Dominic Cooper says his social life is a world away from the bawdy antics of his latest character, notorious rogue the Earl of Rochester.
Speaking at the press night of The Libertine — based on the true story of Restoration poet and rake John Wilmot — he told the Standard: “I’m nothing compared to this character. Those days are long gone or never really existed.
“I like the side of him that he is a man who is loving life and enjoying it, and sees the ludicrousness in himself. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that you can do little more than enjoy your short time here.”
He added: “They would drink only booze, they would drink nothing else. They would be inebriated the whole time. I think when you live life in that manner and you have the privilege that he did, it’s a lethal recipe.”
Cooper, 38, revealed he had been offered the part in Stephen Jeffreys’s play earlier in his career but felt too young to take it on. “I always wanted to do this role. I didn’t quite know what I was taking on when I forced my way into the casting department. I think last time I was approached to play it I was too young, it was about 10 years ago.
“When I finally got round to reading it I realised how offensive it was. I found much more sympathy for the man having gone through this project.” In 2006 the play was adapted into a movie with Johnny Depp in the title role.
Cooper said he had tried to find humanity in the character: “It’s very easy to approach the idea that he is a sexist, ego maniac, narcissist. That was somewhere I approached it from in the beginning. But I always like to look in depth at who they are and why they have become that person. You’ve got to find the qualities in them.”
The womanising poet would be disappointed in modern man, he added: “Men haven’t changed a great deal. Look what’s going on in the world at the moment. It always astounds me, and I think it would astound Rochester, how we haven’t moved on very far at all.”
The Libertine runs at Theatre Royal Haymarket until December 3
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