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Aneurin Barnard: Citadel and Trap For Cinderella interview (exclusive)

Citadel

Interview by Rob Carnevale

WELSH actor Aneurin Barnard talks about the many challenges of making psychological horror film Citadel, in which he plays a man suffering from agoraphobia while struggling to raise a child, and why he likes to go the extra mile while preparing for his roles.

He also discusses Trap For Cinderella and working with Iain Softley and why it’s important to him to work with directors who are willing to collaborate with actors.

Q. You must be exceptionally happy with your career at the moment, what with The White Queen a ratings hit on TV and two films, Citadel and Trap For Cinderella, out this week?
Aneurin Barnard: It’s surreal. It’s nice to have one film out, so to have two is a dream come true.

Q. Taking Citadel first, you seem to be especially proud of that one…
Aneurin Barnard: Yeah. It was a really big team by everyone, from the crew, to the cast and the director. Everyone was working ridiculous hours on that one and we also had extreme weather to deal with. It was minus 14 in the snow, we were working 15 to 16 hours at times. It was very tough… and filming with small babies as well. But it led to a lot of good creativity. There were a lot of really good minds working together, so it was a pleasure to do.

Q. It also sounds physically demanding in that you deliberately took yourself off to the gym after each day to maintain that worn look you have throughout?
Aneurin Barnard: Well, for me I felt that not only was my character suffering from agoraphobia in the film, but he was also trying to bring up a baby, so there would have been that extra tiredness thing to consider. And I just felt like I needed to do that extra something which would take all of that into account. He had to look like someone who had to drive through that exhaustion.

Q. Is that something you pride yourself in doing, going that extra mile for a role? It’s not quite Method but it’s getting close…
Aneurin Barnard: It touches on Method, although I wouldn’t call myself that [Method]. But I’ll do whatever I need to do to feel comfortable in a role, whether that means going to the gym to get into shape or training to do something specific. I want to make sure I’m not pretending to do something and I take pride in being capable of doing the job I’m portraying. So, for example, when I played a photographer [Aneurin played David Bailey in We’ll Take Manhattan], I spent a week with a professional for a few hours every day just to make sure that I would be able to do a photo shoot myself. But it’s a fun part of the process, too, because it’s learning more things and extends my skill set. But it also plays to the truth of whatever I’m doing.

Q. So, did you also research agoraphobia and spend time with people who suffer from it?
Aneurin Barnard: I did. I spent some time with a service that dealt with people suffering from chronic agoraphobia and spent a lot of time with people who suffered from it because it’s a condition that is so physical and mental. I felt I really needed to get inside the mind of someone dealing with it, to try and understand the psychology of it all, and what it’s like to live with it all the time, day in and day out. I felt that I wouldn’t have been able to do the condition justice while recreating it if I hadn’t put in the extra work, which was why it was so important to me that I saw real people who suffer from it. I didn’t want to insult them with my portrayal. I wanted to get to their truth.

Q. How much did that shoot take out of you physically and mentally when you got to the other side?
Aneurin Barnard: It was very tough. But then so is any shoot where you’re in every single scene. But with some of the issues in Citadel, it really wears down on you. I got very low at points, mentally and physically, but that was necessary to do the job properly. But if you can imagine, I was doing that for two months every day. There was barely any time to switch off after long days [and going to the gym]. I’d often have to get up after three hours of sleep and do it all again. I think the toughest part came when you’re doing 15 takes for the same scene. If you’re hyper-ventilating, for instance, it can wear you down very quickly. I made sure I had a good diet while filming that, so that I could maintain a healthy lifestyle as much as I could.

Trap For Cinderella, Aneurin Barnard

Q. So, I’d imagine that Trap For Cinderella was a lot easier…
Aneurin Barnard: Oh, it was a walk in the park compared to Citadel [laughs]. Jake is just a young boy who is a DJ, who is in love with the lead character, and who doesn’t like her best friend. He’s having a good time in nightclubs. It’s a completely different perspective of a person – you wouldn’t see the two characters meeting up and having a cuppa with one another [laughs]. But that’s really good for me as an actor to be able to mix things up and do something so completely different with each role.

Q. How was working with the film’s director, Iain Softley? I gather you almost did when it came to his stage version of Backbeat in Glasgow?
Aneurin Barnard: Yeah, Iain asked me to do Backbeat in Glasgow and in London as well, so it was really good working with him when we finally got the chance. I really wanted to do Backbeat but because of other jobs I was unable to take the [Stuart] Sutcliffe role on. Iain is a lovely man, though, and a good director.

Q. I gather Jake’s character is more likeable in the film than he is in Sebastian Japrisot’s original novel. Did you have a part to play in making him more likeable when creating him for the screen?
Aneurin Barnard: Yeah. The trouble with Trap For Cinderella is that I felt there were so many manipulated people within the storyline that you don’t want the audience to go from one to nasty person, to one corrupt person, to another who is always making judgements and manipulating people as well. I felt Jake needed to be neutral in order to give the audience a bit of breath in between the seriousness. That was the hope anyway.

Q. Is it important to you to work with directors who are willing to collaborate and be open to suggestion?
Aneurin Barnard: Yeah, it’s really important because I feel that if directors don’t let you do that, you may as well be a model or someone who doesn’t mind being put on the spot to say your lines without any interpretation or through-line. A good actor knows exactly what the camera wants, what the sound wants, where to find the light and how to tell a good through line and journey. Personally, I take a lot of pride in that because we’re all creating a world together and if you can’t bring stuff to the table then you may as well not call yourself an actor.

Related: Aneurin Barnard talks The White Queen and Moonfleet l Iain Softley talks Trap For Cinderella

Trap For Cinderella and Citadel are both released in UK cinemas on Friday, July 12, 2013.