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, and its tale of persecution during the 17th-century Salem witch trials, from high school English class.
Hunched over a table in the bar of London's Royal Court Theatre, Ben Whishaw looks like a small woodland animal.
As if scanning for predators, his eager eyes dart around the room surveying the crowd as he breaks a banana into pieces and pops it into his mouth.
Much of his stage work consists of difficult, occasionally grueling, plays such as Philip Ridley's postapocalyptic Mercury Fur -- castigated as 'poisonous' and 'a vicious kick in the guts' by London's The Daily Telegraph.
He confirmed his promise in a run of movie roles, including the scent-obsessed serial killer Grenouille in Tom Tykwer's adaptation of the cult novel Perfume, grizzly rocker Keith Richards in Stoned, and Bob Dylan (along with Cate Blanchett and Heath Ledger) in Todd Haynes's I'm Not There.
Asked if he thinks it's important for young gay people to have positive role models, his ambivalence vanishes.
'I really agree with that, and I feel in my heart that it's important, but I don't quite know yet the way to go about that.
I have no understanding of why we turn actors into celebrities. That's why I didn't want to go there, but at the same time I know this is a gay magazine and that means there's a conflict there.' As the evening performance creeps closer and Whishaw must start his warm-up for Cock -- which involves dancing around backstage to Bucks Fizz's 'Making Your Mind Up,' Britain's peppy winning number of the 1981 Eurovision Song Contest -- he recalls how he first got into acting.
'When I was a child, I dressed up and put on shows, and what really appealed to me was the disguise element of it, the possibility of transformation.' But he is skeptical of the cheap psychology that would associate his dressing up with any discomfort with his own skin.