and Mark and at one point I thought that I was going to play Mark. All I knew was from the Vanity Fair article. Then since it is a really touchy subject they gave us research packs of the stuff that they were allowed to tell us. They were minors when it happened so the information about it is not really available. It is restricted and their identities are protected. So we worked from the script. It was not so much about making these real people come to life, we were trying to find the truth in what drove them to do what they did. It was about power and at a base level about love because John is essentially a very lonely character. For me the whole way through the film was about him needing to be loved.
MR: How did you manage the physical transformation to become a geek like John?
TOBY REGBO: Looking back on it now it is such a weird transformation. We started by cutting my hair in the most horrific way possible, making sure that I was clean shaven and then getting an awful pair of orthopaedic shoes that l; looked far to big and changed my movement. It was about feeling very awkward in my skin. There is definitely an awkwardness that lurks deep inside of me and it was just a matter of getting that to come out. If people look at me for too long I can feel very self conscious and that was a feeling I drew on.
MR: You are soon to be seen in the TV series Reign?
TOBY REGBO: Yes I’ve grown a beard for that and my hair is longer. The TV series has a modern take on the story of when Mary Queen Of Scots lived in the French court with her betrothed, Prince Francis – who is me. It is a teen show with a youthful injection into history. They want to show that underneath the regal aspect and the politics that Mary and Francis are kids. The soundtrack is all modern music which is a twist to wrangler in the kids.
MR: What can you tell us about your costumes?
TOBY REGBO: I wear some interesting stuff. Most of the time I have on knee high boots and at one point leather trousers and some pretty good tunics. I like it.
MR: So the TV show might have historians tutt-tutting?
TOBY REGBO: We filmed at a castle in Ireland and the people who look after the castle are obviously really into their history because they’ve dedicated their lives to it and they were tutting at our take. But that doesn’t mean it is totally throwing history out of the window. Indeed for young people it is definitely a good way to get into history. The aspect of my character that they are focusing on is that he is weighted with a huge responsibility that one day he will run a lot of land and people. When Mary comes along he has to keep his political motives pure and there is this beautiful girl who is swanning about with her ladies in waiting and he is trying to keep his head strong and not fall in love. We are filming Reign in Toronto and at the minute I am committed to do 13episodes to start with. If it goes well it will be 10 months which means seeing Toronto in all its seasons from terrific summer to horrific winter.
MR: Back to uwantme2killhim? – how do you feel about the fact that one day the two real boys will be able to see the film?
TOBY REGBO: Yeah, I don’t know what I feel about the real boys…maybe that I am intruding on their lives a little bit. Obviously the story is in the public domain and a bad thing was done. I think the Vanity Fair journalist once tried to get in touch with the character I play and he put the phone down. He must know this film has been made and maybe that I am playing him…
MR: The film deals with the Internet, are you an Internet wizard?
TOBY REGBO: I think it comes with the territory of being born in this age. My brother is eight years old and he knows how to use the computer as well as I do. The philosopher Alan Watts was saying that when Einstein’s Theory of Relativity came out it was a very difficult concept to comprehend but now we can grasp it more easily. It is the same with the Internet, if you are not brought up with it, it is almost impossible to grasp. It is like a second language that goes along with being born in this age. The Internet though is also very dark and scary. Most of us are just scratching the surface of the Internet.
MR: The film shows how the Internet can be such a deadly tool for deception.
TOBY REGBO: Yes and I think it happens a lot more than people think. I am on Twitter and in terms of notoriety I have little to be famous for yet there was someone online faking being me. I got that closed down. There are people out there who pretend to be other people.
MR: For the film how easy was it to switch back to being 16 years old?
TOBY REGBO: Really easy, inside I’m a kid. I was 19 or 20 when we made it so it was not too big of a jump. At one point I think Jamie was shaving three times a day to look younger and I shaved every night.
MR: Your family is originally from Norway, do you speak Norwegian?
TOBY REGBO: No, just a few words. I did not grow up there. So I did not get a chance to speak it and it is such a difficult language.
MR: Do you have a hero?
TOBY REGBO: Yes, I talk about him all the time – Mark Rylance. He is the best actor in the world. I saw Jerusalem four times. I am a massive fan of his work.
MR: Thanks for your time Toby.