How We Met: Julian Ovenden & James D'Arcy

'Maybe one day we could be the English Matt Damon and Ben Affleck...'

James D'Arcy, 36

After graduating from Lamda in 1995, D'Arcy (right in picture) netted roles in TV dramas including 'Mansfield Park' and 'The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby', before graduating to Hollywood films such as Madonna's 'W.E.', in which he played Edward VIII. He lives in London.

We were paired as best friends on a [TV] film in 2001 called Come Together, a role for which he lied outrageously to get the job. He told the director he could drive, which was comically easy to disprove, and he ended up having to be pushed along in a swanky convertible by four of the crew members for each scene.

Then he was required to use a Jet Ski. The director said to him, "You'd better have a practice first," but Julian scoffed at that, so they started filming him speeding towards the shoreline, looking bronzed and gorgeous, but when he arrived five metres from the shore he realised there were no brakes on it, and he steamed at high speed into the sand, stopped dead, and flew over the handles. It was one of the funniest things I've even seen and it shows he's not to be trusted; he still says, "I can definitely do that," then he can't.

It's annoying to say, but he's also one of the nicest people I've met: very thoughtful and he just makes me laugh, though normally by mistake. We started hanging out a lot and ended up going on holiday to France. I stupidly left Julian in charge of the booking, though, so when we arrived in Nice and I asked him where we were staying he was like, "Ah, I didn't bother with any of that."

At his wedding [at which D'Arcy was the best man] it wasn't the speeches that made me laugh the most. As a present to himself he hired an Aston Martin DB9 for four days at vast expense to drive to the venue in one of the Royal Parks. It was just before Christmas in 2010 and the park was knee-deep in snow. He didn't get to do more than 12mph in that car.

We've known each other for more than 10 years and one of my most exciting discoveries about him has been his incredible singing voice. At one dinner party everyone got terribly drunk and I made him sing "Nessun Dorma" at 2am. Julian has perfect pitch and it gets very high, and the house we were in was made predominantly from glass. He has a huge voice and, honest to god, I thought every window in the place was going to shatter.

Julian Ovenden, 35

A stage and screen actor as well as a tenor, Ovenden is best known for his portrayal of rakish RAF pilot Andrew Foyle in the TV series 'Foyle's War'. He landed a Decca record deal after a series of acclaimed performances at the Proms. He lives in London with his wife and two children.

We met on the set of Come Together. He made a grand entrance in his Mazda MX-5, with the roof down. I didn't drive at that stage and I was quite impressed, but now I know he's the voice of Tractor Ted that effect has worn off. He was a TV star in those days while I was quite new to TV acting, but we had a hilarious time together. We filmed one scene on the Spanish coast with me on a Jet Ski. After we finished he took the leading lady out on the Jet Ski, saying, "Julian hasn't a clue what he's doing; let me show you how it's done." He ran out of petrol a mile from shore and had to be rescued.

It was during his final scene, doing karaoke in a bar, when I realised that while he's a talented actor, singing isn't his forte. So I was impressed to discover some years later that he clearly has a musical ear, as he learnt to play the bagpipes for W.E.; he did an amazing job.

He's a craftsman in front of the camera as he puts his life and soul into it. He was particularly excellent in Master and Commander. During filming he asked me to join him for a few days, so I visited him on set in Mexico. It was a crazy time, running the gauntlet of the police between my hotel and the set, who would fine you for nothing if they stopped you.

It's important in showbusiness to have friends who understand the cut and thrust of everyday working life and the constant rejection. He was great to have around when we were first doing a "pilot season" together eight years ago. It's a rite of passage for young British actors looking to make it in Hollywood. I remember having breakfast with him at Heathrow, when we first went [to LA] for these auditions and we said to each other, "This will be the last time we fly economy." We were going up for jobs out there daily, and getting rejected. He'd say, "No matter, the sun is shining and we're living the dream."

James is a film star now, but his feet are more firmly on the ground than when he started out; he's sanguine about it and is able to deal with the sycophants as well as the disappointments. He's into writing scripts now and in the next couple of years I'm sure one of them will be produced, which I'd love to work on with him. Maybe one day we could be the English Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

Julian Ovenden's debut album, 'If You Stay', is out on Decca tomorrow (julianovenden.com)

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