Posted by RTE Ten. Interview by Linda McGee. Sept 9th, 2008
‘Pride and Prejudice‘ star Rupert Friend, who plays Lt Kotler in ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas‘, speaks to Linda McGee about why he felt compelled to take on this latest role, how nobody ever recognises him in the street and why he likes going home.He also raved about the joy of tea-making, his love of a pint when visiting Dublin and having big feeds… there must be an Irish passport stashed away there somewhere…
Linda McGee: How was the premiere last night?
Rupert Friend: Aw, it was a great night. I’m so glad it was in Dublin. Love it. I come here as often as I can. I’ve got an old friend here so I’ve been here a lot.
LM: So you’re familiar with all the…
RF: Pubs? Yeah! (laughs loudly). It’s lovely here. I always feel very at home.
LM: And I’m sure John (Boyne – writer) was able to point you in the right direction with regard to the local hotspots?
RF: He laid on a great bit last night. He brought us to some very old place that I’d never been before. It was good.
LM: So, back to the movie, was your initial introduction to the story through the script or had you read the book before that?
RF: I got the script first, which knocked me for six, and I read the book after that.
LM: Were you immediately interested in the project after being so captivated by the script?
RF: I just thought it was the most incredible story. I was so moved and thought it was so powerful and emotional and, if it sounds not too pretentious, important. I just thought: ‘I would do anything to be part of this’.
LM: I’ve read that you had serious reservations about taking on the role because of the level of violence that was implied. Is that true?
RF: Yeah. I mean, would you not, if you saw that on the page, think: ‘I have to do what?’. You know, it’s like: ‘How would you do that?’. And I was very frightened about that. How do you access that part, that thinks it’s OK to behave like that towards people. And then I suppose I realised that was the challenge so I took it on.
LM: After that was it very difficult for you to get into that headspace where you could convincingly play this character, who was very shy of redeeming features?
RF: Yes. One word, yes! (laughs) It’s difficult and I hope it served its purpose, which was to demonstrate that they were human beings. That was everyone’s intention with the adult characters, to show they are human beings, they have fears and dreams and ambitions mainly, and that they, for whatever reason, believe in what they’re fighting for, up to the point where they’ll behave in any way they see fit to achieve those ends.
LM: On that note, your character did have a certain weakness, that was obviously well hidden for the most part. Was it difficult for you to switch between the two conflicting aspects of his personality in order to give him that depth and maybe make him sympathetic in some ways?
RF: I think it’s the other way round. The first thing you’d see if you read that was the monstrosities, and then to work backwards and try and work out why and look at fallibility and what he’s frightened of. And that’s when you start to discover the man beneath the monster.
LM: While you were on set, did you find it emotionally draining facing into scenes of such torment every day?
RF: Yeah. It wasn’t somewhere that I particularly looked to spend more time necessarily, headspace-wise.
LM: So as soon as you finished filming the movie, were you itching to just change direction and look at scripts that were far lighter?
RF: Yeah, well I was very fortunate in that, shortly after that, I got the role of Prince Albert, who was one of the best, most redeeming, good-hearted, loyal, virtuous, dedicated, passionate, hard-working, talented, achieving guys I’ve ever read about. And I was like: ‘So this is the opposite, this is a nice change’.
LM: Do you worry at all about the public perception of you as an actor and how it might be affected by the roles that you chose?
RF: No, people know it’s stories. To be honest, actors play so many different roles, David (Thewlis) and Vera (Farmiga), they’re chameleonic. And I think the public know that and they want to be told a story and they want it to be told properly. If you had the actor going in and sort of apologising for what they were about to do you wouldn’t like it. It has to be told truthfully.
LM: How was it working with the young children who starred in this movie with you?
RF: They’re fantastic. They were great, great, great fun and we had a great time because we were in hot Budapest and we went to the zoo together and we hung out. We tried to keep Kotler (his character) as a somewhat separate man, that lived in that house, in a cupboard. He came out and then went away. And we tried to make sure that we could enjoy ourselves so that those kids didn’t have a miserable time because it was their first film and everyone wanted them to have a good memory of it, which I’d say they did.
LM: So what’s next up for you?
RF: Well, filming-wise I’m actually not doing anything because I’ve got this and then I’ve got to do the post-production on ‘The Young Victoria‘ and then ‘Cheri‘ comes out, at the end of the year I think, so it’s really time off for me, to do the things that I think you have to do in between films if you’re not to go mad. Just do things that don’t involve pretending to be other people.
LM: But I’m sure it’s difficult to live a normal life on your down-time, is it?
RF: Yeah, but I mean I’m really quiet and boring. I don’t do glamorous things.
LM: So you don’t actually like the celebrity red-carpet scene?
RF: No, I mean you do it when you have to. And other than that I’m very sort of simple in my tastes, a nice pint in a pub and good food and I’m happy.
LM: You could come over to Ireland for a while so?
RF: I do it a lot. I often do. I’m very happy here.
LM: Do you like that the media and celebrity culture here is more relaxed?
RF: Do you know what? I’m never recognised. I’ve been recognised in my entire life I think twice. It’s true. I don’t know why. Which suits me fine. I mean, it’s lovely to talk to people after the premiere. There were a load of people wanting to talk about the film and what it meant to them and I thought that was really great. I really enjoy the fact that the very boring, normal person that I am isn’t kind of interesting to anyone. It’s fine by me.
LM: So you’re still based in the UK during your down-time? You’ve never thought of moving to the US, have you? You just haven’t felt the need?
RF: I’ve never really thought about settling down anywhere. I like to keep moving. And I’ve spent many months in America and I’ve lived in lots of different places but I don’t ever feel a pressure to do anything like that, no.
LM: What are the things you miss about home when you are on the road making films?
RF: Well, the funny thing is, and this sounds kinda crazy because you know hotels are all luxurious and the rest of it but if you are on a film set all day you have a very short lunch break but you’re on there all day working and then you’re in a hotel… Life’s simple pleasures!I miss not being able to make my own cup of tea… because when you’re on a film set you can’t really leave the set so someone will bring you the tea, which sounds very luxurious and it is very nice, then you go to the hotel and you have to ring down for it, which sounds very nice, but after a while you’re just like: ‘Give me a bag and a mug and a kettle and let me go for it’. And it sounds like a crazy thing but making a cup of tea and washing the cup up… When I come home all I do is cook. I love cooking, so I go to markets, buy food, cook it for friends. I love doing that. Actually that’s probably the main thing, more than tea. I would say it’s cooking.
LM: So hanging out with your friends and being their masterchef?
RF: Sometimes they can come and visit and that’s nice but it’s nice to come home and have big old feeds.
LM: Have you ever been interested in getting into the writing or directing side of things or are you strictly a front-of-camera guy?
RF: That’s an interesting one. I’ve never been asked that before. What made you ask that? It’s a bit of an elusive one because I don’t want to sort of jinx anything… but if I just say ‘that’s a good question… and maybe I’ll answer it next time we see each other’… How does that sound?
LM: Honestly? It sounds a little bit cryptic.
RF: It was a little bit cryptic. I didn’t mean it to sounds mysterious but I suddenly realised I was going down a path that probably wasn’t a good path so I steered away… (laughs loudly).