You play James in “Song for Marion”. What is the film about?
The film is about. It’s a little bit like A Christmas Carol in a way. It’s about the awakening of a miserable old man to the possibilities of life. Terence Stamp plays Arthur, my father in the film, he’s married to Marion (Vanessa Redgrave). His wife is in one of these local community choirs that get together and sing popular songs poorly and he’s very disapproving of this and distant from it, as he’s been with his son all his life, I play the son.
During the course of Marion being involved in the choir, she realises that she’s got cancer and that she’s dying and obviously this has a massive emotional impact on Arthur and his son, and increases the tension in their relationship but Marion is increasingly involved in the choir but, when she’s gone, there’s a gap and the young woman who runs the choir, played by Gemma Arterton, pursues Arthur to become involved in order to help him deal with his grief and in order for him to shed some of his misery really. And slowly but surely Arthur does get involved in the choir and sings. So it’s a kind of spiritual awakening really done in a very light comedic style.
What was it like working with Gemma Arterton, Vanessa Redgrave and Terence Stamp?
Excellent. I mean with Vanessa and Terence, there was a huge amount of screen experience which I could benefit from. The important thing for me playing the character I played was that I looked at Terence’s character and I looked at Vanessa’s character and I had to decide how much each of them had influenced the psychology of my character and I think it’s probably very difficult if your father’s distant and cold and unemotional.
However, it seems that his mother played by Vanessa was the complete opposite of that which is often the case in couples and she was very warm, very expansive and inclusive and optimistic and I think I decided that my character was far more like his mother than his father. He hadn’t turned to anger about his dad’s distance. He’d become quite a passive character really, quite a gentle man. So that was great.
I only had one scene with Gemma but it was great to be around her obviously.
“Song for Marion” was filmed in Newcastle and Durham. How supportive were the local community up there?
Hugely supportive. You know you get a very specific generosity and warmth in the North of this country and I know that because I’m from the North and I moved to London, but particularly the North East. I mean I think its fact that people voted the Geordie voice as the friendliest on the telephone, but they were hugely supportive of the film. We got great locations. We were made to feel very welcome. It was a very positive experience up there.
Yeah, well I’m from the North East myself so I’m quite proud…
Darlington? Ok, well I’ve worked in the North East a lot.
It’s a nice place.
Yeah, a lot. I have friends in the North up there. I shot big sections of “Elizabeth” up there too and then I went up for “Song for Marion”.
It was shown at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. What was the reaction like?
The reaction so far has been very positive. You never get universal approval but, generally, people have responded really well to Gemma, Vanessa and particularly Terence’s performance because Terence anchors the film. He’s in every scene but people have responded really well to the film.
What other plans have you got for the future?
Plans for the future. I’m unemployed at the moment. I’ve been unemployed since December so I’m looking for my next job.