#M1 talks to / interviews
Changing career paths at the age of 30 from banking into acting is a drastic step to take for anyone. However, for David Gant, this could not have been a better decision to make. Now, with a CV ranging from Film, Theatre, TV, and modelling, David has played a huge variety of characters, including a 200 year old man, a concentration camp commander, and a homeless aristocrat.
It is no surprise, that with his charasmatic personality, and fascinating past, David has achieved huge success, both in the acting and modelling worlds. With a reputation that is only getting stronger, there is a lot more in store for Mr Gant.
Models 1: how did you get into acting?
David Gant: I always wanted to act, even as a little child I would come through the curtain, to the displeasure of everyone probably. I was always keen on people on stage or in movies, and when I was very young my parents took me to a variety theatre called The Roxy Theatre. We had the same seat every Saturday evening. We saw the chorus girls, the comedians, the sopranos, the tenors, and the orchestra in the pit. I thought, this is just wonderful. We had no money, there were about six cinemas in my town at that time, and we would go during the holidays to see two feature films, not just the one. Then, you had two black and white films, both lasting 1hour 20. Once one finished, we would run into the toilets and hide, then come back out and see the movies again, the evening performance. Your mother always told you not to sit next to anyone that smoked, and she’d smell you after. “You’ve been sitting next to someone smoking!” In those days you could smoke in the cinema.
I didn’t get into acting until my early 30s. I was a banker for about 14-15 years. One of the managers in the bank asked if I would like to meet one of the directors of one of the amateur operatic societies and I said, “sure, it’ll give me a chance to go on stage”. So I got into that, and made the decision in my early 30’s to apply to drama school. By the time I finished in banking I had an office of my own doing foreign currency.
M1: That’s quite a big decision to make at that stage in your life…
DG: Well, everything in my life started late. The acting and modeling started later, I bought my own flat later. I like this time of my life. I wish I was younger as well, we all do, but I like this time of my life, I do. But acting always appealed because I could never understand how people could get up on stage and deliver lines to each other naturally.
M1: It must be a challenge, taking on the persona of new characters. Are there any particular techniques you use, or is it just something that comes naturally through years of training?
DG: There is a lot of hard work to get to that stage, and it depends very much on the playwright, and his rhythms within the text, how easily it comes to you. Sometimes its not easy, and sometimes you think “I’ve got it!” I’m rather like a bull in a china shop. I stumble around until I find something that leaps at me from the page, and normally when I’m looking at a new script, a film script or a play, I generally find a line, or two lines, that really jump at me, and think its worth doing it for those two lines. And sometimes it is, no matter how big or small the part is. You can get the character from many things but those couple of lines, the way the writer has written them, perhaps he does not know, he’s just written them, but for the actor it’s a different story. Sometimes it’s tough, sometimes it’s easy. A director once asked me how I rehearsed, because everyone else working on the play was coming on leaps and bounds, and I wasn’t. I said “I have absolutely no idea. But I can tell you that on the opening night, it will be a totally different story than you see now. But I ask you to bear with me because I’m a bit like a bull in a china shop. And then, suddenly, I
M1: You have worked on film, TV and theatre. How do they compare?
DG: The difference with filming is that you bring it all down, and let the camera do the work. I love working in front of a camera, fashion, film and TV. The fundamental similarity between the two is truth, which is also the case in fashion. What you must bring out is the truth, believe in what you’re doing. For example if you’re doing a fashion shoot, or a show, the thing to do is just catch the truth of it. I don’t know how you do it, but the difference most people would tell you is that with stage acting, you’re projecting to a bigger audience. It doesn’t mean projecting your voice, it doesn’t mean projecting your body, it just means being aware of your audience, be it the stalls, the circle or the gods. It doesn’t matter.
Acting in front of a camera, it does a lot, but you can’t let ‘it’ do it all. You have to bring something more to it. Another difference is that in front of a camera you can do more than one take, whereas in theatre, once you’re on stage you’re there for two hours. Sometimes your mind goes blank, and you just don’t know what to do, you think it lasts forever, but in fact it’s only a couple of seconds.
The main difference between film and stage is that one is in front of a camera, and one is targeted at an audience. What I can say, is that once it clicks, that’s it, it’s the best feeling in the world, it really is just wonderful.
M1: Do you ever use method acting?
DG: I suppose the fly on the wall would tell you that to get into a part you have to mix in method acting. I have done method acting, and have been in character the whole time, but there is no one way of doing it. Sometimes it can be very upsetting, but the ultimate goal is to get to the character. That is the important thing, and to please the audience. When you get to that point, through method acting or any other way, suddenly you get a feeling inside for a few seconds and think “Wow, that’s it.” In those few seconds you’re experiencing it, but trying to remember how at the same time, and remember your lines. It’s a very strange feeling. Sometimes you get it for five or ten seconds, andit’s crystal clear to you that this is exactly right. It’s liberating, everything else falls away.
M1: How difficult is it working on two jobs at the same time?
DG: I don’t find it that difficult. Nobody has asked me that before, they generally ask what I prefer doing. They are all so different I can’t even describe. The one major difference is that in fashion you don’t have lines to learn. If I were doing say, a film at the start of the week, and fashion at the end of the week I would feel totally different, that’s ok. Here, talking to you I don’t feel like an actor, I feel like David Gant talking about parts of his life.
M1: What is the hardest role you have had to play?
DG: I think probably Shakespeare’s King Lear. It’s a lot of lines, and took about a month to five weeks to memories them. There were times when I thought, this is totally impossible, a huge mistake. Shakespeare was very clever, when he wrote his major characters he always gave them time off stage, for a cup of tea, or glass of mead in those days, or whatever they did. This gave the actors a break, to calm down before the next part. Lear was a journey both mentally and physically. I normally go to the gym six days a week, and when I was doing Lear I thought during the rehearsal I could go in the evening, and when playing I could go during the days. We were touring the republic of Ireland, and it was very clear early on that I could not keep it up. To do Lear was a work out on its own. Younger actors want to play Hamlet, older actors want to play Lear. I had always wanted to play him, and suddenly it appeared, it was just wonderful.
I love playing new characters, and creating new characters. Sometimes there’s a difficulty in making it believable, because you’re trying to bring somebody who has lived as long as I have, to life in three or four weeks.
M1: Who/what has inspired you?
DG: The Roxy theatre, the variety theatre that my dad took me to from when I was 7. I went there until it closed in the late 50s. That inspired me, as well as old black and white movies. My minister from the church I went to was a beautiful speaker. He didn’t speak from notes, he simply got up and spoke. When I went to drama school, for three years he allowed me the use of the church hall to do my voice and physical exercises.He gave me the key, and from time to time would allow me to read out the lesson in church to see if my voice would work. But yes, my main inspiration was probably the Roxy Theatre, and there was an act on film in those days called ‘Old Mother Riley’. It was this washerwoman and her daughter, Kitty, who were really man and wife. I was watching them thinking, “Oh my god, aren’t they amazing. How do they do it?” It’s really inspiring when you see it done beautifully.
I remember going to see Marlene Dietrich, this was before I went to drama school. She was absolutely stunning, bringing everything to stage, all the back catalogues, all her work, her ups and downs. She brought them all to stage. She was staggering. That was a lesson. She had stillness, and the ability to look at people. In a song she would suddenly stop, and just look. She could keep that silence going, it’s quite something. Sinatra was another one that had that. It’s that knowledge that they have nothing to prove, because they’ve done it.
M1: You must have been to some pretty exciting places. What has been your favorite?
DG: The first time I went abroad as an actor was to Europe for two weeks with a theatre company. Since then I have been to several places, but the big one was going to Perth, Australia, with Hamlet in my 50s. Ever since then I’ve gone back. For five years after that I went every year. I simply adore it. The moment I set foot in Perth for the first time I thought, “this is for me”. All I do is hit the beach. People ask me what I do over there and I say “nothing”. They say “do you read?”, I say “no I don’t read, I just lie on the beach, and after half an hour I turn over. And after another half an hour, I turn over. And then I get off my chair and go for my siesta”. The biggest decision I make is what and when do I eat. When they ask how I do it, I say “well come and watch, its quite easy.”
Fashion has taken me to Santa Barbara, California. It was for Canali, an Italian based label. I was there for five days, then played tourist for ten days. I love working away from home, it’s a fabulous feeling.
M1: What film or production would you most like to be part of?
DG: I would love to play a romantic part, but I don’t get those roles. I generally kill people. However they are usually the best parts. I was in a movie called Bridges, playing a commander in a concentration camp. He was a guy that was truly bad, and had no redeeming feature. I loved it. I would just shoot you, and then walk off and have a cup of coffee.
I would love to play a romantic part who dies at the end of the film, simply collapsing on a dance floor. I love dancing you see. A couple of playwrights have asked me, if they were writing a script, what would I like it to be. I said, I want to play a man who’s in love, not with a young woman, I think that’s all been done to death. She doesn’t need to be a looker, just a woman with integrity. I think I should have an illness, and should be truly in love with her, treating her by taking her to a ballroom, with a huge orchestra I have hired. And we should be dancing. Then suddenly I freeze, and fall to my knees, and die. At that point the film would flash back to see how we got to that position. The rest I do not know. But I would just like to play a romantic.
M1: If not acting, what other profession would you have liked to have gone into?
DG: I love acting. At the end of it all, I find it fun. It’s all very serious what we do, but there has to be fun within it. Some lovely things happen in both fashion and acting. I get to meet such lovely, creative people. In fashion you’re working for photographers, and you’re up for that one photograph or spread. I find the sensitivity of a fashion photographer just wonderful. The best photographers don’t take any time at all, no buts. They don’t have anything to prove, they just do it. Sometimes its over in 20 minutes. It’s truly inspiring working with such photographers, like Jason Hetherington, people like that. We often work to lovely music too.
M1: What have you got planned for 2011?
DG: I have a couple of castings for fashion, and there is something in Germany, which may go ahead. There is nothing concrete. I never know what I’ll be doing tomorrow or next week. I had a script sent to me which I would have loved to do, but I am to give a bride away, and the wedding is right in the middle of production dates. So the answer to that question is, I do not know.
M1: What advice would you give to actors and models starting out?
DG: I never give advice. All I say is, if you want to do it do it. If someone asked “Do you think I can do it?” I’d say, “do you think you can do it? Well do something about it.”
M1: Who would be your ultimate dinner date?
DG: Amy Winehouse. I have no idea what I would say to her, but she has the most beautiful voice. I would also like to dine with me as a young man, me as 20 or something. That would be scary. During the dinner (of fish and chips, as we would both enjoy that), I would like to ask me questions, what I think of myself as an older man, and if all the angst I went through growing up has changed the man I am now.
To view David’s portfolio, click HERE