Hair today, Hair Tomorrow: It’s the real thing for ‘Samson’ actor
Movie magic can make a lot of things seem real that aren’t. Take Taylor James, for example. He plays the title character in the new movie “Samson”. Samson, the Old Testament figure, was known for his hair being the key to his strength. So, the longer the hair, the greater the strength, right?
Take it from James: That’s no crew cut under some wig. Those locks are all his own.
James, in a telephone interview with Catholic News Service from New York, where he was promoting “Samson,” said his hair is at about at the middle of his sternum. “I had a crazy vision a few years ago … to grow my hair and not be shy of physical upkeep because I wanted to play a certain role,” he said. “I didn’t know it would be the most famous long-hair role in the world.”
The only fakery was to wear some extensions “for continuity’s sake,” James added, as most scenes of a film are shot out of sequence.
The muscles are real, too, and have been around even longer, since the British-born James was about 20. He recalled going to “an old-school gym in the town we were in, benches with tears in the fabric, like a ‘Rocky’ movie. It had a certain smell. An honest spit-and-sawdust gym.” He calls his weight training “sculpting, because it is an art form” – adding he’s done it all without steroids.
Training for the Role
It hasn’t hampered his acting career, James told CNS. “I wouldn’t not be able to play Shakespeare for instance or any of his plays,” he said. James added that before getting the “Sampson” role, he spent time on stage with Kenneth Branagh, Dame Judi Dench and Derek Jacobi in “Kenneth Branagh’s Shakespeare Season” on London’s West End.
His one concession to the film was to get leaner. “If Samson is so obviously strong in his muscles – he picks up a rock off a child, or pushes a pillar — yeah, he’s a big dude, that’s what big dudes do. I wanted Samson to be as lean as possible,” said James, who estimates his body fat at 5 to 6 percent of his total weight.
James said he researched the story of Samson in the Bible before taking on the role. “You can read it in 20 minutes. I read it as much as I needed to to be familiar with it,” he said. He also consulted some discussions on Samson that appear on YouTube, but only enough to keep his portrayal from being someone else’s idea of Samson. “I wasn’t going to be subjected to anyone’s interpretation,” James said, “as I understood his wants and desires.”
He went on: “Probably the biggest character point was his reluctance. He has flaws, but because he was reluctant. His wish was not to walk the path that was bestowed on him. … He was just a regular, impulsive man. But there was little bit more at stake. He had to free his people.”
Some of it Filmed in South Africa
A production of Pure Flix, the film retells the biblical epic of “a champion chosen by God to deliver Israel.” “If you’ve ever faced adversity and wondered if God was big enough to see you through it, this is your film,” said Michael Scott, CEO of Pure Flix. The cast includes includes Billy Zane, Golden Globe-winner Rutger Hauer, Jackson Rathbone, Lindsay Wagner and Caitlin Leahy.
James said he is ready to accept the fandom of fervent believers. “Of course I am. I would not walk into this profession ignorant of that as a possibility. I have known in some way that I can be the face and the shape of Taylor, who can become Samson,” he said.
“Sometimes, people need that visual format, that 3-D person who can help resonate and connect with the story and resonate for them. If people hear the message and they become a better version of themselves, then give me the dotted line and I will sign on it,” James added, which includes “gym, diet, cold showers, morals, virtues, everything. I am also ready to shield myself from the questions of people who think I am Samson and that I have a Ph.D. in religious studies.”
And, just for the record, when James was on location in South Africa filming for the movie, he bought some Samsonite luggage.
“I needed a new suitcase, and I went into the store and he showed me the stuff. The little boy in me said, ‘I want to have Samsonite,'” he said. “It’s a little chuckle to myself.” By Mark Pattison Catholic News Service
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