Attending the Zurich Film Festival for the screening of his latest film, “The Good Nurse,” Eddie Redmayne spoke about his desire to work with director Tobias Lindholm, the joy of watching Jessie Buckley’s performance in “Cabaret” and the disappointment of missing out on “Games of Thrones.”
“The Good Nurse,” which Variety’s Tomris Laffly describes as “soulful” and “devastating,” tells the true story of nurse Charles Cullen, who confessed to murdering at least 29 patients but who may have in fact murdered as many as 400 people, and fellow nurse Amy Loughren (Jessica Chastain), who helped solve the case. It’s based on the book “The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness and Murder,” by Charles Graeber.
“I was sent the script and I knew nothing about the film,” Redmayne said, taking part in a Zurich Film Festival master class. “The story unraveled in front of my eyes and I couldn’t believe that I didn’t know about this story. I also thought it was extraordinary because the piece felt impossible to pigeonhole.”
It’s a story about a “real-life superhero,” a woman who manages to accomplish things that the system is unable to do, he explained. “We’re so used to violence being used to attack violence, whereas in this film, it’s about empathy and compassion being used to stop this man from doing these horrific things.”
Redmayne was also keen to work with Lindholm. “I had seen his films and was a massive admirer of his work. And I was desperately looking to be in a film with someone with a vision … and that’s a rare thing. Tobias has a vision.”
“I went in with very high expectations, and the making of it, working with Jessica, working with Tobias, working with Krysty [Wilson-Cairns], our writer, and Scott [Franklin], our producer, superseded all of those expectations and actually reinvigorated something in me about what the process of filmmaking should be.”
Looking forward, Redmayne said he would like to continue producing after helping put together the recent stage production of “Cabaret,” and possibly try his hand at directing.
“I’ve been lucky enough this year [to do] a production of ‘Cabaret’ in London, which I sort of produced. That had been a long-term passion project and I helped put that together in a way that I got great joy from, so I hope maybe going forward producing, perhaps directing, but I don’t take the idea of being a director lightly. You’ve got to have an extraordinary skill set.”
Redmayne expressed joy at convincing actress and singer Jessie Buckley to play Sally Bowles in the show.
“Years ago I had seen Jessie Buckley, who is the most extraordinary actor in the world. I didn’t know her and about four years ago I said, ‘Jessie, would you ever consider doing “Cabaret”?’ And she was like, ‘Absolutely.’ And we went on this journey together.
“Her performance of Sally Bowles in ‘Cabaret’ was, in my opinion, one for the ages, and her particular performance of the song ‘Cabaret’ was extraordinary. Every night I would introduce her on stage, because I was playing the Emcee, and I would go and stand behind the curtain and I would watch her leave everything on stage. Everything. It was one of those performances where you want to go and hug the person after. … Watching her do that night after night – that felt like success, joy. I felt it was an amazing thing.”
Asked whether he would return to the Wizarding World franchise as Newt Scamander, the character he plays in the “Fantastic Beasts” film series, Redmayne said that was a question for producer David Heyman, J.K. Rowling and director David Yates.
“I’ve had an amazing time inhabiting Newt. It’s an interesting thing jumping into that world, into the world of franchises, because you’re giving your life over to something but you don’t know what that thing is.”
J.K. Rowling, he added, “has one of the greatest imaginations of our generation and it was a wonder to get to swim in it.”
Before landing the part of Newt in “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” Redmayne had found it difficult to break into big fantasy franchises, beginning with an unsuccessful audition for the part of young Tom Riddle in one of the “Harry Potter” films.
“I think I got through about three and a half lines before being gently dismissed,” he recalled.
“And then ‘Game of Thrones’ came. I had done this film called ‘Black Death’ with Sean Bean and Carice van Houten. Like half the cast of ‘Black Death’ were in ‘Game of Thrones’ – not even a sniff.”