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Mr Sloane - Ophelia Lovibond interview (exclusive)

Ophelia Lovibond

Interview by Rob Carnevale

OPHELIA Lovibond talks about playing Robin in new Sky Atlantic comedy-drama Mr Sloane alongside Nick Frost and why she felt able to relate to the character and enjoyed etting to dress up in ’60s outfits.

She also talks about her career to date, including getting to work alongside one of her comedy idols, Kevin Kline, in No Strings Attached and her forthcoming role in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. She even reveals a girl crush on Michelle Pfeiffer…

Q. What appealed to you about playing Robin in Mr Sloane?
Ophelia Lovibond: Oh, everything. When I first read the script I was just immediately attracted to the character. Sometimes, you pick up a script and feel an immediate affinity, for whatever reason, to the character that’s on the page. I just love her attitude to life… she’s so free spirited and positive, so playing that off against Mr Sloane’s character was something that I knew would be ripe for comedy. I loved the fact that it’s set in the ‘60s – anything set in ‘60s immediately appeals to me because I love that whole period. I love the clothing, the music, the burgeoning attitude. So, everything about it seemed attractive to me.

Q. And how closely do you relate on a personal level to someone like Robin?
Ophelia Lovibond: I do relate to her because although it’s set in the ‘60s her sense of, there’s so much about her that remains hugely relatable. When we first meet her, for instance, she’s feeling kind of lost, even though she has this positive attitude. She’s been unlucky in love. I haven’t been. But you can still relate to those feelings. She doesn’t quite know what she wants to do with her life and ends up in Watford [from San Francisco] and she’s unsure how she got there. But she’s feeling that she needs to do something, so she ends up with Mr Sloane and they bring out the best in each other. They may seem like opposites but they’re good for each other. And I think that’s something that you can feel sympathetic towards.

Q. How was working with Nick Frost?
Ophelia Lovibond: Nick is amazing! I’ve watched Spaced over and over and over again and I’ve seen and loved the Cornetto movie trilogy, so when I was reading the script just knowing that he was playing Mr Sloane was a huge appeal. He made me laugh so much. We riff and bounce off each other a lot and I couldn’t wait to step on-set every day.

Q. How was it watching him do something that is also a little more bittersweet and more dramatic than, perhaps, we’ve seen him do much of before?
Ophelia Lovibond: He is a real pro. He doesn’t goof about. He’s there to do well and do justice to the material. But he’s also very funny when the script calls for him to be. So, it was really nice to see him playing a more bittersweet character and do something that’s a little bit more straight – there are slapstick elements to the show but he does play it straight.

Q. And working from a script by Robert B Weide, of Curb Your Enthusiasm fame, must be a gift?
Ophelia Lovibond: Well, again, I’ve watched so much Curb Your Enthusiasm. With that and Spaced, they are things that, when growing up, helped to shape my appreciation of comedy. So, to work with two people you’ve admired, who’ve worked on quite different shows, but whose shows have left such an indelible impression upon so many people, you just wanted to do justice to the script. And the script is so sharp and funny, while all the images are so vivid – you could hear it so clearly when reading the script, and then watching it, it’s exactly as it was in the script because Bob stayed so close to it. It was incredible being able to watch these people work.

Q. You’ve mentioned your love for all things ‘60s, so how was getting to don the wardrobe?
Ophelia Lovibond: So much fun. But I didn’t get to keep any of it! I loved going for the fittings and figuring out her look because I wanted it to be part of telling Robin’s story. She’s a free spirit and she comes as a breath of fresh air in Sloane’s life, so we wanted that reflected in what she wore. So, I’m always wearing colourful outfits that are a complete contrast to Mr Sloane’s greys, or even the clothes worn by Olivia Colman, Sloane’s estranged wife. I think the clothes helped the story and helped me get into character.

Q. You mention your appreciation for Spaced and The Cornetto trilogy – you’ve also recently worked with Simon Pegg on his latest film, Man Up. How was that?
Ophelia Lovibond: I know! It’s very strange. Jessica Hynes was also in W1A, the series I recently completed, and although I didn’t share any scenes with her, I do seem to have ended up working with the entire cast of Spaced. We’ve wrapped on Man Up but, again, I couldn’t really believe it. I was goofing around and mucking about with someone else who had massively influenced my taste in comedy. You do have to pinch yourself and say: “I can’t believe I’m here being funny with you.” It’s a strange sensation. I actually bumped into the writer [Tess Morris] in the hairdresser’s the other day and it was funny because we were chatting away over the blow-dryers! It was like a scene from the film.

Guardians of the Galaxy

Q. You’ve done a few films now, but how do the sets vary for you? I mean, is it less daunting being on a smaller set with the likes of Simon Pegg and Lake Bell than it is hanging out on the set of a big Marvel production like Guardians of the Galaxy
Ophelia Lovibond: It’s kind of the same regardless because whether it’s a huge budget movie or a tiny independent or a comedy, you still want to do the best you can do. With Guardians, the sheer scale of that set was quite awesome. It was done on these huge, huge sound stages and there were so many people involved in making this big machine function properly. So, yes, it’s different in terms of scale, but in terms of my approach ad how keen I am in doing the job well, there’s no real difference.

Q. How much did it help you that your Guardians character, Carina, was introduced at the end of Thor: The Dark World?
Ophelia Lovibond: Well, it was actually all filmed at the same time, so I didn’t think about that. I suppose it has helped to ease audiences into the new film and it was a great way of linking the two films. I didn’t know they did those teasers at the end of their films, or tag scenes, so when they told me about it, I thought it was such a god idea… linking all of these graphic novels together to form one big universe.

Q. Do you feel any pressure? There’s a lot riding on Guardians and it’s the one that so few people really know anything about?
Ophelia Lovibond: I really don’t [laughs]. And it was so much fun to shoot. I hadn’t done sci-fi before, which I guess is what this is, but it’s really wet my appetite to do more. I hadn’t really thought about it growing up and I’d never considered I’d be in a film like this. But the costumes and how imaginative everything is… I would love to do another one. This is a nice way to get eased into it all. But the pressure is not really on me.

Q. I gather you share most of your scenes with Benicio Del Toro, so how was working with him?
Ophelia Lovibond: Well, again, I’ve watched The Usual Suspects so many times, so to end up working with someone you really admire is amazing. And he was so nice and such a cool customer. Nothing phased him and he was a thrill.

Q. Does he go method?
Ophelia Lovibond: I hope he doesn’t go method [laughs]! He didn’t stay in character but he did try out different things to keep it fresh and interesting, to keep everyone on their toes. But I love working like that because you often land on something that you wouldn’t have done otherwise. So, I like that he did that. And he did it so well – everything he tried was good. When you see someone trying stuff out like that, it makes you think I’d like to do that as well.

Ophelia Lovibond

Q. And what about working with Chris Pratt?
Ophelia Lovibond: Chris was really nice. He was mainly talking about his dog. I remember, he showed me some pictures and the dog was so fat [laughs]. I’ve got a dog as well, so we were talking to each other about them like they were little children [laughs]. But he was really funny too and very sweet. I love him in Parks and Recreation. It [Guardians] didn’t feel like a big, scary film because everyone was so nice. James Gunn, the director, was so confident, relaxed and chilled out on-set, so that had a good effect on everyone. I would love to work with him again. The pressure was really on his shoulders but it never showed. This is a comic book movie after all and he never forgot that it’s supposed to be fun. And that attitude trickled down to everyone involved.

Q. Have you seen it yet?
Ophelia Lovibond: I haven’t seen it…

Q. So, can you don’t know what a lot of it is going to look like? I’d imagine there was a lot of green screen involved?
Ophelia Lovibond: I haven’t thought about any of that, to be honest. I’m just waiting to see the movie.

Q. I’d imagine there’s going to be plenty of premieres to attend. How do you feel about the glitz and glamour that accompanies filmmaking nowadays?
Ophelia Lovibond: It can be a bit intimidating [the red carpet] because you always think you’re going to fall over. I have this irrational fear of falling over. Normally, I can competently walk down the street without tripping up, but as soon as you’re on that carpet you think you’re going to trip or do something that might be embarrassing! But it’s all just a big party – some people can take it too seriously. But it’s really just a celebration of the film and so you should really treat it as such.

Q. Have you had any interaction with the Marvel fans? Are there any plans to go to something like Comic-Con?
Ophelia Lovibond: I haven’t been to Comic-Con yet but it’s something I would love to do. The thing I’ve found so incredible about the whole Guardians experience is quite how enthusiastic the fans are. It has such a huge following and it’s quite impressive how much people know [about them] and how much they’ve read. And they are really loyal readers, so they’ve actually got more of an opinion on how it will, or should, look than me. It’s a bit like when the Harry Potter films came out and everyone had read the books, so had a view on how it should be. I was so excited to see what those movies would look like. So, you hope that you’re going to get it right for the fans. But talking of Comic-Con, I love that story about Bryan Cranston walking around with a mask of his own face over his head and getting people to take pictures without them knowing that it was really him underneath. I thought that was such a good idea and I’d love to do something like that. And I would love to go one day and see all of the costumes that people wear. In fact, James [Gunn] put something on Instagram the other day… a picture of someone dressed up as my character. I thought that was so mad that people were already following my character. So, it’s all quite exciting from that point of view.

Q. Talking of famous co-stars. How was getting to work with someone like Kevin Kline on No Strings Attached
Ophelia Lovibond: Oh my God, that was awesome. I love A Fish Called Wanda. In fact, my mum always quotes from it. She crowbars quotes from A Fish Called Wanda into so many conversations and I really don’t know how she does it. But I was so excited about that because he’s made me laugh so much over the years. I remember when I first started on that film I kept quoting from Derek and Clive (the radio show featuring the voices of Dudley Moore and Peter Cook) and I think he found it exciting that a young person knew all of those Derek and Clive quotes. So, we were quoting each other back and forth. And we both had to have fake tans done and he managed to make a lot of jokes about that. It’s just so amazing that I got to goof around on-set with him because the characters we played in that film were so ridiculous. It was a great introduction to Hollywood, especially as that was my first film in America.

Q. Was it a big decision to decide to work in America? Or had that been the plan?
Ophelia Lovibond: It wasn’t really a big decision. I kind of play it by ear. I don’t have an action plan. This industry is so spontaneous and unpredictable that I don’t know what’s going to happen next, but I’m quite happy with that and I’ve grown accustomed to it. I don’t have some kind of grand plan where in five years time I’ll have done this and want to be in that next.

Ophelia Lovibond

Q. How has the career path been so far? You landed your first role at 14 and haven’t really looked back since…
Ophelia Lovibond: Well, I guess I always knew what I wanted to do, which is a big help. I started acting when I was 10 and knew instantly that I would be an actress. There was never any question in my mind. So, going to university and doing English, I went because I wanted to go and read English for three years and get to read all of those great books. But I also knew that at the other end of it, I was going to be an actress full-time and be doing that for the rest of my life. So, I guess I was lucky in knowing where to focus my energies, because lots of people don’t know what they want to be. If you know early on, you can focus all of your energies and that makes it a bit easier. But I also realise I’ve been very lucky too because in this industry you also need a lot of luck.

Q. Which actresses do you admire the most?
Ophelia Lovibond: Well, I’ve always been inspired by Natalie Portman. I think she’s played incredibly diverse roles and I would love to play those kinds of characters. And then there’s the usual suspects, such as Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro, who have played such a broad range of characters. There are so many… Daniel Day-Lewis is another and Michelle Pfeiffer. I remember seeing her in The Fabulous Baker Boys and thinking she was amazing. Even in One Fine Day. I know it’s only a rom-com, but she’s so good, and it’s actually quite bittersweet. There’s that whole scene where she goes into the bathroom and tries to beautify herself while wearing her son’s T-shirt because she’s got George Clooney in her sitting room. But then when she comes out, he’s fallen asleep. I couldn’t remember seeing a scene like that in a film of that style. Again, she’s fantastic in Scarface… and Catwoman – how did she make latex look that attractive? I have a girl crush on Michelle Pfeiffer!

Q. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt to this point?
Ophelia Lovibond: Just go with it. It sounds a bit silly but just embrace that spontaneity I’ve spoken about because you never know what’s around the corner. None of my close friends are actors – they’re architects or graphic designers – and they all tell me that they wouldn’t be able to handle the not knowing element. But if you embrace it, it’s part of the excitement. You might be in China in a month’s time, or filming in Australia for three weeks. So, just go with it and embrace it because it makes it all a lot more fun. This is an amazing job to be able to do and I feel very lucky.

Q. So, what are some of your favourite memories to date?
Ophelia Lovibond: Well, I’m not just saying this but I really did love working on Mr Sloane because walking on-set every day was so much fun. It was such an amazing script and the people were so lovely that I didn’t want it to end. Also, working with Sam Rockwell on a film called A Single Shot. I’ve loved all of his films. I remember watching Moon and thinking: “How has he done that? How did he trace that character?” So, getting up close and personal and seeing him work his magic was really special too.

Mr Sloane starts on Friday, May 23, 2014, at 9pm on Sky Atlantic. Guardians of the Galaxy is released in UK cinemas on July 31.