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Chatroom - Hannah Murray interview


Interview by Rob Carnevale

FORMER Skins star Hannah Murray talks about some of the challenges of Chatroom and what she enjoyed about playing her downtrodden character. She also discusses why she generally stays away from things like Facebook and what it was like to work with Eva Green on her next project…

Q. What was the appeal of Chatroom for you?
Hannah Murray: I just thought it was a really cool script. I’d read the play first because when we first auditioned there wasn’t a full script yet, but I thought it was so clever and funny and the language was all really rich and complex. So, just from that I wanted to do it. But then from reading a few scenes and seeing how he managed to transfer that into… the play is just people sitting there talking to the audience. But he turned it into something really visual and cinematic and exciting. I thought the idea of representing the Internet the way that they were trying to do was something I’d never seen done before. I also really wanted to work with a talented young cast because I think Aaron, Imogen, Matt and Daniel are all amazing. To get to work with a group of young actors who are that strong is quite rare.

Q. What was the challenge of finding Emily?
Hannah Murray: I found I had to let go of a lot of vanity and self consciousness because I sort of wanted her to look really dowdy. She looks up at Eva [Imogen Poots] so much, so I wanted to show the difference between them and see why she became so quickly enamoured by this girl. Also, because she’ so unaware of what’s going around her and the intentions that William and Eva have… the reasons why they’re being nice to her made it quite difficult to pretend that I wasn’t aware.

Obviously, I’d read the script, so I knew what was going on. Also, because we’re supposed to be online and not able to see each other, there were times when Imogen and Aaron would be giving each other little nudges and winks and so obviously taking the piss out of me, but I had to pretend that I thought they were being really nice. So, I guess that was a challenge for all of us to try and find how to act the online thing and shut off other people’s facial expressions. All you could respond to was the dialogue, because that’s all you could hear, which made it really interesting.

Q. Was she an easy character to let go of at the end of the day or the shoot?
Hannah Murray: I really liked her but I was quite happy to stop being her [laughs]. I think because she’s so downtrodden it was nice to stop being downtrodden!

Q. And how was working with Hideo Nakata?
Hannah Murray: It was great. He’s a really, really wonderful man and a lovely person. I was so impressed with his vision for the film and his visual sensibility. He was so clear about what he wanted. We rehearsed and he had ideas about what he wanted even before we started filming about what shots he was going to do. He was also really kind to all of us and really gentle.

Q. What kind of research did you do? Did you go to any chatrooms?
Hannah Murray: I didn’t go to chatrooms… to be honest, I was a little bit scared to [laughs]! But what I did do was learn my lines the night before and then I’d just go on the computer and type them into Word so that I could imagine when we were doing the scene what it would be like to just sit at a computer and type them in… so that was the reality of it. I also just thought a lot about Emily and the things she would like and not like. I watched 28 Weeks Later to see Imogen in it because I wanted to kind of imagine being a fan of her in the way that Emily looks up at her – to see her as an actress and be impressed by her.

Q. Did you tell her you did that?
Hannah Murray: No, I actually didn’t.

Q. Do you use the Internet much anyway?
Hannah Murray: Kind of just for work stuff and I’m at university, so we have a lot of assignments set to us online. But I don’t have Twitter or Facebook or MySpace or any of those things. I think there’s a kind of risky thing privacy wise and I’m a private, guided person and don’t want to get too open.

Q. Is that because of the career? Or has that always been the case?
Hannah Murray: No, I’m like that anyway. The career makes me be a little bit more careful as well but I think I’d probably be like that anyway.

Q. How is the studying going? How are you finding the balance between university life and working?
Hannah Murray: It’s OK. I was really lucky for quite a while. I did two films in my first year and they fit in well, so I didn’t have to miss any time. This term, which I’ve just finished, has been eight weeks long and I took three weeks off to do two jobs. But they’ve been really helpful and really understanding. I’m in my third year now, so I feel like I’m nearly at the end and I’m definitely able to complete both. I’m really glad to have been able to do both. The acting and the studying put each other into perspective in a way, so you never think the one is the only thing in your life.

Q. But it’s definitely acting that you want to pursue?
Hannah Murray: Yeah, I wanted to do English because I really love that subject. So, that was for myself and for my enjoyment and it was really great.

Q. How much do you feel indebted to something like Skins for kick-starting your career?
Hannah Murray: Oh, I’m 100% indebted to it. I was at school. I wanted to act but I didn’t necessarily know how to pursue that because I knew a lot of people who were into drama and applying to drama schools but were getting rejected year after year. It seemed like a very separate world that there wasn’t necessarily a very accessible way into. But then suddenly Skins came along and really changed that completely for me. So, yeah, I think I owe my whole career to Skins.

Q. Do you stay in touch with the cast members?
Hannah Murray: Yeah, as much as we can. Everyone is all over the place…

Q. Is it fascinating to see how everyone’s careers are progressing?
Hannah Murray: Yeah, it’s really lovely. Obviously, getting to work with Daniel again has been really great. I spent so much time with all of them and love them all so much so it’s really great to see what they’re doing.

Q. You’ve recently worked with Eva Green [on Womb], so how exciting is that for you?
Hannah Murray: She’s such a lovely, lovely woman and I felt like I learned a lot from watching her – not just acting but in terms of how she behaves on set and how kind she is to everyone and how generous. She really, really cares about the project she’s working on and wants to make them as good as possible. I was quite scared before I worked with her, but straight away she puts you at ease.

Q. It must also be good to see how she handles her fame as a lesson for you moving forward?
Hannah Murray: Yeah, what I really admire about her as well is that she makes really great choices. She does really interesting work and it’s really inspiring to see that you can do that and keep making brave decisions.

Read our review of Chatroom

Read our interview with Imogen Poots