James Norton describes going to ‘disturbing places’ for A Little Life role (2024)

James Norton describes going to ‘disturbing places’ for A Little Life role (1)

For free real time breaking news alerts sent straight to your inbox sign up to our breaking news emails

Sign up to our free breaking news emails

In A Little Life, James Norton plays a deeply troubled lawyer called Jude, who relentlessly self-harms after being subjected to years of sexual abuse.

The Happy Valley actor, 37, has given many interviews about his extreme role in Ivo Van Hove’s stage version of Hanya Yanagihara’s bestselling 2015 novel.

Websites selling tickets for the show warned of suicide, drugs, nudity, self-harm, rape and violence on stage.

In an interview on Radio 4’s Today programme in early March, Norton said: “I feel very looked after. We have therapists and they’ve really gone through amazing safeguards to make sure we’re all looked after, because there are no punches pulled in this production.

“We do have to go to places that are quite disturbing, but I do feel very supported and able to do it.”


  • Oscars boss reacts to Chris Rock’s scathing Netflix special
  • Jennifer Lawrence is hired to seduce a 19-year-old boy in No Hard Feelings trailer
  • Goldie Hawn recalls standing up to ‘bully’ Harvey Weinstein after he ‘undermined me and Madonna’

Speaking about working with intimacy coordinators for the production, he said: “Lots of people have lots of opinions about intimacy coaches and it’s a relatively new job and I think people are still working out certain parameters.

“Some people will say, ‘Oh, I don’t need them,’ but if that intimacy co-ordinator prevents that one actor from experiencing life-changing trauma then of course it justifies the other 99 people who don’t need it. I needed it on this, definitely.”

Norton’s remarks come after the Game of Thrones actor Sean Bean argued that intimacy co-ordinators “spoil the spontaneity” of sex scenes.

A Little Life runs at three hours and 40 minutes. Speaking to The Independent in January, Norton said of the play’s subject matter: “It’s probably one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done in my life. I woke up and had moments like, ‘What am I doing voluntarily going into this place, this darkness?’

“Hanya wanted to write a book about a protagonist who ultimately was not on the path to salvation, and there is no light at the end, and it was the antithesis to the American dream. And you do question that. ‘Why would I put myself through this? Multiple times? For three months?’ But it being this scary and terrifying prospect is the reason why you have to do it.”

When A Little Life was released, some criticised it for being trauma p*rn, arguing that the graphic depiction of Jude’s suffering was unnecessary. But, like many of the novel’s most ardent fans, Norton has found moments of lightness in the tale.

“Everyone says this book is so dark, but it’s not,” he said. “It’s about heroic acts of friendship, and people gathering around someone who’s in need and desperately trying to help him to love himself. I hope my experience of doing this play will help me have a bit more self-love, too.”

He also discussed how he will cope with being on stage for so long as someone who is type 1 diabetic. Read more here.

A Little Life runs for 12 weeks from 25 March at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London.

Due to the unprecedented demand for tickets, it is playing for a further five weeks at the Savoy Theatre from 4 July.

In a recent interview with The Telegraph, Norton said the level of nudity in A Little Life was “new for me, and massively exposing”.

But “without [nudity], the story and the piece would suffer; none of it is gratuitous”, he said.

“My God, it’s shaming, you know, I lie on the floor naked being kicked and spat on – and it doesn’t get much more degrading than that. I’m there, there’s no journey I have to go on. It’s really embarrassing and horrible.”

It has emerged that London theatres may consider taking audiences’ phones away during performances after naked photos of Norton in the play were published by the Daily Mail.

If you’re worried about a child, even if you’re unsure, you can contact professional counsellors at the NSPCC for help, advice and support by emailing help@nspcc.org.uk or calling 0808 800 5000. For those aged 18 or under, Childline offers free, confidential advice and support whatever your concern and whenever you need help. Call 0800 1111 or Contact Childline.

If you have been raped or sexually assaulted, you can contact your nearest Rape Crisis organisation for specialist, independent and confidential support. For more information, visit their website here.

James Norton describes going to ‘disturbing places’ for A Little Life role (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Pres. Lawanda Wiegand

Last Updated:

Views: 5997

Rating: 4 / 5 (71 voted)

Reviews: 94% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Pres. Lawanda Wiegand

Birthday: 1993-01-10

Address: Suite 391 6963 Ullrich Shore, Bellefort, WI 01350-7893

Phone: +6806610432415

Job: Dynamic Manufacturing Assistant

Hobby: amateur radio, Taekwondo, Wood carving, Parkour, Skateboarding, Running, Rafting

Introduction: My name is Pres. Lawanda Wiegand, I am a inquisitive, helpful, glamorous, cheerful, open, clever, innocent person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.