Top of the class
The History Boys cast shot from classroom to superstardom, but what came next? Jane Watkins finds out
TEN years ago, the film version of Alan Bennett’s hit play The History Boys was released, bringing the multiaward-winning production to a new audience following runs at the National Theatre, in the West End, in Australia and Hong Kong and on Broadway. Its young cast became stars and, unusually, many of them are now even hotter properties in this country and in the USA.
Probably the most successful has been James Corden, who has taken America by storm as a chat-show host. One of the most popular segments of his Late Late Show is ‘Carpool Karaoke’, in which he rides around in a car with a celebrity singing along to their hits with his characteristic abandon. His ride with Adele drew more than 110 million internet views and that with Michelle Obama had 34 million views in the first five days. During the History Boys run, he was encouraged to write by the playwright, the result being Gavin & Stacey. Overexposure almost led to the end of his career, but he stormed back with One Man, Two Guvnors. He was made an OBE in 2015.
Currently receiving praise for this performance as J. K. Rowling’s boy wizard all grown up in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Jamie Parker has been building a stellar reputation in British theatre, garnering acclaim for his Prince Hal at Shakespeare’s Globe (where he became one of the potential successors to Dominic Dromgoole) and as a musical-theatre star in such shows as the recent Guys and Dolls and at the Proms last year.
Following his performance as the sexy Dakin, it seemed obvious that Hollywood would come calling for Dominic Cooper, although film success seemed to elude him after playing Sky in Mamma Mia!. He didn’t, how- ever, desert the theatre—he co-starred with Helen Mirren in Phèdre, which was the first production to be shown in cinemas through Ntlive. Lately, he’s played Tony Stark’s father for a variety of Marvel TV and film adaptations and can be seen on Amazon Prime in Preacher. From September 22, he’ll return to the West End for a 10-week run in The Libertine at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Although children flock to him to as fans of Mike the Knight’s Squirt the dragon, Russell Tovey has quite a passionate adult following thanks to roles in Being Human and Looking, which often required him to appear naked. He was touted to replace David Tennant in Doctor Who, however, the role of the Eleventh Doctor went to another former History Boy (from a later cast), Matt Smith. Next year, Tovey will return to the National Theatre for Tony Kushner’s epic Angels in America.
Also appearing in Doctor Who was Samuel Anderson, who was Clara’s ill-fated boyfriend Danny Pink. Currently in Sky’s comedy Trollied, he was also in Jimmy Mcgovern’s Moving On for BBC1.
Samuel Barnett has worked steadily in the theatre, most recently travelling to Broadway with Mark Rylance in his allmale Twelfth Night. On television, he appeared in Twenty Twelve, Beautiful People and Penny Dreadful and can next be seen as the title character in the Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency reboot for BBC America.
After trying America, Sacha Dhawan has been seen in Line
The boys to entertain you: on the brink of stardom in 2004