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Oliver James Talks About "Raise Your Voice"

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Oliver James Raise Your Voice

Oliver James in "Raise Your Voice"

© New Line Cinema
Oliver James broke a few teenage hearts in "What a Girl Wants" and now in "Raise Your Voice," the handsome British actor has the same effect on Hilary Duff. James co-stars in the teen drama as the guy who connects with Hilary Duff's new girl in town character.

The big question in casting Oliver James as Hilary's onscreen love interest was whether or not he should speak with an English accent. Duff herself campaigned for Oliver to keep his accent intact. "I loved Oliver’s accent and thought it would be really cool and somewhat mysterious for his character to be from another country. I fought really hard to keep his character English and was so happy when the producers decided to go that way."

INTERVIEW WITH OLIVER JAMES ('Jay'):

This is a pretty big movie for you.
Yeah, it is. It was exciting when the opportunity to came along. I mean, how many young actors get the chance to do that?

But you’re also musically inclined. Is that part of the reason you got the role?
I think so. I think there are sort of natural elements in me that sort of lead themselves to the role. But yeah, I’d agree with you on that one. I’d say there were parts of me that were brought to the role, but there’s also differences there that I had to look into and characterize.

What instruments are you really good at?
I didn’t play the guitar until “What a Girl Wants.” I picked it up and started learning, and then sort of left it for a bit. Then “Raise Your Voice” came along and I started doing it again. Getting blisters on my hands and just practicing and practicing. I used to play the drums, but I’m primarily a singer actually.

Who do you sound like?
I guess, I’ve heard people tell me I sound like Paul Young. But then I’ve heard Aaron Neville… I’ve heard everything. People tell me I sound like so many different people, I have no idea. Me, I guess, is the best answer to that one.

What did you find out about Hilary Duff that you didn’t know before?
You mean after shooting as compared to before? I think I just got a good sense of who she was as a person. But I think what really stood out to me was her [popularity], how famous she is in this country. I had no idea. I knew that she’d done “Lizzie McGuire” and I knew that she’d done “Agent Cody Banks.” And “Cheaper by the Dozen” was coming out. And I knew that she had a music career, but I wasn’t that aware really of how huge she was until we started seeing each other. There was a concert that we went to – I’m friends with the music supervisor who worked on “A Cinderella Story” – and it was the Saturday night before I started shooting with Hilary on a Monday. I went to the concert and saw these young, screaming fans and that really hit home how popular she was then. And then through the movie, I saw that Hilary had a bodyguard and I’ve never come across that before. In answer to your question, I think her status within this country was what stood out to me as being something I knew about her after that I didn’t know before.

Is her music the type of music you're into?
Not particularly. That doesn’t mean to say that I don’t respect it and understand how and why it’s so commercial. But no, it’s not the sort of stuff that I listen to.

How’d you get hooked up with this movie?
I originally auditioned for Kiwi. I read the script – it was really weird – I read the script and I was like, “I’m not sure if I want to because I’d really like to play Jay. I kind of see myself as Jay.” They were like, “Just go in. It’s great practice for your auditions. Just do your thing.” I came out and went home for Christmas and it was after Christmas that whoever was playing the role fell out. And they said, “We want you to come back in and audition for Jay.” So I flew over from England and there were four other guys in the room, all of whom I sort of knew or recognized from their work. I went in there and I just did my best. I actually got the job playing an American. I mean, I won the part as an American. It was sort of a producers and the director’s decision that it would be more viable if I were to be more English. It seems to be a trend nowadays.

What kind of reaction do you get from your friends back home after doing these movies?
I guess the movies I’ve done have been more popular over here, than they have been in Europe. I guess our industry isn’t as big. I think in America there’s a lot more scoop for movies, and there’s a lot more cinema/theater culture. But they’re really happy for me. A lot of them are actors so it’s great that they’re so supportive of me.

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