Sitting in Pellicci’s, a coffee-soaked, seen-it-all, movie-set of a café in Bethnal Green, London, James Turner looks simultaneously completely at home, and completely out of place. “I’ve been coming to this caf since I was about four years old,” he tells me over coffee, “and I grew up in this area. The Kray twins used to come here, and a scene from Legends was filmed here. The Pelliccis came from Florence in 1898 and have been here since,” he gestures at the third-generation owner. As familiar as he is with his surroundings, James also happens to look like he’s stepped off a time machine that’s brought him from 1950s Hollywood to the East End of London on a Thursday morning. Unruffled, immaculately turned out and with a twinkle in his eye, he could be starring in the latest Hitchcock movie alongside Eva Marie Saint - which is, of course, the whole idea. “I love clothes, and tailoring. I got that from my grandfather. He always liked his clothes, was always cleanly shaved with a nice tidy haircut – and he loved the movies. He loved Westerns, Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn. We used to watch them together, and I never forgot seeing Cary Grant glide across the screen in Notorious and thinking from a very early age I wanted to do something with clothes.”
“There’s few actors who have that matinée idol vibe – Joaquin Phoenix, Jean Dujardin and George Clooney, they have that next-level sultriness. Charisma has a lot to do with it, it’s the way you carry yourself.” Practicing what he preaches, he adds with a wink at our photographer, “just like you, Jamie…”.
His grandfather taught him the importance of paying attention to his appearance, from shaving (“go down, across, up – that’s it”), to polishing his shoes. “He’s a mechanic, and when you come from a poor working class family like mine did, there was always a strive to escape that,” James explains in his distinctively Cockney accent. “People think everyone from this area is a bit rough around the edges, but it’s not true.” People also seem to forget that many styles adopted today came from money-strapped younger guys, often in college; the three-roll-two jacket, the penny loafer and Oxford bag trousers were all shortcuts to modern elegance that became mainstream.