Compiled by: Jack Foley
Q. Were you part of this mutual Thackeray appreciation
society? And what sort of preparation did you do, as it's crucial
for the audience that we believe the world in which these characters
A. Hadn't read the book before we started filming! I
tell you why, it was because I've done a number of these adaptations
now and, actually, quite often, it's just more trouble than it's
worth, because you're making the script, you're making the film
obviously. You're not making the book and you end up really regretting
scenes that aren't in it, trying to put scenes that are in it
that aren't in it, and I'm a pretty simple fellow and need to
have a very clear mind about what I'm doing. By reading the books
of other adaptations that I've done, it just kind of fucked me
up a bit! So I didn't read it. I've read it since, cos I didn't
want anyone to accuse me of not having read the novel, and it
is remarkable; it's a wonderful book, a great read, a really good,
As far as research is concerned, again, I've done a lot of these
- as you probably know, of Austin and Bronte and that kind of
world - and I don't need to do much research. And it's a love
story. It's not about the detail of him as a cavalry officer,
it's a love story, and I've been in love once or twice in my life,
and so I do know a thing or two, as most people do, about what
it's like to be in love and how you do that, so does that mean
I'm lazy [laughs]?
I was a big fan of Mira's films; I'd seen Monsoon Wedding and
Salaam Bombay! and I thought they were really works of genius.
But that was the reason I wanted to do the film more than anything
else. Because having seen her films, you could see there was a
director of astonishingly fierce intelligence that's right in
the middle of those other films, and the cohesiveness of those
other films is so strong that you'll see all the compartments
are pulled together by this person in the middle who is just so
demanding to get the passion, to get the film that she's got in
her mind up on the screen. And that was the biggest challenge
for all of the actors, I think, to help Mira achieve that, because
it was so specific what she wanted.
Q. You've done a lot of these
types of stories, so were you at all reluctant to take on a part
that could have been typecast?
A. It's a good point and it's not something I took on
lightly. But also, when did we make this? How long ago? So now
I'm playing Mark Anthony in HBO's Rome, and that's a very different
part, and it's a very different man, and I think I've been quite
lucky in that way, that although there are sort of themes that
run through the parts that I play, I think I have escaped, to
a certain degree, being typecast. And I'm incredibly lucky for
I have been offered a couple of other things in boots that I've
left, because I'm not sure if it gets any better than this.
Q. And you're constantly linked to another typecast role
with another dinner jacket and a Walter PPK. Would you like that?
A. [laughs] I've just signed up to HBO's Rome for the
next five years, so I think it's unlikely. Obviously, it's an
extraordinary, iconic part and I would walk 50 miles over broken
glass barefoot to do it, but...
Q. Reese has come into a predominantly British cast,
so did she ever ask for advice? Was she ever intimidated?
A. She's a remarkably self-possessed woman. She's very
smart, bright, witty, full of grace and elegance. She's so well
prepared. And I think she'd already had a sort of dry run on The
Importance of Being Earnest, and so she'd already worked with
the English actors. And English actors to have a very different
way of working to American actors, I think, and she just slipped
very easily into that ensemble playing, which is the kind of great
thing about English actors - that they kind of work together on
a scene rather than in a bubble, or on their own. For me, that's
the big difference. And I think that comes out of theatre companies
and actors coming through drama school and theatre companies,
and that's the way they work, and she slipped straight into it.
There wasn't a moment, even at the beginning, of having to warm
into it at all. She very quickly acclimatized.
Q. Was she very swiftly acclimatized to the English way
of socializing after work?
A. She was very pregnant when we were making this...
But she took her job very, very seriously. She was very aware
that, like me doing a Western as the sheriff, with Ed Harris and
Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood, and half a dozen other brilliant
American character actors, she was surrounded by very fine British
character actors, so she was aware that she had a job to do to
pull that off.