Gold Digger: Julia Ormond coped with toyboy sex scenes by thinking of dangerous pastime

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We’re well used to seeing rich older men paired with pretty young girlfriends on screen.

But the roles are reversed in this intriguing new ‘domestic noir’, as wealthy 60-year-old Julia (Julia Ormond) falls for Benjamin (Ben Barnes), who’s 26 years her junior.

Over the course of six episodes, we see the impact their relationship has on Julia’s family and learn secrets from the lovers’ pasts.

The lead actors are both Brits who made it in Hollywood – Julia in hit films including Legends of the Fall, and TV’s Mad Men, Ben most notably in sci-fi series Westworld .

But they didn’t know each before filming began.

‘I said, “we need an adventure!”’ recalls Ben.

‘So I just packed her in the car and drove off to the pub for dinner, down these tiny little streets.



Julia Ormond and Ben Barnes are in a 26-year age gap relationship



Julia and Benjamin are age gap lovers

 

She was clinging on to me, talking as we went.

‘You literally can’t make something like this successfully if you’re not going to be a team.

I think we’ve done quite a good job of looking after each other because it’s potentially uncomfortable material.

‘If you’re going to take all your clothes off in front of a crew of people, it boils down to being brave for a bit… then you get on with the rest of the story.’



Benjamin has secrets

 

Julia admits she was drawn to the drama by creator Marnie Dickens (Thirteen) because it was clear that making her look glamorous was not a priority.

‘When I started out as an actress, the cinematographer would set everything up so that you looked as beautiful as possible,’ says Julia, 54.

‘For me, it was important to play a woman who is realistically 60.

It is quite liberating to say, “I will happily play 60”, but I had to contractually put in “will not play 36” because that’s just silly.

When I was a child of 10, 60 was a very different thing to how it is now.

I look at women and girlfriends who are 60 or even 70, and some of them look younger than me!’



Do the couple have a future?

There are also logistical issues for Julia to consider when choosing roles as she has a teenage daughter, Sophie.

‘I’m divorced, so my daughter spends time with me and also time with her dad,’ she explains.

‘We work it out so that I am not away from her for too long.

It’s not a particularly family-friendly profession.

When you’re young and you have a six-month gig in Russia, you think. “That’s great”.

When you’re a mum, you’re saying, “That’s a no”.’

 

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But while Julia enjoyed filming in London and Devon for the drama, which also stars Alex Jennings and Julia McKenzie, she had nerves about the love scenes.

‘It’s a bit like mountaineering in that you can’t believe you are going to do it before it happens, and after it happens you’re like, “I did that!”’ she laughs.

‘Also like mountaineering, it’s fine as long as you don’t look down!’

– Gold Digger is on BBC1 on Tuesday at 9pm



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