Alan Rickman is attending the 14th edition of the Marrakech film festival as a member of the jury. In mid-November he attended Poland’s Camerimage festival, where he talked about directing his recent pic, “A Little Chaos.”
For a decorous Baroque garden romance, Rickman’s “A Little Chaos” offered some weedy directorial challenges, the actor revealed at Poland’s Camerimage fest on Sunday.
Dogged by jet noise, British motorway traffic, rain and the breezy “tightrope” of playing a character based on historical fact, Rickman confessed his second directorial outing offered a steep learning curve.
But at least, he added, he can be “proud that the actors are listening to each other.” The electricity between Kate Winslet’s fiercely proud and capable Versailles landscape designer, Madame De Barra, and the French king’s chief gardener, played by Matthias Schoenaerts, is no accident, said Rickman, who portrays Louis XIV with studied understatement.
His long experience with the Royal Shakespeare Company and characterful roles in the “Harry Potter” and “Die Hard” pics have taught him that thesps must never slip into simply taking turns to deliver lines, Rickman said. During a wide-ranging talk with filmmakers and fans following a packed screening of the 17th-century-set film, now making the fest rounds, he added, “You don’t get any of that just with camera-work — and a lot if it’s silent.”
One hazard facing an actor who chooses to direct, however, is that at the end of shooting days “you have no time to look at the rushes — and no desire to.”
Fortunately, Rickman and cinematographer Ellen Kuras, known previously for a looser handheld style in work such as “Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind,” made up for that lack of feedback with morning planning sessions while riding together to the open-air and Blenheim Palace sets — a practice he highly recommends.
Speaking to David Heuring of American Cinematographer earlier this year (read the article here), Kuras explained that the inspiration for the look of the film came in major part from paintings of the period, but Rickman wanted Kuras to balance that with a contemporary feel.
“The script was very cleverly written and well conceived, and it was a script that I felt akin to,” Kuras told Heuring. “I really enjoyed working with Alan… He was one person I really wanted to work with. I do love his oblique and very dry sense of humor as well as his astute sense of poetry.”
As for finding lighter moments in a story of people profoundly constricted by courtly mores, Rickman said, “Humor is there to be found in almost every part you play.”
“When I played Hamlet I got a lot of laughs. If you’re a human being, you’re potentially hilarious.”