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Christopher Eccleston - The Shadow Line interview

Chiwetel Ejiofor, Stephen Rea and Christopher Eccleston in The Shadow Line

Q. How would you describe The Shadow Line?
Christopher Eccleston:
“I would say that it is a genre piece, a thriller – a psychological thriller, a meditation on good and bad, a meditation on morality.”

Q. And what about your character and his moral dilemma can you tell us a bit about that?
Christopher Eccleston:
“Joseph Bede is a devoted husband. He is an accountant, who trained originally in insurance, and because of events in the drama he is pushed forward to lead an operation of drug smuggling. What he is trying to do is to keep himself alive materially because of his wife’s illness, and at the same time keep himself alive spiritually – and, of course, the two things are not mutually complimentary. So he wades into a very grey moral area.”

Q. What were your first reactions when you read the scripts?
Christopher Eccleston:
“That it was excellent and that I wanted to be part of it.”

Q. Were you surprised by them?
Christopher Eccleston:
“I was puzzled at first, it takes two or three reads. Drama scripts are not really meant to be read, drama scripts are meant to be broadcast and watched with all the visual clues and information that one gets from television and film. It’s very complex, it is like a Swiss watch really – the complexity and the way that things interlock, plots parallel each other. I was very, very intrigued.”

Q. How would you describe working with Hugo Blick who wrote and directed The Shadow Line?
Christopher Eccleston:
“Well I would stop short at the word “genius” because knowing Hugo as I do I don’t think he would want anyone calling him a genius! He is very, very talented to have written these scripts and to direct them in the way he has done with the attention to detail. What’s definite is that the atmosphere on set was as good as I have known amongst cast and crew and that came down to Hugo’s leadership, which was impeccable, light and funny. What you want from a director is: firstly to know exactly what they want; and secondly you want that to be of good taste – and that is true he’s got great taste and he leads well. It was a great experience.”

Q. Did Hugo give a back story, or does your character start from the page?
Christopher Eccleston:
“No, there is a modesty to Hugo which is why I think actors and crew work so well for him. He doesn’t presume that he knows everything and he allows room for the actors’ imagination and the crew’s imagination otherwise there is no point in us turning up really. So there are intuitions that an actor can have about a character, and indeed a cameraman can have about how to shoot the scene, which Hugo gives room for.

“He does an interesting thing in that he speaks about the script as though it was written by somebody else, which I think is quite interesting. When he is the director on the floor he has the director’s head on and he sometimes says: “I can’t remember why I wrote that.” It’s all very collaborative.”

Q. It’s an incredible cast – had you worked with any of the other actors before?
Christopher Eccleston:
“I had worked with Lesley Sharp before, who plays my wife, we worked together on Second Coming. I was in great company and have seen some fantastic performances emerge during the course of the shoot.”

Q. Were you surprised by any of them?
Christopher Eccleston:
“No, I knew they were all quality actors but sometimes actors will do things in front of your eyes that will take your breath away and that happened a lot – with Malcolm Storry in particular, and Stephen Rea.”

Q. Can you compare The Shadow Line to anything else?
Christopher Eccleston:
“I can’t compare it to anything else and it is difficult when you have been so closely involved in something to actually say what it is. I think the most important thing about it is that it credits its intended audience with great intelligence, it does not offer simplistic plot twists, and it doesn’t offer simplistic takes on human psychology. It has taken a world entirely of its own. It is going to be very stylish and intelligent, and I think that’s quite rare.”

Watch a preview of The Shadow Line below:





Next interview: John Simm on Exile