Now in theaters, “A Little Chaos” marks Alan Rickman’s second film as director; he also stars in the movie as Louis XIV. His “Sense and Sensibility” love interest Kate Winslet stars as Sabine de Barra, a widow who falls for a fellow landscaper while they’re working on the King’s garden. At a recent public screening of the film, Rickman revealed several fun facts about himself and the making of the film.
Harry Potter put a hold on his film directing career.
Rickman made his movie directorial debut with “The Winter Guest,” starring Emma Thompson. But that was in 1997; why has it taken him so long to get back behind the camera? “Harry Potter got in the way,” said Rickman. “When I said yes to doing that in, I think 2000, there were only three books and I didn’t know if I’d be in the fourth. You can’t direct a film unless you’ve got a year or more of your life, and I would spend several weeks a year on those.” But, he noted, he was continuing to direct in the theater, “so it wasn’t like I was losing the muscle.”
He has great respect for writers.
“A Little Chaos” is the first script from Alison Deegan, and it instantly impressed Rickman when he read it. “Like any script, if you get past the first four pages, you know something’s good,” he said. “It can often be difficult to heave those pages over.” When it came time to cast the film, Rickman noted he was looking for actors “who hand themselves over to a writer.” He continued, “I believe as an actor you are absolutely the servant of the writer and it’s your job to be an efficient channel between the writer and the audience.” That ultimately comes down to listening. “Kate is one of the great, great listeners of the screen. As a director and in the editing room, the huge gift of her is you can put a camera on her anytime and you’ll watch her figuring things out. It’s always interesting just watching her listen.”
The plot isn’t beholden to historical accuracy.
Deegan is dyslexic, and Rickman says the script came in at 180 pages with virtually no punctuation. “But there was something unmistakable about the dialogue and the fact she’d created a leading female character who couldn’t possibly have existed then — it’s a complete fantasy. But that’s what the movies can do, you can take a period of history that’s incredibly male dominated and you can inject into it a very modern independent woman and make a point about feminism through a prism of history. So if anyone says the story’s implausible, you just say: Well, yes.”
He’s learned from some of the best directors.
Rickman has worked with many different filmmakers, and says he hopes he was the kind of director he would want as an actor. “Which is, a director who asked lots of questions and didn’t have lots of statements. I was always trying to empower the actors to feel they owned the material.” He added that he loves the varying experiences of working with directors. “If you took Ang Lee and Tim Burton, you’d say those have to be very different people. That’s the point, they are who they are and to thine own self be true.”
The hardest part of shooting “A Little Chaos” was the location.
Rickman was thrilled to shoot the film in his native England, but it did cause some logistical complications for the period piece. “England is England, and that means problems with the weather,” he noted. “And it’s quite a small country, so you’re never far from the motorway or a flight path. It was hard to do a take for more than 30 seconds before a plane flew overhead.”