James Floyd: It’s Not All About De Niro

British newcomer earning attractive comparisons…
James Floyd by Neil Bedford

James Floyd’s performance in atypical British urban drama My Brother The Devil signposted the arrival of a major new talent. He won Best Newcomer at the British Independent Film Awards, became the official face of the 2012 London Film Festival and even prompted one broadsheet to compare him to De Niro.

“It’s nice, and something that your agent can use to help promote you behind the scenes,” he smiles. “But if you believe any of that shit, you’re an idiot! Young De Niro in particular is some of the best screen acting I’ve ever seen.”

The film sees Floyd play Rashid, a charismatic gang member who wants his younger brother to take a different path in life. Growing up in a traditional British Egyptian household is a stark contrast to their second reality – the gangs that control their estate in Hackney. 

Rashid’s journey encompasses changing motivations and fluid sexuality. “There are all of these great things in one character, and it’s not forced, there’s nothing contrived about it,” he enthuses. “A character of that complexity is seldom even written on film or anywhere for that matter. I’ve never seen a character like that in cinema, especially an Arab character, and especially when I think of how terribly clichéd the portrayals of Arabs and/or Muslims are in mainstream films.”

The film has recently toured the States to similarly glowing acclaim and has delivered new international opportunities for the actor. Floyd is eager to find the find the right role, and has already turned down two large projects.

“One of them was a tremendous amount of money – my jaw hit the floor when I heard how much it was. But the contract wasn’t quite right. I would’ve been bound to that particular studio for a while.”

It is, he asserts, that age-old battle between art and commerce: “You’ve got to think long-term. A lot of actors end up moulding into this wall of sameness, you need to find what’s unique about you and really push that.” That’s a challenge that James Floyd can easily conquer.

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Words: Ben Hopkins

Photo: Neil Bedford

This interview originally appeared in Clash's Cannes Film Special

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