CO-FINANCED BY: KUJAWSKO-POMORSKIE REGION, MINISTRY OF CULTURE AND NATIONAL HERITAGE FROM PROMOTION OF CULTURE FUND AND POLISH FILM INSTITUTE
THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Monday November 17th, 2014
Alan Rickman has a deep voice. So deep that when he gets annoyed it makes one think of some very unpleasant things like darkly-clad wizards or German terrorists falling out of the window. And now he definitely is slightly pissed. “What kind of question is that?” - he asks on hearing a weirdly inappropriate question involving Kate Winslet and her boobs. “It's sexist and an insult to Kate's intelligence. She would do whatever is necessary for the part to be relevant and truthful.” People should have already known better than to mess with Alan Rickman. Let's just hope he won't cancel Christmas.
Alan Rickman might be best known for his unforgettable baddies, be it Severus Snape, Hans Gruber or Sheriff of Nottingham, but he is one of the most versatile modern actors, somehow able to convince also as a depressed robot, Blue Caterpillar or even... Ronald Reagan. No wonder that this year he followed in the footsteps of Ralph Fiennes, Gary Oldman and many other wonderful artists as a recipient of Camerimage Krzysztof Kieślowski Award.
Interestingly enough, British actor came to Bydgoszcz also as a director – during the 22th edition of the festival he presented his second feature film, period drama A Little Chaos, which premiered earlier this year in Toronto and which he made 17 years after The Winter Guest, his debut behind the camera. “I hope this film is the opposition of a cold wet Sunday afternoon in November such as this one” - he said before the screening. According to its director, A Little Chaos tells the historically inaccurate and completely implausible story of King Louis XIV (Rickman himself) who assigns the prestigious task of constructing one of the main gardens at Versailles to a... female landscape designer (Kate Winslet).
Still from "A Little Chaos"
After the film Rickman met with the audience and the turn-out didn't disappoint. “We were wondering what to do to fill out this room” - observed a clearly amused translator. “Now we know”. Rickman proved himself a good sport - apart from briefly losing his cool after a cheap attack on his leading lady, he was patiently answering questions for over an hour. And there were a lot of those; somebody wanted to send him a script, somebody else – to shake his hand and all wanted to know how hard was it to direct again and, most of all, to direct himself. “Well, it's impossible. And not advisable” - deadpanned the actor. “I wouldn't have done it if it wasn't for the producer saying it was an economic necessity. Fortunately, if you play King Louis XIV you stand pretty still - everybody comes to you.”
British actor confessed that what attracted him to the project was the possibility to explore sexual politics of the society where women didn't have that many options, except to be decorative. The shoot wasn't the easiest: “Every director will probably tell you the same – it's all about obstacles. Each take wouldn't get past 20 seconds before an airplane came over. It's one of the problems of filming in England – you are always near a flight path or a motorway. But if the trust is there then the concentration is there and you are able to keep it going. One of the great things about directing is that you are surrounded by an incredible support team. Sometimes as an actor you feel terribly alone.” Rickman, who always wanted to cast Kate Winslet in the role of feisty Sabine du Barra didn't mind waiting for his leading lady, whom he met on the set of her first big film, Sense and Sensibility, when she was just 19 years old. He didn't change his mind even when 2 weeks into shooting she announced that she was... pregnant. “What can I say - thank God for corsets. It was scary, because I knew she would have to be thrown into the water at 1 am, but Kate just said: “I have easy pregnancies, it's ok”.
Stills from "Die Hard",
"Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" and "Michael Collins"
Rickman also expressed his gratitude for cinematographer Ellen Kuras, whom he met in New York after Winslet's suggestion. After a short conversation he offered her the gig on the spot. “I wish she was here now and you would all see why I could rely on her so much – she is an absolute captain of the ship. And very adaptable - in fact a lot of this film is probably a little alien to her style. I think Ellen's go-to position would be with a camera on her shoulders, as proved by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. This film asked of her to be much more controlled.”
Many times during the meeting Rickman underlined that he doesn't put labels on any parts that he gets involved in because, to him, all his characters are just people. And people are, well, fallible. “I think they are all pretty funny – if you are a human being you are potentially hilarious” - confessed Rickman. “I think that humour can be found in every part you play. When I played Hamlet I got lots of laughs – it's not impossible.” He admitted however, that the biggest challenge for him as an actor lies in playing people who really existed. “If you are playing King Louis XIV, Ronald Reagan or Eamon de Valera half of the people already either hate them or love them ever before seeing the film. So you are standing on a tightrope in terms of other people's perceptions. You have to get rid of any judgements and you become very protective of them. When we had a read-through for Michael CollinsNeil Jordan asked me if I already hated de Valera and that really made me put my boxing gloves on – on behalf of that character.”
When asked for advice for young filmmakers at the end of the meeting, British actor didn't have a whole lot to say. Nevertheless, those few words seemed to have struck the right chord. “I'm looking at you all and it's been such a long time since I was there. Time goes so fast, I just encourage you to treasure it and honour it. Be brave with what you have and be curious. You are living in a time when everybody's heads are down staring at their iPhones, iPads and computers. I just despair at young people forgetting to look up. You are only as rich as your imagination and it doesn't exist all by its own. Get your eyes up.” When one has such a voice, maybe it's better to keep them closed. At least for a while.