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Son of Rambow - Jessica Hynes interview

Son of Rambow

Interview by Rob Carnevale

JESSICA Hynes (nee Stevenson) talks about appearing in Son of Rambow, the appeal of the characters and the ‘80s, and her own career, including some forthcoming projects…

Q. How did you get involved with Son of Rambow? And what appealed?
Jessica Hynes: I went along and did an audition. I basically came and met Garth [Jennings] and Nick [Goldsmith], having read the script and loved it, and then came back and did a screen test with one of the young actors and they offered me the part. But I really sort of identified with the stories of the young boys… the kids rampaging through the countryside. Not that I’ve lived in the country, but just their imaginations and their feelings of being an outsider. I really identified with that. People think they’re the only ones, but we all identify with that feeling of being an outsider at one time or another. I also just connected with the story.

Q. Did you have long to build your chemistry with Bill Milner, who plays your son in the film?
Jessica Hynes: It happened quite naturally because he’s a really sweet kid. It was very easy to do.

Q. You also broke into acting at an early age, so did appearing with two such promising child actors bring back memories. Did they come to you for advice?
Jessica Hynes: Well, I joined the youth theatre when I was 14 and I was there until I was 17. When I was 17 I did a play called Lip and I had the lead in it, playing a 50-year-old character [laughs]. I was then approached by a few agents and got one when I was still 17. But I just about managed to complete my A-levels before moving out and starting work. So, I was never really a child actor. But these two boys are much more self-assured than I think I was. I was much more wild and a bit more neurotic… a bit more out of control! [As for giving advice] I learned from them. They didn’t come to me for advice. They knew exactly what they were doing and they seemed to just be naturally aware of what was going on around them. It’s one of the major things you need to do – just be connected to what’s going on around you and to keep your eyes and ears open. Every film set is different, so I haven’t really got anything to teach anybody. If anything, I think I’ve got more to learn. I was always inspired by their enthusiasm and discipline.

Q. What kind of research did you do? Did you watch Rambo again? Or look into the Plymouth Brethren?
Jessica Hynes: [Laughs] I didn’t watch Rambo, no. I saw it on television recently and I loved it. But I went online and found out a little bit more about the Plymouth Brethren and their religion. I was aware that I wanted to create a character that was warm and believable. I didn’t want to parody them or put on a silly voice. They’re just people.

Q. Did you get to speak to anyone directly, as I gather Garth had a next-door neighbour who provided much of the inspiration…
Jessica Hynes: He did, yes. I emailed somebody from the Plymouth Brethren and he emailed me back, so that was interesting.

Q. Have you had any feedback since?
Jessica Hynes: Well they won’t see it because they don’t watch television as part of their beliefs!

Q. What films influenced you as a child? Was there anyone in particular that had a lasting effect?
Jessica Hynes: I kind of love all film and television as well. My favourite film was Neverending Story as a child. I loved it. But in terms of being inspired, I also loved Bugsy Malone.

Q. Did you also love the ’80s as a decade?
Jessica Hynes: Yes and no. I mean I did because I was a kid and I had a lot of freedom, so we were always out playing or doing something like going to the parks.

Q. A lot about that decade has been revived. Is there anything you think has been missed out?
Jessica Hynes: I think we could all probably do with a smelly rubber revival. I think it’s about time that kids these days understood the beauty of a smelly rubber! Although we were discussing this recently and we all agreed that the Swiss roll smelt exactly like the chocolate bar… so who were they trying to fool?

Q. As a writer yourself, how easy is it to come across a script as good as this?
Jessica Hynes: Extremely hard. It doesn’t happen very often. In my career thus far, it’s happened once and this is it.

Q. Is it more frustrating that it’s quite difficult to get made?
Jessica Hynes: Well, I think that these kinds of films prove that if you stick to your original idea and you believe in your ideas then you will triumph. That’s what Nick and Garth have done and this is the end result. I think that people are more and more beginning to understand that you don’t need to force formula and ideas onto the gentle little pieces such as this. You just let it happen and let it get made and it’ll be brilliant. They started writing this before Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, so it took a long time but I have every confidence that people are going to go and see it because it’s an absolutely beautiful film.

Q. Have you any plans to work again with Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright [with whom she collaborated on Spaced]?
Jessica Hynes: No plans as such. I’m kind of in contact with them, which is nice. Edgar recently invited me to a double bill of Grindhouse, which he was hosting at the Prince Charles Cinema. So, that was fun to meet up with him and watch the film, which I absolutely loved.

Q. What’s next for you?
Jessica Hynes: I’m in a film called Faintheart, which is probably going to be out next year, and I’m working on writing two films of my own. I’m also doing a play at the Old Vic. They’re doing The Norman Conquests, which is an Alan Ayckbourn trilogy that hasn’t been performed for 30 years. They’re performing it in the round at the Old Vic, so it will be performing three plays in rep. Tom Hollander and Eddie Marsan are in it as well. It’s kind of comedy, but subtle and it should be a lot of fun. I know it’ll be fun working with those guys. And Matthew Orchard is directing it, so I think it’s going to be a really good show. Kevin Spacey will also probably be loitering around somewhere [laughs]. I haven’t met him yet but I’m looking forward to it.

Read our review of Son of Rambow