British actor Tobias Menzies, Emmy winner for Netflix’s “The Crown,” will next be seen in A24’s “You Hurt My Feelings,” directed by Nicole Holofcener.
In the film, which bowed at Sundance earlier this year, Menzies plays Don, a psychologist whose long-standing happy marriage to author Beth (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is upended when she overhears his honest reaction to her latest book.
Menzies says that the initial brief provided by Holofcener was about a key aspect of his character – his insecurities about his looks and ageing. Going into the project, both Menzies and Holofcener, whose credits include comedy-drama films “Walking and Talking” (1996), “Friends with Money” (2006) and “Enough Said” (2013), were already keen to work with each other. The director cast the London-born star after watching “This Way Up,” the BAFTA-winning British television comedy in which he played straight man to stand-up comic Aisling Bea.
“I just really responded to the [‘You Hurt My Feelings’] script and I like her way of making films. I like her voice, how she sees the world, how she thinks about it, how she writes about it,” Menzies told Variety. “From my end, it was about getting on her wavelength and understanding — trying to get underneath what she had written. I was definitely stepping into her world and into Julia as well. They’ve done that sort of material before [‘Enough Said’], and I haven’t really, so that was exciting, but I wanted to get that right.”
Working with “Veep” and “Seinfeld” actor Louis-Dreyfus, an 11-time Emmy winner (eight for acting, three for producing), was a learning experience for Menzies.
“She’s unbelievably talented, [which] really strikes you when you’re working with her. It seems pretty effortless. She’s also creatively driving the film as well, really collaborating with Nicole. And so they’re a real team,” Menzies said. “She’s very deft, she can do it all. To work on that kind of material, that’s very heartfelt, has real verisimilitude and believability, but is also properly funny at times – that’s a particular kind of texture, which she’s one of the best at. I learned a lot during the film.”
“To anyone reading, if you get a chance to work with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, grab it,” Menzies added.
As for preparing for his role as a psychologist, Menzies said, “I’ve done an awful lot of therapy in my life, so I think I’ve done my due diligence in that direction. So, no, I didn’t do anything beyond drawing on my own experiences of therapists that I’ve worked with.”
Menzies is also known for his roles in HBO’s “Rome” and “Game of Thrones” and Starz’s “Outlander.” In “The Crown,” he won a supporting actor Emmy in 2021 for playing the late Prince Philip, the former Duke of Edinburgh.
“It’s such an influential show and so many people watched it,” Menzies said. “That story and that family do create huge amounts of interest and we as a cast are folded into that.” The actor says that he never met Prince Philip, but would’ve liked to.
“I’ve never met any of the royals actually. They kept a very healthy distance from the show and never really commented – we never shot in any of their properties,” Menzies said. “My honest feeling is, I suspect he [Prince Philip] never watched it. I wouldn’t have thought it would be his thing to watch a show about himself. I always imagined that he was probably a documentaries man.”
Next up for Menzies is Apple series “Manhunt,” due in August, which details the hunt for John Wilkes Booth (Anthony Boyle) who assassinated President Lincoln (Hamish Linklater). Menzies stars as Edwin Stanton, Lincoln’s War Secretary and friend, who was driven nearly to madness by the need to catch Booth and to carry out Lincoln’s legacy.
“It’s fundamentally an amazing story of the 12 days it took to find the killer of Abraham Lincoln and the fact that he killed him in front of a full packed audience in the theater and then escaped,” Menzies said. “Everyone knows that Lincoln was shot in a theater, but beyond that, probably don’t know about the extent of the nationwide manhunt and how difficult it proved and the historical moment that it created.”
“You could argue that the death of Lincoln resulted in the failure to deliver Reconstruction [the period that followed the American Civil War, from 1865 to 1877],” Menzies added. “The African American community in America was emancipated but wasn’t given land and voting rights until the 1960s. And possibly, if Lincoln had survived and hadn’t been killed that day, that part of American history might have been very different. To bring that story to a screen, but woven into quite a propulsive manhunt, I’m hoping it will be quite a compelling way forward to learn about that story.”
“You Hurt My Feelings” releases May 26 in the U.S. It will close Sundance London and has been picked up for U.K. and Ireland distribution by Signature Entertainment.