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Eddie Redmayne

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Having starred opposite Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn, wowed the West End in Richard II and rolled around with British model Cara Delevingne for a Burberry campaign in recent months, Eddie Redmayne is in justifiably good spirits.

“Basically, I’m a d*ck,” laughs the 30-year-old Londoner, shaking his head in disbelief. “I totally lucked out last year.” And with a starring role in the BBC’s imminent adaptation of modern literary classic Birdsong, his run of good fortune looks like it will continue in 2012...

You play First World War officer Stephen Wraysford in Birdsong. How tough was it filming in the trenches?

Well, there was no shade, so the heat was extraordinary. You sit in these massive costumes, which was what they were wearing, and you think, “They wore this in this heat and then had to go to fight in a war,” so pretty much hourly there were moments when you had a sense of all that discomfort. But, of course, we could have a shower afterwards, so we could hardly moan about trench foot. The second you complain you realise you have absolutely no right to.

Did you discover any historic details about the First World War?

The fact that they went over the top wearing a tie with a tie clip amazed me. They all shaved regularly and washed their faces, so that was a constant battle for make-up. But it looks so odd. And some of the photos of the dugouts are surprising because they’re really nice. We looked at photos of the German ones and they’re beautifully neat and have almost got four-poster beds in them. Some of them genuinely look nicer than my flat [laughs].

What about gun training?

In Budapest [where it was filmed] we did some military training where we learned how to march and use guns. There were actors from different parts of the country, all different ages, and we didn’t have a clue what we were doing. But I realised why people at school joined the Corps — you’re all in it together, all starting from the same point. Well, I was particularly sh*te, but you are working as a group. The sense of camaraderie filtered down, and because the sergeant major was barking at us we all helped each other out. We really f*cking bonded. It’s rare to have only boys on set and everyone was really lovely. Probably because there were no girls to impress [laughs].

One girl you did have some, quite intimate, scenes with was Clémence Poésy. How did you combat any awkwardness?

When we were in Budapest we went out and got drunk together. When you’re getting fully naked and re-enacting sex it’s just really exposing. Literally. You just want to know that you trust the other person you’re doing it with. So we found it good to just go out, have a few and spill it all about ourselves and our relationships.

Were there still any embarrassing moments?

There were endless embarrassing moments. When you come into the trailer in the morning and see that there are five flesh-coloured thongs hanging up [laughs], you think to yourself, “Oh, it’s that day, is it?”

Speaking of embarrassment, have you had any shocking onstage moments?

I was in this play called The Goat with Jonathan Pryce where my character is having a breakdown and he takes it upon himself to snog his dad. So I had to kiss Jonathan, and one night he succeeded in biting me. Honestly, blood was pulsating out of my lip to the point where I was on the bus home and people who were in the play were asking me, “Are you all right? Is your lip OK?”

You’re also starring in The King’s Speech director Tom Hooper’s big-screen version of Les Misérables. How’s it shaping up?

That starts filming in February so I’m currently in singing lesson mode. My family saw Les Misérables at the theatre when I was younger, and I have two brothers who are real sportsmen and not actors or anything, but they’re obsessed with it. Honestly. When I was going through the audition process, I’d get phone calls from my brother asking me “Have you heard? Have you heard?” Because when we were kids going on family trips we’d always sing it in the car. That particular musical, weirdly, is something my family love, so it is exciting.

Finally, you’re being linked to big Hollywood roles and have been nominated for a Bafta. Do your friends help to keep you grounded?

Absolutely. I live with two mates in a flat in south London, and they don’t work in this world at all. So there’s no special treatment. They just go, “Whatever mate, it’s your turn to take the rubbish out.”

Birdsong starts on BBC One on 22 January at 9pm

(Image: Rex Features)

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