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January 2011



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Playing it straight

Dealing with Hollywood starlets is a breeze compared to Hugh Dancy’s latest role as a man with Asperger’s. By Gordon Darroch

IT STRIKES me as ironic that I’m waiting to meet Hugh Dancy in the ultra-modern Missoni Hotel in Edinburgh.

The interior pairs a monkey-puzzle layout with restless decor: zebra-striped carpets team with bulbous, oversized chairs in hues such as magenta and lime; spaghetti-strand curtains flicker at the faintest movement; the lifts and doors are operated by different but identical-looking swipe cards.

I’m here to talk to Dancy about his new film Adam, in which his character, the titular Adam, has Asperger’s syndrome. This, I imagine, is the last place someone with real-life Asperger’s would feel comfortable.

In bounds Dancy in self-assured fashion, casually dressed in a white T-shirt, beige cardigan and jeans, looking every inch the school cricket captain.

It’s something of a surprise to the 34-year-old English actor that he’s here at all. He candidly admits that when he filmed Adam, in the space of just three weeks at the tail end of 2007, he had expected it to sink without trace. “My working assumption was that nobody would see the movie, because it was made on such a small budget,” he says. All this changed when the film was picked up by Fox Searchlight and won the Alfred P Sloan prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival in Utah. More recently, it was the closing-night draw at the Edinburgh International Film Festival last month. Between the original shoot and the film’s festival plaudits, Dancy shot Confessions Of A Shopaholic, in which he plays a more conventional leading man in the shape of a dashing magazine editor, Luke Brandon, and which has grossed more than $100 million (£60.5m) at the box office. It was a role befitting Dancy’s growing reputation as a heartthrob, albeit a rather reluctant one.

So why did he accept the low-budget, low-profile role of Adam in the first place? “I knew nothing about the script at all when I read it,” he says. “I was beginning to wonder, What’s going on here? There’s something I haven’t been given, or at least I hope so, because otherwise this is going to be a really annoying story.’ And lo and behold a third of the way in my character says, I’ve got Asperger’s syndrome.’ What I admired so much was that the script didn’t begin with Adam being labelled instantly, which would usually be the way somebody would try to tell that story.”

The film is essentially a romantic comedy about an introspective young man who falls for his gregarious new upstairs neighbour, Beth, played by the Australian actress Rose Byrne. Their difficulties in connecting with each other are compounded by a string of unhappy relationships on Beth’s part and Asperger’s syndrome on Adam’s.

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Hugh Dancy and Rose Byrne are two of a kind

THEY CAN RELATE: “Adam’s” story about two people trying to find a connection in an often uncaring world appealed to Rose Byrne and Hugh Dancy. “It was really a lot of fun,” said Byrne, who like Dancy, has built a career on offbeat parts
Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

THEY CAN RELATE: “Adam’s” story about two people trying to find a connection in an often uncaring world appealed to Rose Byrne and Hugh Dancy. “It was really a lot of fun,” said Byrne, who like Dancy, has built a career on offbeat parts

Offbeat roles are second nature to the young stars of the unconventional romantic drama ‘Adam.’
By Lorenza Muñoz
July 28, 2009

A self-possessed individual graced with the good looks of a matinee idol — large, bluish-gray eyes, a firm jaw line and fistfuls of brown, wavy hair — actor Hugh Dancy seemed, at first glance, completely wrong for the lead in Fox Searchlight’s unconventional romantic drama “Adam.” But soon after meeting the 34-year-old English actor, director Max Mayer realized that Dancy had “the requisite insecurities” to play the part of an awkward, introverted young man with Asperger’s syndrome who struggles with social interactions.

Dancy, the son of a prominent British moral philosopher and a University of Oxford graduate, said he was interested in taking on the role of a person with the autism spectrum disorder because “there is something paradoxical about trying to empathize your way into somebody” who has a hard time demonstrating empathy because of his condition.

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Hugh Dancy

Adam (Trailer 2:30):


Rose Byrne and Hugh Dancy, Sundance 2009

Adam Review:



Q & A with ‘Adam’ star Hugh Dancy:


The Irish Times  “Character Building”

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