SKSM: Could you start with telling me a little bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Jim France: Quite simply, I am a professional stage, movie, television, commercial and voiceover actor. I am a Scotsman but have an English accent. Scottish accent can be used however!!!!! I am also a US citizen since 1974.
SKSM: When did you know you wanted to become an actor?
Jim France: I’ve always wanted to be an actor and participated at school as much as I could including having my own 6-piece New Orleans style jazz band in which I played trumpet. I was fortunate to graduate at the age of 16 but had to wait 2 years to go to Cambridge University to study for a degree in Ancient and Modern Languages – French, German, Latin and Ancient Greek.
During those two years, I worked at the local theatre. We did everything at one time or another – scenery, props, lighting, ASM-ing (Assistant Stage Management), acting, prompting (this is where one would sit in the wings with the script to “Prompt’ actors when they forgot their lines.) We did 40 plays or musicals a year. We rehearsed in the daytime, the show we would do the following week and perform the show at night we had rehearsed the previous week.
At the theatre, I had begun to notice that not many people spoke Latin or Ancient Greek any more!!!!! I had grown to really love it and wanted to go to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London to become an actor… but was forbidden to do so by my Father as Fathers in the 50s could!
So I went in to his industry – the hotel industry and graduated from L’Ecôle Hôtelière de la Société Suisse des Hôteliers (The Swiss Hotel School in 1961). I remained in the Hotel industry in the UK until 1965 working at the Dorchester Hotel and then the London Hilton. In 1965, I emigrated to the United States.
As a result of the my various studies, work etc., I have lived in Scotland, England, France, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Canada, The United States and Puerto Rico.
I ended my hotel career in 1999 as CEO of a small hotel company but (after a decade with the company) ran afoul of my Chairman of the Board and was fired. We settled out of court and I became a consultant — which I hated. Then I worked for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for four hurricane seasons helping those whose homes had been damaged. But wasn’t happy there either.
One day, my wife came to me and said: “Jim, you are about the most miserable son-of-a-bitch I’ve ever met! Why don’t you go and do what you’ve always wanted to do?”
So… in 2003, I went back to school for three years (privately because I wanted to stay out of the school population) studying acting, singing and dancing. I did a lot of amateur theatre and a couple of amateur movies. And in 2006, I went for my first professional audition – got the gig – and have been working ever since.
In those days, I did a lot of musical comedy with fabulous roles – Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol” both musical and play – 7 times. Fagin in “Oliver” and many others.
But in 2015, I found that doing 8 performances a week was beginning to become somewhat arduous so I have cut the theatre back to plays only (no musicals) that do only four performances a week. And now I concentrate basically on movies, TV and commercials along with voiceovers.
I am a happy man.
SKSM: How did you become involved in Uncle Otto’s Truck Dollar Baby film?
Jim France: Brian Johnson found me on Stage 32 and contacted me. We had lunch and Brian asked me if I’d like to work on the project. The rest – as they say – is history.
SKSM: What do you think it is about the story that attracts people so much?
Jim France: Firstly, it’s a Stephen King short story. Secondly, it is a “horror” story which hits one in the gut. I saw, at a preview, another horror film a few weeks ago which was all visual horror with scary horrific faces and such. It was lousy. This story has an underlying scariness through dialogue which is accented visually. That is much more scary to my way of thinking.
SKSM: Did you have to audition for the part or was it written directly for you?
Jim France: I didn’t have an audition since Brian had looked up my previous work. And for sure it was not written especially for me. I am not an A-List actor.
SKSM: You worked with Brian Johnson on this film, how was that?
Jim France: He is tremendous! I’ve worked with many Directors but what I liked about his approach was his patience and understanding. He also allowed me to make suggestions as to additional things which might be done or movements made. Really easy to work with and really knows his stuff.
SKSM: Was there any funny or special moment when they made the movie that you would like to tell me about?
Jim France: When we went down to the pier to film a couple of scenes, I met the “Shrimp Boat” owners. One told me the story of how his family came to the US from Estonia. A harrowing story of oppression and fear of death but eventual escape. Most interesting!
SKSM: Do you still have any contact with the crew/cast from that time? If so with who?
Jim France: Haven’t had follow-up contact with the crew or actors with the exception of Brian. But I’m sure some of us will meet again. They also knew their stuff.
SKSM: What are you working on nowadays?
Jim France: I shall start work on a period piece in Richmond VA at the beginning of October. The role is small but is of Luther Martin, one of the United States’ Founding Fathers, whose actions helped the passage of the Bill of Rights. And who also defended and achieved acquittal for the Fourth Chief Justice of the United States Samuel Chase in his impeachment trial in 1805.
SKSM: Are you a fan of Stephen King’s work?
Jim France: Absolutely! Children of the Corn; Firestarter; The Shining (the 1980 movie); Carrie (1976); Christine; The Green Mile; The Shawshank Redemption.
SKSM: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Jim France: I am a descendent (albeit probably illegitimately) of Bonnie Prince Charlie (Prince Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart) 1720-1788 known as “The Young Pretender,” claimant to the throne of Scotland. Defeated by the English in the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion at the battle of Culloden in 1746.
SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything you want to say to the fans that read this interview?
Jim France: “Uncle Otto’s Truck” is a terrific story and wonderful film. Who knows what the future may hold for Brian Johnson and his work. Break a leg!!
SKSM: Do you like to add anything else?
Jim France: Thank you for taking the time to read this.