James Nesbitt walks through how Queen helped him get his first acting job as the Artful Dodger

Virgin Radio

12 Dec 2023, 15:30

James Nesbitt has recently been taken back into the 'wonder' and 'magic' of his profession while starring in his latest venture, which prompted him to look back on how the music of stadium rockers, Queen, got him first job as the Artful Dodger in a production of Oliver!

Speaking on The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with cinch, James Nesbitt was describing to his old pal Evans how watching the two young leads of his latest film, The Heist Before Christmas, take on their first major productions reminded him of the delightful 'novelty' of his chosen career.

Despite the kids in the film still occasionally behaving like, well, kids, Nesbitt was amazed by how: "They were prepared, they understood it, they loved it, you know."

As an adult actor Nesbitt admitted how, the words of recent guest Tom Hanks, acting can feel like being told to 'just say the goddamn words!' that this time it wasn't the case, as he realised he would have been the same age as one of the child leads, Bamber Todd, when he would have gotten his first professional job as the Artful Dodger in Oliver.

"It really took me back to the just the wonder of it all and the magic of it [acting]." Nesbitt described, before going into just how mimicking Freddie Mercury from Queen somehow proved he could be a Victorian, juvenile delinquent.

That's also not only unusual feature of this story as Nesbitt went onto to explain: "It was with a professional comedy at the Riverside Theatre in Coleraine in Northern Ireland, which was attached to the Ulster University.

"And they were, it was the Interplay they were called, it was the first time they'd have done a big production. I was playing rugby on a Saturday morning, and at the end of it my dad was there on the touchline, looking kind of fierce, because we had won."

Unusually this motivated Nesbitt's dad to drag him to the theatre, Nesbitt continued: "He says: 'Right, come on, we're going to the theatre.' and I went, 'what?', and we're going to Riverside theatre, and I've never been to it.

"We walked in, and he was looking for their director, and he said: 'Oh, they're auditioning for Oliver [the musical] here today. And I thought you might want to come,' because I used to sing."

Unfortunately for the father & son duo, once they found the director, they were told that 'the auditions were over,' however that didn't deter Nesbitt's dad.

His father pleaded for the director to 'just let him sing,' and it's a this point a kind of weird magic connected the worlds of Victorian England and late 70s glam rock.

Nesbitt went on: "So I stood on the stage and I sang, all of Bohemian Rhapsody, all the parts, the entire thing, it went on for about 10 minutes.

"And the director, sort of went: 'Okay, will you come back next week?'"

After singing along with some other boys up for the role, as well as some acting, fate finally lead Nesbitt onto his inevitable career path: "Then he said [the director]: 'Right, you come with me,' and we walk through this labyrinth of corridors and the theatre, walked in, and he grabbed this cloak off, put it on me, put a top hat on and said,'your my dodger!'"

A happy ending to a surprisingly awkward first audition for the young Nesbitt, well if you considered not being paid for your first job a happy moment.

Although as Evans later joked: "He's been getting paid ever since!"

James Nesbitt stars as The Bank Robber in the new Sky Original film The Heist Before Christmas, alongside fellow acting heavyweight Timothy Spall.

Twelve-year-old troubled Mikey (Bamber Todd), who has grown up too fast to believe in the magic of Christmas, finds two Santa Clauses in the woods. One has just robbed a bank (James Nesbitt) and is on the run with the cash, the other Santa (Timothy Spall) claims to have fallen out of his sleigh. 

James said: “It’s hopefully a feel-good movie, which captures the spirit of Christmas, but also is holding a bit of a mirror up to what are very challenging times, with the cost-of-living crisis in the UK and Ireland and further afield”.


For more great interviews listen to  The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with cinch weekdays from 6:30am on Virgin Radio, or  catch up on-demand here.