Freddie Fox is 26 but still has the boyish looks appropriate to play the teenage Romeo in Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy.
“My young face is a bonus,” he admits. “I am grateful because I think I am more emotionally and technically adept and better equipped to play this part now than if I looked the age to play him at the time.”
Fox, son of Edward Fox and Joanna David, sister of Emilia Fox, and nephew of James Fox, is the first in the famous acting family to play the role.
It’s such an iconic role, has it been a challenge to make it his own? “When originally I got the part I watched the Zeffirelli film and Leonardo DiCaprio just to remind myself of the play and I was struck how different they were and thought there is no way I could be the same as anyone else even if I tried,” he says. “I am my own specific flavour so I can only hope that that flavour is pleasing to the audiences that come to see it.”
Apart from a radio production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream it is Fox’s first Shakespeare and one of the challenges is delivering all those lines everyone knows.
“I would hope the production is engaging and exciting enough to make you forget that you have heard some of those lines before,” he asserts. “They were never intended to be soundbites but logical phrases that serve the moment and serve the plot. So hopefully people will forget they have heard ‘Lo what light from yonder window breaks’ and it will be like discovering it for the first time.
“It is a play about young people and first love which I hope everyone can relate to in some way and it’s an incredibly physically exciting moment in their life when you are young and vibrant and ready for something like that and give it everything you’ve got and in that sense there is a lot of energy on stage. It is a very young cast and it’s a play that’s got everything in it. It’s got a huge number of fights and lots of dancing and quite a bit of sex. It’s a play about young joie de vivre.”
It’s Fox’s first theatre in two and a half years during which he has been busy on screen, notably with Channel 4’s Cucumber as “a very attention-grabbing character” which couldn’t fail to give his career “a leg-up”.
Next year he will be seen a couple of big movies, Victor Frankenstein alongside James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe, and Knights of the Round Table directed by Guy Ritchie. “That was sort of a dream come true because Guy has been a movie hero of mine since I was an early teen.”
Fox has no qualms about acknowledging the benefits of being part of an acting dynasty “We are very close, we speak all the time,” he says. “Both mum and dad are very good at only giving advice when it is asked for but I guess I have received a lot of wisdom by just being around the profession – and they and also my sister have served me in ways that I will never know.”
Romeo and Juliet opens at the Crucible Theatre tonight (September 17) and continues to October 17.