LONDON — When Stanley Tucci makes a commitment, he doesn’t fool around.
He married London-based literary agent Felicity Blunt last year, then decided to say cheerio to America and set up shop in Ol’ Blighty.
The 52-year-old will be among friends. Blunt is the older sister of Tucci’s The Devil Wears Prada co-star Emily Blunt who introduced them a few years ago.
So far, he’s made some inquiries about acting and directing on the West End stage and he’s investigating the possibility of lining up some Brit TV and film gigs, but there’s nothing official to report.
“It’s all been very exciting,” said Tucci, who was promoting his latest movie Jack the Giant Slayer at the historic Hampton Court Palace just an hour’s drive south of his new home.
The move across the pond doesn’t mean he’ll give up parts in American studio pictures such as Jack the Giant Slayer, which opens in theatres March 1, or The Hunger Games: Catching Fire set for release in November.
Instead, he continues to keep his options open while reminding his questioner that the Bryan Singer-directed Jack the Giant Slayer was filmed in England, and specifically some sequences at the Hampton Court Palace.
Indeed, he’ll always travel to where the work is; once a gypsy always a gypsy. In fact, he decided on a wandering actor’s life at a young age growing up in Katonah, New York.
“I was never really comfortable as myself within my own skin,” said Tucci.
“I remember walking onstage as a kid, doing a play, and I was completely at home. I felt much more comfortable onstage than I did off the stage.”
The devotion has served him well. He’s a thespian of many talents.
For instance, Tucci earned an Oscar nomination for his serial killer portrayal in The Lovely Bones, but Singer didn’t hesitate to sign him to play the silly villain Roderick in Jack the Giant Slayer.
“It was Stanley’s idea to do the teeth and the hair and the beetles on the jacket,” said Singer of Roderick’s outlandish look. “I knew the performance had to be somewhat heightened but he got away with it because he’s very talented.”
Loosely based on Jack and the Beanstalk and Jack the Giant Killer fables, the action movie features farm boy Jack (Nicholas Hoult), the gallant knight Elmont (Ewan McGregor) and the ruthless Roderick (Tucci) who are on a quest to save Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson).
She’s being held prisoner in the giant sky land of Gantua, newly connected to the earthly Cloister kingdom by a magical beanstalk.
The subsequent battles between the Gantua giants and the Cloister mortals rely on modern special effects but the emoting is strictly from cinema’s past.
If McGregor’s portrayal of his knight references Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood from the 1938 film then Tucci’s performance recalls Basil Rathbone’s bad guy Sir Guy of Gisbourne, hair included.
“I swear I was doing him,” said Tucci smiling at the suggestion. “When they offered the role to me, I went, ‘Oh, my God, that’s fantastic. I’ve always wanted to do this.’ I love those old movies, so I’m telling you it’s just a shameless ripoff. I don’t really have a great imagination.”
The Hunger Games fans, who loved his portrayal of the flamboyant master of ceremonies Caesar Flickerman, know that’s not true. But so does Tucci, a respected and admired thespian.
The former New Yorker will confess to the fact that playing Roderick with a stylized English accent wasn’t as easy as he anticipated.
“It took me a while,” Tucci admitted. “I was here doing the film with my wife so it helped that I would sit in my trailer and run lines with her. I would also read things from the newspaper out loud on a tape recorder, and play it back over and over again, until I got it.”
The exaggeration of his performance was played strictly for laughs, however. “I would have gone even farther, but Bryan (Singer) pulled me back, and rightly so.”
Throughout his career, the play — or TV series or movie — has always been the thing, however slowly things developed for him.
In 1985, he made his movie debut in Prizzi’s Honor, managed co-starring parts in The Pelican Brief and the kids flick Beethoven, among others, over the next decade.
But he turned heads for the first time with one of the main roles opposite buddy Tony Shalhoub in 1996’s Big Night, a comedy-drama he co-directed about a special evening at an Italian restaurant. Two years later he received acclaim for his lead in the HBO biopic Winchell.
Over the last seven years, he’s enjoyed a resurgence emphasizing his varied abilities with co-starring roles opposite now good friend Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada and Julie & Julia, followed by his Academy Award-nominated part in The Lovely Bones and now his outrageous Roderick in Jack the Giant Slayer.
Next up is his dastardly Greek-god Dionysus role in the fantasy sequel, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, which is scheduled for release in August.
His versatility comes naturally.
“I believe that everybody has a multiple personality,” Tucci said. “I think that actors just allow themselves access to those personalities.”