Photo by Ash Kingston.
There’s a bonus feature on the DVD of Seth Rogen’s comedy Bad Neighbors which focuses on the myriad of humiliations meted out to Craig Roberts’s fetidly-named character Assjuice. In-between clips of Assjuice’s torment – eating dog food, waking up to surprise anus and the like – it cuts to Roberts as himself. “Another day,” he deadpans in his trademark sardonic fashion, “another dollar.”
Yet Roberts clearly isn’t in the movie business to make a quick buck. “When I was growing up, I was very bored and nothing entertained me apart from cinema,” recalls the 25-year-old, who professes to aim to watch a film every day. As evidenced by a conversation in which he references movies ranging from The King Of Comedy to The Revenant, he’s a cinephile at heart. “I’m so in love with the job that I do and I’m very grateful that I’m able to do it. I love going to the cinema, it’s such an amazing experience so to be able to be involved in the creation of that is just amazing.”
Roberts’ big breakthrough came with Richard Ayoade’s Submarine back in 2010. “All I remember was being scared because I’d never really done anything like it,” he recalls. “I remember seeing it for the first time in Toronto and just thinking, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe that I’m a part of this movie.’”
Did he have any idea how many doors it would open?
“I didn’t really know what it would lead to. One day I was playing Xbox in Wales,” he pauses with an inscrutable expression, “then the next thing I knew I wasn’t allowed to play Xbox anymore.”
It’s an example of the dry, off-kilter humour that Roberts infuses into many of his roles. Post-Submarine, he was suddenly in everything from 22 Jump Street to Jane Eyre. The recent past, however, has seen him laying the groundwork for a bigger future. His directorial debut Just Jim presented a postcard of small-town nihilism and vitriolic dialogue with a tale of a loner (played, naturally, by Roberts) and his friendship with his mysterious new American neighbour, Dean (a James Dean-esque Emile Hirsch). He’s still overwhelmed by even the thought of “A Craig Roberts Film” popping up on its opening credits.
“I’ve now got the bug for directing, and for being involved in making stuff as much as possible,” he admits. To that end, he’s taken a giant leap by forming his own production company Cliff Edge Pictures. With a logo inspired by the Wu-Tang Clan (Roberts loves rap like a fat kid loves cake, to paraphrase 50 Cent), the company aims to amplify original visions in British cinema: Jonathan Glazer and Ben Wheatley are directors he picks as being particularly strong examples.
“It just felt right to have a home where young and new film-makers could come and explore doing some weird shit,” he affirms. “Let’s give people a platform where you don’t have to conform or alter your voice in any way. That’s what makes film so amazing: differing voices and people’s perspectives on the world.” Roberts will write and direct the company’s first project, In My Oils, a dark comedy about three sisters.
Back in front of the camera there’s Roberts’ highest profile role to date in The Fundamentals Of Caring. It features Roberts as Trevor, a young man who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy and is assigned a rookie careworker (Paul Rudd).
“[Paul Rudd is] a handsome dude, the kind of guy you hope your mother would end up with.”
The appeal, he says, was the strength of the script. “One minute I was sad, the next I was laughing: it was just so well written.” The quality of the cast was also a factor. He describes Rudd as “a handsome dude… The kind of guy you hope your mother would end up with,” while co-star Selena Gomez “could form a cult with the following she has, it’s absolutely extraordinary. But she’s so down-to-earth and so not affected by it.”
Roberts’ preparation for the role included spending time with young people who are living with the condition. “It would be totally ignorant if I didn’t. It was eye-opening to see how they go about their days. For a lot of the movie you see Trevor in his house in a wheelchair, so I wanted to see how they manoeuvre around the house and how comfortable they are with it, as opposed to me just turning up and looking like I’ve just stepped into a wheelchair.”
This year will also deliver a second season of the Amazon original series Red Oaks. Echoing the spirit of John Hughes’ ’80s coming-of-age classics, it stars Roberts as David, on the cusp of adulthood and his adventures within his job at an exclusive country club. David Gordon Green, Stephen Soderbergh and Dirty Dancing legend Jennifer Grey all contributed to what Roberts calls a perfect job. “The ’80s is badass and they captured it very well: cross-fades, slow zooms, ’80s music. It’s all spot on.”
Also spot on was Roberts’ guest appearance on Sky 1’s music panel show Bring The Noise. His dexterous speed rap stunned Tinie Tempah – perhaps even more so given that Roberts’ dark jacket and circular glasses made him look more Bill Hicks than Biggie. “I looked at him as if to say, I’m coming for you,” he jokes. “They asked if I wanted to do it again and I was like, ‘Definitely not. No no no! I just want to sit down. I feel light-headed.’”
That was another day in the life of Craig Roberts. If he can continue following his passions, another dollar won’t ever be far away.