A new series of Urban Myths, The Good Wife’s Matt Czuchry stars in new hospital drama The Resident and the return of Ancient Rome-set comedy Plebs
JAMES PUREFOY and Gemma arterton add comedy to the making of an iconic film
Thursday, Sky Arts HD, 9pm
SOME LIKE IT HOT is one of the best-loved comedy movies of all time with its story of two 1920s musicians, played by Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, evading gangsters by dressing as women and joining an all-female jazz band.
But the shooting of the 1959 film was plagued by difficulty, due to the fact that Marilyn Monroe, who played glamorous singer and ukulele player Sugar Kane, struggled to get her lines right.
The challenges faced by the film’s director and writer Billy Wilder are brought to life in the opening episode of Sky Arts’ Urban Myths comedy strand, which returns this week to give a ‘true-ish’ take on legendary moments from the worlds of film, music, art and literature.
The episode stars James Purefoy as Wilder, who looks on in horror as Monroe, played by Gemma Arterton, needs 47 takes before she perfects a single line, ‘It’s me, Sugar.’ ‘It’s a simple scene where Marilyn knocks on a door and says the line, but she just couldn’t get it right,’ says Purefoy, 53. ‘She was a fine comedic actress but she was having a bad day because at the time, she was drinking and taking prescription medicines.’
Wilder’s difficulties in getting his star to remember the line are exacerbated as her acting coach Paula Strasberg (Felicity Montagu) and her husband, playwright Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott), are both on set, while her co-stars Jack Lemmon (Adam Brody) and Tony Curtis (Alex Pettyfer) are taking bets on how many takes Monroe will need.
‘They all keep sticking their oar in as Wilder tries every way he can to get her to say the line right,’ says Purefoy, best known for his roles in Rome, The Following and Altered Carbon. ‘Lemmon and Curtis are trying their hardest to help her, but it’s Wilder himself who eventually gets through to her and makes her feel confident. They’d had a successful working relationship on The Seven Year Itch and he cast her again to recreate that magic. Eventually he got it but there was a great cost.’
To prepare for the role as
Wilder, Purefoy watched Youtube clips of the director as well as documentaries about the making of the movie and he also enjoyed re-watching the film itself.
‘It just has a wonderful naivety to it that endlessly delights us as an audience,’ he says. ‘I watched it years ago but watching it again reminded me how breathtakingly brilliant and hilariously funny it is. The characters are rich and complex, and the actors worked together really well because Billy let them go ahead and do their thing. He was famous for his lack of trickery; he really loved just putting a camera on someone and letting it roll.’
Purefoy was attracted to the unique format of Urban Myths, and says he’s looking forward to seeing the other episodes (see panel).
TELLING TALL TALES
‘Part of the reason I did this was that a friend of mine, Ben Chaplin, did an episode with Aidan Gillen in the first series about Cary Grant and psychologist Timothy Leary taking acid together. It was hilarious and beautifully done,’ he says.
‘They are all based on a kernel of fact, which is developed into a nice little imaginative story. It’s a clever format and satisfying for an audience because they are bite-sized.
‘I’d love to direct one myself and I’ve got a few ideas up my sleeve. There are so many stories like this that you can really fantasise about what happened.’