Hugh Dancy has often taken roles that seem tailored towards developing an adoring female fan base—is there anything sexier than a guy who loves reading Jane Austen?—but he tops even himself in Hysteria. The Victorian-era film, out this Friday, follows Dancy’s character Dr. Mortimer Granville as he helps develop the world’s first vibrator. Yes, his character literally gets women off. We spoke with the British actor to get the inside scoop on this buzzed-about film—and to find out which of his Hysteria co-stars (Maggie Gyllenhaal, Rupert Everett, and Felicity Jones, among others) was the most pleasurable to work with.
Relationship Status: Married (to Claire Danes)
On why Mortimer is just like the rest of us: “He’s made that decision that a lot of people make: He spent the first five years of his career pursuing his more idealistic vision for what he could be—his dreams, if you like—and that comes to nothing repeatedly, so he says, ‘Fine, I give in, I see the writing on the wall, I need to get serious.’ And that’s the track that he’s on.”
On why Mortimer is just like Hugh Dancy: “What I like about Mortimer—and what I’d like to think was true about me—other than his idealism was that he’s not just a straight-laced guy; that somewhere underneath he’s actually got some mischief about him. I’d like to think that this was true to me.”
His on-screen co-star and off-screen crush: “It was the last week of the movie, so I was kind of exhausted, and if you were exhausted at the end of the movie, it’s the exact person you’d want to walk through the door and be a burst of outrageous energy: Rupert [Everett]. He’s very good company.”
Why you’ll want to buy the movie when it comes out on DVD: “There’s a very long gag real for this movie, because almost every scene was essentially hard to keep a straight face. You can imagine why….”
The future of the film industry: “It’s become so polarized, in terms of the films that get made. The huge blockbusters, the sequels that seem to get churned out—and that’s great, I see those movies like everybody else—but the middle ground, the mid-budget movies seem to have vanished. Those are often the movies that, for me, have the chance of being immortal. Instead, you have this new wave of really talented, truly independent American filmmakers coming up. One of them is Sean Durkin, who did Martha Marcy May Marlene, [another is] Lena Dunham; there’s this whole generation of really interesting people coming up who no doubt in ten years time will be the mainstream, but right now they’re really interesting and still on the outside.”
The future of vibrators in Hollywood films: “It’s still a taboo—it’s a very strange taboo. I think that maybe we found a way around it by virtue of [treating] it honestly whilst still treating it comedically. But yeah, for whatever reason people are very squeamish about it!”