Saturday 19 October 2019

James Norton hopes to shine light on early crusader against fake news

The Happy Valley star plays Welsh journalist Gareth Jones in new film Mr Jones.

James Norton (Ian West/PA)
James Norton (Ian West/PA)

By Laura Harding, PA Senior Entertainment Correspondent

James Norton has said it is “unnerving” and “disconcerting” how history is repeating itself as he arrived at the premiere of his latest film about an early crusader against fake news.

The Happy Valley star plays Welsh journalist Gareth Jones in Mr Jones, about Stalin’s genocidal famine in eastern Ukraine and the man who first brought it to the world’s attention in the 1930s.

Norton added it is a “crime” that Jones is not taught about in schools and he hopes the film brings him to wider public attention.

Arriving at the movie’s premiere at the BFI London Film Festival, he said: “It is disconcerting that history seems to be repeating itself over and over again.

“It feels like we’ve come a long way and in many ways we have and we have made immense progress but then suddenly whilst we were on set and were going and having drinks in the evenings after shooting, we would be witnessing the beginnings of a slide the wrong way towards the types of governments we are experiencing today and it was unnerving how similar the two were, the story we were portraying and the current situation.”

He added: “It’s embarrassing how little I knew about the subject matter and also Gareth’s story itself, the fact that this man isn’t known in all schools and universities is a crime so hopefully we can tell his story, celebrate the man, but also shed light on the Holodomor itself and bring some much needed attention to it.”

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James Norton and the film’s director Agnieszka Holland (Ian West/PA)

Norton, who is from London, also embraced the challenge of playing a Russian-speaking Welshman, saying: “When someone pitched the role to me as a Welsh man who speaks fluent Russian, and I would probably have to speak quite a lot of Russian in a Welsh accent, that was a niche role but one I was obviously excited to embrace.

“It was a privilege to be accepted as an honorary Welshman for those few weeks and we had some wonderful Welsh actors who were very helpful with the accent but also very welcoming and inclusive.”

Mr Jones will be released in UK cinemas in February 2020.

PA Media

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