As if you needed further proof that Eddie Redmayne -- the star of 'My Week With Marilyn' and recent cast addition to Tom Hooper's adaptation of 'Les Miserables' with Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway -- is the next big thing, consider the words of Chloe Moretz. "He's one of the most phenomenal actors I've ever worked with. He's gonna be the new actor to work with," the actress told Moviefone about her 'Hick' co-star. "I've never worked with a better actor than him." No wonder the 29-year-old is able to hold his own opposite possible Oscar nominees Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh in 'My Week With Marilyn.'
In 'Marilyn,' Redmayne plays Colin Clark, the third assistant director on 'The Prince and the Showgirl' and the 'My' of the title: Clark, who passed away in 2002, spent a clandestine week with Marilyn, and the nature of their relationship makes up a bulk of the film. Despite not having to play a well-known Hollywood icon like Monroe or Sir Laurence Olivier (the roles Williams and Branagh fill with great success), Redmayne has to make Colin -- as well as the film -- accessible to audiences. He does so effortlessly -- no small task -- and helps bring 'My Week With Marilyn' to another level.
Moviefone spoke to Redmayne about 'My Week With Marilyn,' working with Michelle Williams, meeting Colin Clark's real-life family, and how celebrity culture has changed since the 1950s.
When you were filming 'My Week With Marilyn,' what were your impressions of how Michelle was doing?
Because we're all actors, everyone is so supportive of everyone else. There is that line in the film, which I think is really sort of true, that Olivier says. When I say to him, "Maybe she's scared," and he goes, "We're all fucking scared!" At your job, I don't know the intricacies of journalism, and I can read an article and think, "That seems good," but I can't necessarily pull it apart. When you watch someone play a human being, as a human being, anyone else has the right to go, "I believe that. I don't believe that." The idea that anyone's criticism is sort of valid is what makes actors terrified. So, the one thing when you're aware that an actor is undertaking the part of someone as iconic as that -- and there's mixed feelings of excitement, but also: am I crazy? It's not like Michelle ever thought, "I would be perfect to play Marilyn Monroe!" She got offered the part, read the script, and, I'm sure, probably instantly went, "Absolutely not." But, there are elements of her that are intriguing and fascinating. It came from a place of curiosity and fear. I'm sorry, this is a long-winded answer. [Laughs] But all the actors around, knowing that everyone in the world is going to scrutinize when the person is that process, you just want to be there to help them. Certainly to be the least judgmental person. Not be second guessing.
The other thing that's interesting about film as opposed to theater is that when someone does something in the rehearsal room or on stage, you see the finished thing. Whereas, I was doing this television series with Helen Mirren called 'Elizabeth' many years ago. I had been in the room for lots of scenes. Only when I saw the finished product -- because the camera was [on her face] -- did I see the extraordinary things she's doing. So, as well on film, you can never judge a performance from what you see in front of you. Sometimes you can think something looks big and theatrical and wonderful and it doesn't work on the screen. And vice versa.
You mention how you assume Michelle recoiled upon first being asked to play Marilyn Monroe. What was your reaction to the script?
I felt the same thing. "Who would be crazy enough to play Marilyn Monroe?" Then when I heard it was Michelle -- and I was a big fan of her work, and think she's a sensational actress -- I thought, "Oh, right. Yeah! That makes sense." That excited me. It wasn't the stereotype I had in my mind. I knew that it would be multilayered. From my point of view, it was also a little slice of history that I couldn't believe I didn't know about. And, also, coming from British theater and film acting, we're not getting taught film or theater history. Our cultural history is not a massive thing. We know we have a great heritage, but it's not something that we're constantly reminded about. So these figures like Sir Laurence Olivier and Dame Sybil Thorndike-- these names, it was wonderful to rediscover them and see their work.
I know you filmed 'My Week With Marilyn' at Pinewood Studios, the same studios where 'The Prince and the Showgirl' filmed in 1956. How much did that help and influence the film?
What it did -- I think the whole film in some ways is a celebration of film. It's sorta like 'Hugo' in some ways -- this has, in a compeltely different way, the British industry [to celebrate]. Pinewood has always been a bastion of that. What was amazing was to walk down these corridors and see 'Captain America' was filming in one studio and you had 'Hugo' and 'The Woman In Black' with Daniel Radcliffe. You had all these different people in different costumes and then Marilyn Monroe shimming down the hall. There was a romance to it. Absoluely there was. Shooting in the houses -- Parkside House, where she stayed. The moment when she reads the notes that Arthur Miller has written, that was the staircase where it happened. All those things can't help but inform the film.
Marilyn Monroe is an icon, and Michelle had loads of material that she could use as research. Meanwhile, little is known about Colin. You read the diaries that the film is based on, but how else did you prepare for the role?
What's interesting about Colin is that -- in some ways -- I had the easier task. Compared to an icon. I saw the photos and obviously read the diaries, but what was important was chosing what note to take from the book. When you're given that resource -- both the diaries and 'My Week With Marilyn' -- because you know exactly who the character is, you want to take all that. Then the script is something different. It's like doing literary adaptations. At some point you have to put that away and play the script. There were certain aspects of Colin's behavior that were curious or not necessarily audience friendly. I knew that what was important was that Colin was a cypher. The audience had to be with him.
When I would complain about finding a scene difficult, Michelle would say, "When you're playing James Dean, then you complain. Until then, shut it!" She's absolutely right. But what was hilarious is that there was this one day on set when I was suddenly taken by one of the assistants to meet Colin's twin sister -- Colin has passed away -- and his wife and son. No one had told me. It was wonderful to meet them and they were incredibly generous and lovely, but suddenly I felt -- having been the one going "My job is fun!" -- that there was something else there. I spoke to the lady who worked as the script supervisor on the film, as well as the woman who had worked with [Marilyn's publicist], to really get a sense of Colin, and to see whether they thought this was true. Certainly there's a fairy tale aspect of the story, but they were all like, "He had this charm. It totally wouldn't surprise me if this had occurred." That was lovely. Because you wanna feel that.
Did you ask Colin's sister if she thought he had hooked up with Marilyn?
I was so terrified about meeting his sister! I didn't push. I politely chatted.
You said how you had the "easier task," but I think your role is so key to why the film works. Especially because, like you said, Colin is not the nicest guy. He kinda treats Lucy (Emma Watson) pretty badly throughout. Yet because of how you play him, he seems naive and adventurous...
But also flawed. It's important to me that he's flawed. But I also think that 'My Week With Marilyn,' the title; it's the cypher quality. You want the audience to go, "What would I do?" And the answer is, if Marilyn Monroe said, "Take me shopping," and you were like, "I'm meant to go on a date in a new relationship," you'd be like, "Oh God." It's easy to judge, but I think we'd all probably go.
You and Michelle have great chemistry together, but also some awkwardness that feels genuine. I know you rehearsed a lot, but did you ever get to a point where you stopped as a way to keep...
...a distance between me and Michelle? No, not so much. But her process on the film -- how during that period, it was much more of the norm for actors to have professionals around them. An acting coach. A vocal coach. A singing coach. A movement coach. And that was something Michelle had specifically wanted for this. To have that herself. I loved working with her and we got along very well, but there was also this sense on set that she had her -- I wouldn't say entourage, because that makes it sound like something, but these professionals. She was working on every aspect. So, that instantly, at the end of the day, there was a slight isolating aspect. Which was helpful. That's the first time I thought about it out loud, but yeah, that helped.
'My Week With Marilyn' is all about celebrity culture. It's amazing how relevant it is to this day. How much do you think celebrity culture -- and our reaction to celebrities -- has changed?
It's not something I've experienced, it's something I watched my friends go through. The reason the notion of celebrity remains so fascinating is because no one can put a hold on it. No one can understand what it is. What's revealing about this film is that you start seeing Marilyn Monroe in a dress on a huge cinema screen with this kid so far away from her. And then when she's in that read-through, she's in a dusty room. That's the reality! The same way I've been lucky to do films with Cate Blanchett or Julianne Moore, and we're in some weird little office in Barcelona doing a read-through. I've only ever met these people in these distant situations. The notion of celebrity is what keeps it so fascinating.
Follow Moviefone on Twitter
Like Moviefone on Facebook