Playing outsiders is something of a speciality for Craig Roberts, who’s just about to release his directorial debut feature, Just Jim. He tells Katherine McLaughlin that acting the loner comes pretty naturally

C raig Roberts made a seriously good impression in his breakthrough performance as odd kid Oliver Tate in Richard Ayoade’s irst feature ilm Submarine back in 2010. Five years later and he’s clocked up an impressive CV working with the likes of Mia Wasikowska, Robert De Niro, Timothy Spall, Zac Efron, Channing Tatum and numerous notable ilmmakers. This year sees the release of Roberts’ directorial debut, which he has also written and stars in with Emile Hirsch. Just Jim is a dark, cool, striking and strangely moving coming-of-age ilm about a loner set in Roberts’ hometown in Wales. He cites fellow ilmmakers Ayoade and David Gordon Green as people who have been particularly generous with their time and advice.

‘Richard gave me the role that kick-started my career,’ says Roberts, ‘and he’s deinitely someone I would go to for guidance. David Gordon Green is actually the reason Emile is in the ilm and he’s someone I’m constantly talking to about ilm. I’m very fortunate that that’s the case.’ The character of Jim is loosely based on Roberts and his time growing up. ‘I was a boring teenager. I wasn’t that much fun to be around. I just played computer games and went to the cinema. I wanted to tell a story about a kid who didn’t really know who he was or where he slotted into the social status.’ At one point in the ilm Jim throws a birthday party that no one comes to. Roberts confesses that he was drawing from real- life experience for this scene.

14 THE LIST 3 Sep–5 Nov 2015

Roberts has been acting for 14 years now, starting off in TV shows such as The Story of Tracy Beaker and gradually making his way into ilm. ‘The Mask made me want to get into acting. I love that movie. I’ve watched it so many times.’ He can’t pinpoint one particular movie that made him want to direct, though the ilmmakers who have inspired him are ‘Kubrick, Hitchcock and Scorsese. Kubrick is like a scientist!’ Roberts exclaims. Paul Thomas Anderson is the director he would most like to work with because he ‘seems like such a normal guy but he’s a genius. His movies are just so well thought-out. That much dedication shows just how much he loves ilm.’ There are elements of one of his favourite ilms, Billy Liar, in Just Jim in the sense that ‘it’s about being content in your skin,’ he says. ‘Throughout the whole movie [Billy Liar] he’s constantly lying and he fantasises. At the end you want him to get on the train and go to London but he never does. People have said that’s such a bad ending but there’s happiness in so much as he’s content with staying in that town. I think that’s more powerful. Being content is a very hard thing to ind.’

There’s also a Lynchian vibe to Roberts’ debut feature, which starts with the appearance of Emile Hirsch’s chain-smoking, trouble-making, leather jacket-wearing American neighbour, Dean, who befriends Jim and tries to make him cool. ‘James Dean was deinitely the main reference [for the character],’ Roberts says. ‘Dean was so far ahead of