James Corden: All that your family really want is for you to be there
As the star of new film Into The Woods gets ready for his big showbiz break in the US, James Corden tells Keeley Bolger why he relishes getting the time to be with his children.
A few years ago, it would have been hard to imagine James Corden taking a pragmatic and modest attitude towards cracking America. He was admittedly going through a bad time during the height of his fame, culminating in a "brattish" turn at the 2008 Baftas, where he used the acceptance speech for Gavin & Stacey winning the Audience Award to question why the show hadn't been nominated for best comedy.
But fast forward a few years, and Corden is a changed man. Married to charity worker Julia Carey and father to three-year-old Max and baby daughter Carey, he has a starring role in Disney's new musical Into The Woods, alongside Meryl Streep, and is replacing Craig Ferguson on the long-running American series The Late Late Show in March.
As well as his successes, TV triumphs and Tony Award for his role in West End play One Man, Two Guvnors, he has admittedly had his failures too. "My experience of 'having a moment' is that they're very quickly followed by sharp twists into unpleasant times," explains the 36-year-old. There's been the poorly received Horne And Corden sketch show, followed by their film flop Lesbian Vampire Killers, and an altercation with Patrick Stewart at the Glamour Awards.
So although this might be his big moment to break the US, he's been in the fame game long enough to be cautious about it.
For instance, he is still surprised he landed the sizeable straight man role of Baker in Into The Woods, a Stephen Sondheim musical which blends famous fairytale characters into one story, and also stars Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick and Johnny Depp.
"I thought they'd go and get someone very famous to play my part," explains Corden, who also sang in the recent Keira Knightley musical Begin Again.
But despite thinking a line of Disney executives were going to pressure the director Rob Marshall to find someone better-known internationally, to his "joy and amazement", the role was his.
"I'll always be indebted to Rob for it," says the actor.
Growing up, Corden loved theatre as a child. In his early 20s, he starred in Alan Bennett's The History Boys, alongside Dominic Cooper and Russell Tovey, and went on to land a role in Teachers and then ITV comedy Fat Friends, where he met his future Gavin & Stacey co-writer Ruth Jones.
Presenting "juggernaut of a TV show" The Late Late Show was never part of his plan, but it's a move he's chuffed about, not least because it gives his family life a "consistency", which is hard to find with hectic film and theatre schedules.
"Here's a job where someone is saying you can really be around and be a present father and husband," says the actor, who'll live in California with his young family.
"That's incredibly precious. All your children want is for you to be around, and I'm thrilled that until the show gets cancelled, I will be able to."
He's up for the challenge of presenting the talk show, but admits he's not entirely sure how things will work out.
"It feels like someone came and tapped me on the shoulder and went, 'Well done, you've joined Sky's Tour De France team'," he says, grinning. "And before you know it, you're on a bike in Lycra going, 'You know I don't do this guys?'
"I do feel a little like that, but it's going to be a real adventure. I don't know anyone on their death bed who says, 'I wish I hadn't lived in that other country for a little while'."
- Into The Woods is in cinemas now