The Rise and Rise of James Corden
When Menchel bumped into Weinstein at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, while casting
discussions were underway about who was going to portray Paul Potts, Harvey suggested that
his counterpart go see 'One Man, Two Guvnors' at London's Adelphi Theatre, where Richard
Bean's smash-hit play had transferred after its initial three-month run at the National. "Ten
minutes into the play, I literally stood up and said, 'Harvey Weinstein is right! This is the guy,'" says
Menchel. "You saw the talent, you saw the similarities, you saw not just the humor but also the
heart. He just had it. I went back to Harvey and said, 'Once again, you are right.'"
Corden's name had cropped up on early lists for ONE CHANCE. In those earlier days, he might
still have been considered a risk. As a star and co-writer of the celebrated BBC sitcom 'Gavin
And Stacey,' as well as a regular fixture on comedy panel shows and awards show hosting, he
was already huge on native shores. But he was still what might be termed a "local hero."
The bright lights of Broadway changed that opinion in one fell swoop. What had been the
hottest play in London became an equally hot ticket in New York City, and Corden's
magnificent performance as the play's hapless star Francis Henshall -- a glorious combination of
outstanding comic timing, breathtaking physicality and charismatic audience interaction --
ended up storming the Great White Way in the spring and summer of 2012. And, lo and behold,
he triumphed in the Best Actor category at the Tony Awards, beating the likes of Philip Seymour
Hoffman for 'Death Of A Salesman,' a victory that supplied a rocket-fuelled boost to his film
industry profile. James Corden had hit the big time.
"He was no longer an emerging British actor; he had arrived," enthuses Menchel. "He hit
America with a splash and went from being relatively unknown to known in one fell swoop. He's
wonderful and there's just nobody else for this film. He's the best actor we could have found for
ONE CHANCE, and I'm so excited to watch his trajectory."
"His name is now on the lips of everyone in Hollywood and he is a movie star, categorically,"
states Kris Thykier, who joined ONE CHANCE as a producer in early 2012. "He has an emotional
vulnerability on screen that is incredibly winning and compelling. He's got that classic movie star
thing which is that it doesn't really matter what he's doing on screen, you want to be in his gang. And he's also a very fine actor. He brings the sensitivity that Paul himself must have had to want
to sing opera, which is maybe an odd thing in the environment he grew up in."
"As soon as I heard that James' name was mentioned, I didn't think for one second that we
should consider anyone else," says Cowell. "He is one of the nicest people I've ever met - he has
what we call the likability factor and I knew that James would like Paul, and I knew that he
would want to play Paul in a good light and it is a challenge for him and James is always up for
challenges. He was completely and utterly committed and devoted to making this as good as
Even before he had had the opportunity to see much of his work, Frankel had always been
drawn to the idea of Corden playing Potts. "I had never seen 'Gavin and Stacey' but I watched
some of his chat-show clips and he really made me laugh," says the director. "Physically he
seemed right and he's so charismatic; I just enjoyed watching him." Frankel also flew to London
to watch Corden in 'One Man, Two Guvnors': "I was already sold by then but he was
extraordinary in the show."
Their faith has been amply justified. Potts is a less comedic character than many of Corden's
previous parts, but he has engaged with the role on a deeply human level, and has delivered a
performance filled with heart, charm and sensitivity. One of the significant strengths of the One
Chance script in Corden's eyes is the fact that the story doesn't use Potts' astonishing success as
its starting point but rather builds up to that date with destiny, focusing on his life before and the
many stumbling blocks he encountered along the way, from severe bullying to hospitalization for
various physical ailments, including being run over by a car. Through it all, he never gave up.
"When you first hear, 'We're making a film about the life of Paul Potts', it conjures up visions of
people sitting behind oversized desks saying, 'I'm going to make you a star, kid!'" says Corden.
"Then you read it and go, 'Oh, this is a film about a boy who lives in an industrial steel town in
Wales and wants to be an opera singer. And in spite of everything, he just never, ever gives up
on that dream.' Plus, it's got an incredibly romantic and beautiful love story."
"The thing that I've enjoyed the most about this," he continues, "is playing someone who is
incredibly shy and lacking in confidence but has this unbelievable self belief that he can stand
up and sing. It's just a lovely thing to play."
As for the real Paul Potts, he actually met Corden long before there was any talk of being
played by him. It was at the end of his first UK tour, and he and his wife Julz were standing at a
London hotel bar when a very flustered Corden entered with a carrier bag and pulled up at the
bar alongside them. "He had come in from his car and he turned around and said, 'They broke
into my car and all they left was my dirty underwear.' Julz just burst out laughing, and he said,
'Why are you laughing? It's true!' She just thought it was so funny."
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