Darius Campbell is back in the West End with new musical From Here To Eternity - which is proving to be a massive hit.
The premiere performance of From Here To Eternity was filming and is now coming to the big screen this week.
We caught up with Campbell to chat about From Here To Eternity, the role of Warden, and the link between theatre and film.
- A performance of From Here To Eternity is about to be arrive on the big screen, so can you tell me a little bit about the show?
From Here To Eternity is the true story of men, women who live, loved, and died during the most incredible, and horrific attack on U.S. soil in history, up until that point: it was when the Japanese attacked the Americans in Hawaii.
It was something that James Jones, a young soldier, experienced: he went on to write three books that would become famous Hollywood movies, including The Thin Red Line.
One of the books was called From Here To Eternity and it went on to be a bestseller: Time magazine voted it as one of the best novels of all time. In the fifties, it was turned into an eight-time Academy Award winning movie starring Burt Lancaster and Frank Sinatra.
Fast forward to 2013, and the world premiere of the musical version: written by the legendary Academy Award winning writer and producer Sir Tim Rice. I have been lucky to be playing the leading role of Warden, and it is has just been a blast.
It has been an incredible story to be a part of. The premiere of From Here To Eternity has been filmed specifically for the silver screen: it will be the first time that I get to see myself on the West End stage.
- You take on the role of Warden in the show, so what was it about this character and Tim Rice's script that attracted you to the part?
I loved the story because it is true and because it is heartbreaking as well as uplifting. The character of Warden is one that you rarely come across.
He is an old-school gent who has a very modern understanding of war, and who understood the importance of teamwork and placing your fellow man above yourself and all else; protecting your fellow man was the most important thing.
Warden was someone who always put the army first. However, there was one exception, and that was when he fell in love. Unfortunately, for him, he fell in love with the wife of his superior officer, which was an offence that was punishable by twenty years in military jail.
He is a very complex character, he is honourable, hardworking, commanding, but his vulnerability, and his core was something that was revealed through this love affair that he has with Karen.
He has a light and a dark side and strength and weakness. He is very much an inspiring and yet flawed character that played an amazing part in saving many lives.
The real man was upset when they made a movie out of this story. When the journalist and the paparazzi turned up on his doorstep wanting to know what he thought of the film in the fifties, he pulled out his shotgun and told them to get off his lawn.
He didn't fight in the war to be in the celebrity, he said that he fought in the war to save the lives of his fellow man. He was a tough and honourable man and experienced an amazing part of history. As an actor, just to be able to portray that was a real privilege.
- What kind of research did you do for this role? As you say, it is a real story that based on real person. There comes a level of responsibility with taking on this role.
There does. The source material was the book rather than the film: the film was the sanitised, glossy, Hollywood version of a very gritty story.
Although the film is amazing, it wasn't what we researched and what we referred to when we were doing this theatrical version.
Because of that, it gave us license to explore the themes of homosexuality, which was hidden in the army, as well as the torture and the imprisonment of the American soldiers by the U.S. Army: that was something that was covered up and not talked about. They never admitted that they used solitary confinement, beating methods to discipline the men, often for crimes that they were innocent of. Or for homosexuality itself.
American soldiers died at the hands of the U.S. Army and not by the enemy, which is tragic. Maggio, the character famously played by Frank Sinatra, was one of those soldiers.
It is harrowing, but the way that the material is treated is uplifting, in that it is a very rousing score and it is a very inspiring staging.
Ultimately, it is an uplifting story, and the way that Sir Tim Rice handled it, for me, he has written some of his best lyrics since Evita. It is great that it is getting a cinematic release.
- This show has also given you the chance to work with Tim Rice and composer Stuart Brayson, so how have you found that experience?
Tim is a legend, and I am really lucky to be able to call him a mentor and a friend. It has been an extraordinary experience as I have got to work with some of my heroes in theatre.
It has been an extraordinary journey, from the first day to this point and to the future when Tim talks about wanting to take the show to Broadway. The 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbour is coming up, but people don't actually know the details and the story of it.
Tim was really key in saying that he wanted to be involved in something that had a great story. In a way, this one is unbelievable because the soldiers that were attacked at Pearl Harbour were given Intel that said they would not be attacked by air because there was not enough petrol to allow the planes to get there.
Instead, they were told that the attack would be by sea. It happened on a Sunday morning, when they were hung over, and the attack came by air. Suddenly there was fire raining from the sky as they were attacked by the Japanese. That attack claimed as many lives as 9/11 and it was horrific.
Tim was very keen to tell that story and look into the lives of the people who lived at that time: some of whom lost their lives during that attack.
- That does lead me into my next question. From Here To Eternity features the bombing of Pearl Harbour, so how tricky has that been to bring to the stage?
It has been a challenge, but one that has been made all the easier by amazing choreography by Javier De Frutos and great songs.
Many of the technical and logistical hurdles were overcome by these beautiful projections, imagery, the use of slow-motion choreography, wirework, and the revolving and raising and lowering platforms. That really just gave the actors an amazing space to create the various scenes.
- In recent years, we have seen more and more stage productions find a place on the big screen, how important do you think this link with cinema is for the theatre world?
I think that the exposure of great stories in different formats is a wonderful way to increase awareness and bring ticket sales to a wider audience, which might not think about going to the West End.
The irony being, when you expose something like From Here To Eternity to the cinema screen, it makes more people to buy tickets in the West End: so there is a link between film and theatre.
I don't believe that it reduces ticket sales in the West End because the opposite has been proven to be true.
So that part I am excited by, and I just think as many people should see it as possible in whatever formats allow that to happen. As a performer, I do embrace that.
- We know you best from the world of music, but how have you found the transition into the theatre - you have been in the likes of Chicago and Guys and Dolls in recent years?
I have just been lucky to have been able to work with great people. I just want to tell great stories, whether that is in a song, in theatre, or on a television screen.
I filmed Beauty and the Beast for ABC and worked in Vancouver for six months. If you had asked me a year ago what I would be doing then, I wouldn't have believed you.
I do try to skip and jump between different genres, and I have been very lucky to have come full circle since releasing Colour Blind and having a number one.
I am actually recording my third album, which will be released later this year. It is a collection of new material that I have been writing with some new producers.
I am looking forward to releasing this record: it is somewhere between Bruno Mars and Michael Buble.
- That does lead me into my final question, what is next for you, going through the second half of this year and beyond? Are you going to continue to mix projects up?
I am going to be in the studio up until July 3rd in Chelsea, recording for the album. On July 3rd, I will be with my family watching From Here To Eternity in the cinema in Scotland: it is being shown up and down the country and selected cinemas in Europe.
I will then be back to the States to do some recording, and later in the autumn, I will be releasing the album. I am very excited about that.
From Here To Eternity is released on the big screen 3rd July.