Friday, 5 March 2010

Eton Mess

Meeting someone you’ve never met before can sometimes be awkward. Meeting a rising actor who has played Angelina Jolie’s son in The Good Shepherd is a completely different matter. So you can imagine the state of my stomach before entering Cafe 171 of Southwark’s Jerwood Space. To step in or not to step in? That is the question. As I listened to THE song that gets me in the mood, also known as Haddaway’s “What is love?”, I took a deep breath. I couldn’t possibly cancel on Eddie Redmayne. This Old Etonian (that’s how they say it, he’s not actually old...), turned Cambridge Graduate, is now one of Britain’s most aspiring actors. Farewell Jude Law (I know it’s hard) and hello Eddie!
I try acting casual as I enter the Jerwood Space. The place has a very modern feel to it and is simply...white. This art gallery also functions as rehearsal spaces, where Eddie is currently practising for his new play “Red”, a study of abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko wrestling with fame. To distract myself, I flicker through art books, it’s always nice to pretend to be cultured because honestly, I was more concerned about my next encounter than cubism. Moments later, a stunning man with flaming ginger hair arrives. As Michael Jackson would say, this is it. He looks much laid back and gives me the warmest welcome ever. “So you do actually have Ginger hair”, I gasp. When he had warned me the day before, I actually thought he was joking. “Yeah I know, I’ve just finished this film called Pillars of the Earth in Hungary and had to dye my hair”. After ten minutes of getting to know each other, buying lunch (he orders salmon and noodles), crisps and diet coke, I already feel that:
a. He is the most adorable and nicest person ever.
b. Funny and so down-to-earth.
c. Will you marry me?
Jokes aside, I am very glad that we finally meet. Eddie is very unique and his huge modesty is absolutely refreshing. His passion for acting came at a very young age, and since then, he has been involved in many projects both on stage and on screen.
In 2002, the 27 year old got his big breakthrough during his Cambridge years. To celebrate Shakespeare’s 400th-anniversary, Redmayne took part in an all-male production of "Twelfth Night" where he played Viola. His performance got him an agent and the rest is history. After graduating from Cambridge, Eddie decided to take a gap year and pursued theatre, by playing Billy in "The Goat or Who Is Sylvia", which won him the Outstanding Newcomer award at the London Evening Standard Awards in 2004. His face might seem familiar as he has also starred in many Tudor movies, including The Other Boleyn Girl and is now appearing in Stephen Poliakoff’s Glorious 39. Did I forget to mention the Burberry 2008 ad campaign? Having done many films with top Hollywood actresses such as Julianne Moore and Scarlett Johansson to name a few, we can clearly say that Eddie is on the route to success.
Let the interview begin.

So Eddie, what have you been up to this year?

This year – 2009 – basically, I’ve been working a bit like a trunk. I started the year doing a film about the plague, called Black Death. Then I went to Budapest, in June to shoot Pillars of the Earth which is based on Ken Follet’s bestselling novel. Even Oprah had it on her show! It’s set in England in the 12th century fictionalised period of history. The story is about the war and monarchy. It’s funny because in filmmaking there are always trends. Years ago, when Gladiator came out, people were like: “we need to do a classic epic”. So Troy was made and then Alexander...this year, it’s definitely medieval.

What’s your character like in Black Death?

I play a monk. A naughty monk with a girlfriend. He basically leads this group of soldiers, led by Sean Bean to this village which is meant to be free from the plague and all this mysterious stuff starts happening like witchcraft.

Did you enjoy it?

Um yeah... the director was Chris Smith, who is at the moment one of the greatest horror directors of England. I don’t know anything about horror; I don’t even enjoy horror, so for me it was a completely different challenge. I spent two to three months in a monk’s outfit, in swamps in Germany, having the shit beaten out of me by Sean Bean. Was it fun? I dunno, but it was interesting...

Did you have to shave parts of your head to get the whole look?

What happened is that the day before I was going to film it, I got a call from my agent saying that they wanted to shave my head. But because I was going straight on to Pillars of the Earth, in which the only feature that’s really important in my character is that he has big red flaming hair, I wouldn’t be able to do the job. So I had a fake tonsure which was so funny. I actually have stills of it, I’ll show you.
He shows me hilarious pictures of him as a monk and of course his tonsure they had to glue every morning.

So now you are doing “Red”.

Yes, it’s a play about Mark Rothko set in 1956 when he was commissioned to paint the walls of this restaurant of the Four Seasons in New York. Huge commission. He painted the paintings and he then decided that he was so disgusted with the restaurant and the idea of the commercialism of it that he pulled out ...Anyway, there’s always been a mystery on why he did that. John Logan, who wrote Gladiator and The Aviator, wrote the script and fictionalised the account that [Rothko’s] young assistant, the character I play, has a lot to do with the decision. The play is really about that moment when the apprentice overtakes the master. At that time, pop art was emerging with Warhol, and because [Rothko] represents abstract expressionism, he was considered old-fashioned. So my character represents the youth, the overtaking. It’s a play about art, about passion, the father/son relationship, it’s amazing and I get to paint.

Oh perfect. Very convenient as you were a History of Art major, right?

I hadn’t studied his work specifically in huge amounts. But it’s great. That’s why I’m smiling at the moment. This is my dream job.

You seem to never stop. What do you do in your spare time?

I’ve been very busy, especially this year. It’s great for employment, it’s shit for your life (giggles) it’s quite hard to keep friendships, relationships and family. It’s tricky but again I made a decision At the beginning of the year when these jobs arrived, whether to do it or not. Firstly, as an actor, you’re very aware of how lucky you are to be employed. At some point, you need to balance your life – I thought: I was single, I was 27 and I was like “fuck it, it’s now or never”, if you have no commitment, nothing, just do it.

Do you prefer theatre or cinema?

I started doing theatre, I knew nothing and still know very little about film. The process of filmmaking is so different; it kind of adds variety to your life. With filming, you get to travel a lot, what’s amazing also is that film is this meeting of science and art, camera and all that stuff is so technical and the costumes and the design, everything is theatrical and artistic. It’s kind of amazing to be with these people, to watch those two worlds collide. That sounds really pretentious.

Nah. Isn’t it more boring to have to redo takes?

Well yeah but at some point in your life, you want that boredom. The problem in film is you only get a few times to get it right. In theatre, if you fuck it up, you can always do it better another night. In film, if you’re not in the right frame of mind a particular day, it stays forever. Ideally you get to do both [theatre and cinema].

How do get into the mood for a scene? When the director says cut, do you just snap out of it?

It really depends on the actor. Some will spend the whole day locked up and some will use humour. I remember doing this movie “Savage Grace”. There’s this really intense love scene with Julianne Moore who plays my mum. For weeks, I had been reading these disturbing things and my character is kind of freaking out at some point. But Julianne was such in a normal chatty mood and I had to be brooding. On that specific day, the character is going mad, I had to keep going to a corner of the room whereas she was absolutely laughing all the time. I felt a bit of a dick for doing that but there are other days where it’s the other way round.

How did your mum react to Savage Grace?

Ahha. You know what’s really funny is for my first play The Goat, in London, I was playing a young gay New Yorker. In the last scene, I had to kiss Jonathan Price who played my dad. My brothers would come and watch the play in order to watch my dad’s reaction. It was a funny thing. And when there was a film festival for Savage Grace, my family were there to watch my mum...I feel I put my parents through a lot. Bless them; because they don’t come from this world, I think they are so shocked that I actually get work. They are very supportive. They’re like “if this is what you need to get work, go ahead”.

In The Other Boleyn Girl , you play alongside Scarlett Johansson and Nathalie Portman. If you had to choose between the two, who would it be?

Genuinely? They are two completely different people. But both wonderful. Natalie [Portman] is incredibly, incredibly cute, bright and spunky. Scarlett is incredibly instinctive, beautifully smart and grown up. I couldn’t believe she was younger than me! The dream woman would be a mixture of both but they are both extraordinary in their own ways. I loved working with both. Scarlett was my wife so it was the high point of my career.

Do people mistake you for another actor?

The hilarious thing that happens is that they recognize you...but recognize your face. And think: do I know you? And either they think you are a friend, alternatively what they do is they go: you’re an actor. What have you been in? Which is a completely natural approach. You then have to go through your CV. And on the rare times that I have done that I go: “the Good Shepherd? No. The Other Boleyn girl? Nah. The Golden Age? Definitely no. I haven’t seen it. And you’re like: do you want me to keep listing my CV to you? which is really humiliating.”

Do girls come up to you?

It really depends on where you are. I went to a picture gallery recently and sat at a cafe. Schoolgirls came up to me and that was incredibly weird. When you’re doing a play, people know where you are and then they’ll come in. But it’s not like I get sent knickers.

If you had to have dinner with 4 people dead or alive real or fictitious, who would it be?

I was asked this question recently for a magazine. And I’m thinking of whether to give you the same answer. One would be Yves Klein who I’m a bit obsessed with. The other is a random Australian singer called Missy Higgins. Do you know Tom Sturridge? He’s my best mate. We did a film together in Australia about 4 years ago [Like Minds] and we would just stroll around New Zealand in a car and there was a singer called Missy Higgins. A songwriter. And we can’t work out whether she’s straight or gay from her song lyrics. We became quite competitive over her. We genuinely believed that one day we would find her and ask her who she’d rather. So I’d have to invite Missy Higgins. Only 4? I can’t pick family. Who else...(long pause) I’ll throw in Rothko to see what they thought of each other and I’ve always been fascinated by Barbara Baekeland who’s Julianne [Moore] ‘s character in Savage Grace, to see how she really was.

In the Burberry ad you did a lot if jumping, was it tiring?

No. Not really. I wasn’t the one in 9 inch heels like Agy [Agyness Deyn] . What Burberry do is get people from different industries. So you had musicians, there was a golf player, and Martin [Tomlinson], from the band Selfish Cunt, the most flamboyant charismatic person ever. So there was a very interesting dynamic too it. Mario Testino is wonderful and hilarious, he’d be like (takes the peruvian accent): “you’re a supermodel”, “you’re a star”...

Any advice for aspiring actors?

Be driven but don’t be overly ambitious. I think ambition hurts a lot of people in our industry...and it changes a lot of people.


It’s 4 am. You just came out of a club and you are very hungry. Do you go for the local kebab shop or the nice and greasy fish and chips?
4 o’clock in the morning? Kebab shop
Marmite: love it or hate it? Fucking love it. I had it for breakfast this morning on muffins with cheddar cheese. In fact, Starbucks has now amazing Panini cheese cheddar marmite. My favourite thing in the world. You clearly hate it.
Scones or English Breakfast? I love a full English breakfast but I can’t deal with eggs, I hate eggs, so everything that’s under the egg but I love scones as well. Tricky choice. Scones if it had loads of clotted cream.
Spice Girls or Girls Aloud? (Pauses) Girls aloud. There was a moment there. I really really fancy Nadine. I love the Irish accent. And she has amazing legs and an amazing voice.
What about Cheryl Cole? (very enthusiastic) Oh I love Cheryl Cole! ...of course I love Cheryl Cole. We had a discussion about her the other day and we thought that the moment we saw her dimples...she took over the nation.
This is a great quiz.
Friends or Eastenders? Friends. I never really watched Eastenders.
Jonathan Ross or Parkinson? Jonathan Ross
Thomas Hardy or Victor Hugo? Hardy but purely because I’ve read more of him.
Coldplay or The Strokes? The strokes
Bin or Trash? Bin
The good old Pint or a nice glass of wine? Pint. Wrong answer. Although I do drink wine.
Tea or Coffee? Coffee
Can’t or can’t? Can’t

Result: So British!

1 comment:

  1. is it ridiculous to post a comment four years after
    this interview was published?

    i was searching for images of barbara baekeland
    and came upon this photo and interview

    i just finished savage grace the book and movie
    - and i can hardly believe is was real- but there it is
    she was a real person with her real son who she
    sent round the bend with psychological trauma

    and so this mr redmayne handled the character of
    antony extremely well with extraordinary physical and emotional insight-

    glad for talent like his

    i also enjoyed this post/interview


    marianne e n gary
    utah, usa