Tom Felton’s film Ophelia premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. (we reported here & here)
The cast of the film did a lot of press work on these days and Tom was interviewed together with George MacKay (he plays Hamlet) by The Independent & SHOCK YA! :
What attracted to you to the project? Were you approached for the film?
GM: I went for it; it wasn’t an offer sort or anything. I met with Claire and we really got on. I was really inspired by her vision for it, what she wanted to explore and the way she wanted to work. I mean, Claire left no stone unturned on set. We would do scenes and explore them in as many ways as we could to give options in the edit. That was really enjoyable as a process; that really excited me to be a part of this re-telling and this new way of looking at this sort of age old story.
TF: Well, I heard George was doing it (laughing). It was mostly Claire to be honest with you. We read the script, fell in love with it. I was obviously very familiar with the story. Loved the idea of, as you said earlier, telling it in a completely fresh perspective. As you said as well, one that should’ve been done decades ago. That—and I had a brief meeting with Claire and fell in love with her energy. In general, I am more attracted to people than I am pages, if you will. The script was great and she was not only passionate, but knowledgeable. That really helped me—when you’re dealing with someone who knows every aspect of the story. That really got me on board fairly quickly, to be frank. And when I found out George was going to be on it, I was like oh my lord!
In terms of prep, how did you approach your characters? What inspired you?
GM: Well, first and foremost, I was inspired by the script itself, and of course, the play Hamlet. There’s a gold mine of inspiration in the play, and I was excited about the opportunity to re-educate myself on a great text. Hamlet has amazing soliloquies where he talks about how he is feeling, which Shakespeare then ties back to bigger ideas like the circle of life. There is so much research, writing, and interpretation from Hamlet to draw from. I delved back into it and sorted out what was applicable and what wasn’t in order to do something fresh.
TF: Yeah, I did a little bit of browsing. I went back and watched Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet. To be honest with you, I sort of stuck mostly with the pages that we had with Claire and with Daisy. You know the nature of the beast these days with film is that we don’t often have a lot of time to mess around. Did we get a week?
GM: Yeah that’s one thing. We personally had a week, and then we had a week of rehearsals. In rehearsal, all the costumes, horse riding, sword fighting, and various other period elements really helped bring the characters to life.
There was actually quite a bit of sword fighting throughout the film. Was that tough to learn in a week?
GM: (Laughing) Yeah, we had an amazing stunts man.
TF: (Laughing) We had a great time.
GM: Yeah, Pavel Cajzl and Roman Spacil. They choreographed a routine.
TF: They choreographed a half an hour fight sequence.
GM: We would just work at it, and then change a couple of moments if they didn’t feel right. So we had a great time. Once we had our routine, we just drilled away at that.
TF: We were actually joking yesterday that if you gave us two swords now, we would be able to do it all over again. I can’t remember a single line I said, but I can remember the bloody sword fighting. It’s another great fun part about the job, really. You get to not only work with cool people but do some fun things like that as well.
(Laughing) Did you sustain any injuries?
TF: Well, Hamlet wouldn’t actually say this in the film, but I basically kicked his ass several times. This is the first time we’ve been in a room together since!
GM: It’s been that heated!
TF: But generally speaking, we were unscathed.
The sets are stunning, the costumes, the makeup, everything is amazing. Did those elements help you get into the character as well?
TF: Absolutely! I don’t know about you but it took a bloody half an hour to get the thing on in the morning because there were about twelve different layers. It’s really rather warm when you’re in there. But really, like you said, it helped us engage, get into character very quickly.
Where was Ophelia filmed?
TF: We were in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Lots of surrounding countryside; it was just stunning.
It really was, the film felt so ethereal.
TF: Credit to Denson Baker, our director of photography. It all looked incredibly beautiful, didn’t it?
GM: Yeah, Denson and Claire and David had designed it—Dave Warren as well as the rest of the costume and makeup team. They came with these amazing pieces. They made all of our costumes. Massimo Cantini, who designed the costumes, he’d come in and even about our undershirts, he’d say, “This material is from India, these buttons are from Italy. This tunic, is an old Czech kind of design.” It was incredible!
TF: Yeah, they’re not mucking about.
GM: They loved it! And Alessandro (Bertolazzi), the makeup as well. He’s very creative in terms of developing a look and using makeup as an aid to tell the story.
TF: When you have all of these incredibly talented specialists coming together, it makes the whole thing just…
Do you guys have any projects in the works?
TF: This bloke has a few films coming out, don’t you?
GM: Yeah, there’s a few films coming out. I did a film called Marrowbone, which is by Sergio Sánchez. He wrote The Orphanage, the first feature that he’s directing. That was at festivals last year, and it’s going to be coming out this year. And I’m doing a film with a director that we’ve both worked with named Amma Asante; it’s called Where Hands Touch and is about a biracial German girl at the end of the war, trying to navigate that environment, falling in love, etc. I’m also working on a musical film called Been so Long; it’s set in Camden which is north London.
TF: I’m excited for the Amma one especially! I’m about to head off to do a TV series but I haven’t quite signed on the dotted line yet. So I probably shouldn’t say anything.
For stars such as yourselves, what really draws you to work on an independent project?
TF: Actually, each one is different. Each one has its pros or cons whether that’s budget, location, actors, or script. You hope to find something that has the best of all these aspects. I’m not sure; it’s hard to have a sweeping answer for that one really because the reasons for taking on any given project really vary.
GM: I think with independent cinema in particular, it’s just the stories that you’re drawn to, the stories that you connect to and want to tell. What is kind of wonderful about independent cinema is that the people who are telling these stories have a very strong vision because the film is theirs, and they’ve got the autonomy to do it the way they want to, which I think is so important. So, not only is it about finding the story that you want to be a part of, but it’s about working with the filmmakers that inspire.
source: The Independent – Read there also the interview with Claire McCarthy (Director of Ophelia)
The day after the movie had its premiere at the festival, Felton and MacKay generously took the time to sit down for an exclusive interview at the Grey Goose Blue Door lounge. Among other things, the duo discussed that while the historic romantic drama isn’t the typical type of movie to be shown at Sundance, they feel McCarthy’s natural ability of empowering the female characters in a contemporary way captured the attention of the festival programmers and audience.
The conversation began with MacKay and Felton explaining what convinced them to play Hamlet and Laertes in ‘Ophelia.’ MacKay initially stated that he was interested in looking at this classic story “from a new perspective, and be a part of this new telling. I wanted to do that with Claire as the director. I met Claire when I auditioned for the role, and I really loved her vision for it, and the way she wanted to work. So I just wanted to take the opportunity to play this character, and facilitate what this story’s exploring.”
Felton also shared that he became keen on starring in the new screen adaptation after he read the script. “I immediately fell in love with this retelling of a story that I’ve known for a long time. I then heard that George was on board, so I jumped at the chance to work with this man,” the actor playfully noted, as he motioned to MacKay.
“I also spoke to Claire, the director, for about an hour via Skype one morning. She shared her vision on what she wanted to do with the different characters. She then asked me to come on board,” Felton disclosed. He added with a laugh that he “didn’t need much convincing!”
The performers then explained how they both prepared for the making of the drama, including how close the story remained true to Klein’s novel, and how much they made the story their own. MacKay explained that the movie adaptation stayed true to the book, first and foremost. “But the idea for the story also spawned from Shakespeare. The play is a goldmine, especially for how Hamlet is feeling. So I went over the play again, and delved into what I felt was relevant. I would do that throughout the filming process, but would always concentrate on what we were trying to do,” the actor revealed.
Felton also did some rehasing of the play on his own before production on ‘Ophelia’ began. But most of the preparation “was done in Prague, where the movie was shot, with Claire, our fearless director, and the rest of the cast.”
The actor then further explained what the experience of shooting ‘Ophelia’ on location in Prague was like. “I feel very lucky that we had that opportunity. I honestly think we could have shot it anywhere, and I would have had a brilliant time. But Prague is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to. I’ve never been there before, and I like having the excuse of going somewhere new.”
He also enthusiastically revealed that “I had to pinch myself, because many people save up all year so that they can have a week-long holiday in Prague, or where ever else they want to go in Europe. But we were actually being paid to be there, for a job. So I had a great time there. It was really special.”
“One of the most amazing things about being in Prague was that we were in real castles,” MacKay also passionately shared. “We were in real locations for many of the scenes, but some CGI was used. But our designer built many of the sets for our main locations. It’s always amazing to be in locations that are real.”
While shooting ‘Ophelia,’ “We did some physical things that people did back in those days, like horseback riding and sword-fighting. We also practiced how people walked and held themselves during that time,” the performer disclosed.
Felton also divulged that he loved the process of relating to Laertes’ physicality, whether it was “getting on the horse, or into the costumes. I even loved the boots! Massimo (Cantini Parrini), our costume designer, wasn’t willing to cut any corners. He had these Roman style boots that took half-an-hour to lace up.”
MacKay also admitted with a a laugh that “I don’t think I got the boots right, even on the last day! There were so many buttons. Massimo’s costumes were amazing, from the detail that was put into them, to the care that was put into the way they were made. That was a huge help, in terms of the physicality.”
The physicality “was partnered with some pretty intense sessions with Claire and Daisy, during which time we talked about things. We also explored relationships, which was a rare treat for me,” Felton admitted. “I’m more used to being thrown on the set and being told, ‘Let’s see what happens.’ It was nice to get a bit of time to grease the wheels before we started rolling.”
MacKay added that “we had a week to rehearse before we began filming, which is quite rare. We had everyone together during that week. It was very helpful to have that time to work through the scenes with Claire and the rest of the cast.” The actor also called the process of working with the filmmaker “wonderful. She’s a wonderful director, who’s hungry to explore every possibility in each scene. She just led us so beautifully throughout each scene.”
Despite his overall positive experience on the set, MacKay did admit that retelling the story was a bit tricky at times, because the audience sees the story “through Ophelia’s eyes. That empowers the female characters within the story, more so than the original play did.” But he also pointed out that “the source material is male-heavy.”
But McCarthy “properly explored all of those complexities in every scene, which is one of the things I loved about working with Claire. She never left a stone unturned, in terms of exploring all possibilities, and finding the truth, in every scene,” MacKay also shared.
Felton also called his experience of working with McCarthy “incredibly positive. She’s very strong-minded in where she wants things to go. She’s also remarkably sweet and incredibly patient.” The performer also expressed his gratitude over how collaborative McCarthy was as a director on the set, as “I’m used to being told what to do, like ‘Sit here and shut up.’ She was keen to explore even the most minor detail together, which you wouldn’t go into such preparation for on other projects. So working with her was wonderful.”
The actor added that McCarthy’s husband, Denson Baker, served as the Director of Photography on the film, “and they had a remarkable relationship on the set. They didn’t have to say anything to each other; they just seemed to read each other’s minds, and knew what the other person wanted.”
MacKay and Felton also showcased their natural chemistry and rapport with each other, and joked around about what little tension there was between the castmembers on the set. Felton noted how “it sounds like a cliché that actors say during interviews, but we had a wonderful time together. All of us boys would get together most nights and trade stories.” MacKay also chimed in that working together “was truly a lot of fun.”
MacKay also admitted that he was nervous about playing Hamlet, because “he’s a prince and is powerful. But when you put on all that gear, it really changes how you hold yourself,” both physically and emotionally. “The cloak was heavy on my shoulders, so you have to broaden yourself to support what you’re wearing, and why you’re wearing it.”
The actors then delved into the experience of having ‘Ophelia’ World Premiere during the Premiere Section of the Sundance Film Festival. Felton proclaimed, “It’s been so fun, hasn’t it?” MacKay agreed, stating that “It’s been amazing being here. One thing that’s really exciting about this festival is that I associate the films here with really contemporary indie films. So I think the fact that our film is a 14th-century, semi-fantastical piece, and is included within this mix of contemporary movies, speaks volumes about the contemporary nature of the relationships that Claire has found within this story…You certainly feel as though you’re watching something that’s up-to-date.”
The performer added that “I think Claire has done a wonderful job with the film, which is why I think it’s at Sundance. This project isn’t the norm of what’s usually played here, but somehow it manages to fit in. The relationships within the story are so three-dimensional, and empowers the female characters…It feels as though we’re really exploring the characters as people. Not having that over masculinity as our downfall is really intriguing!”
source: SHOCK YA!