Tag Archives: father

A star is born: my early interview with Cinderella’s Lily James

27 Mar
Lily James with that tiny waist in Cinderella. It's a wonder what a corset will do – along with 600 sit-ups a day.

Lily James with that tiny waist in Disney’s Cinderella. It’s a wonder what a corset will do – that, and a history of 600 sit-ups a day! “If you do any less, you’re wasting your time.”

I hate to say I told you so, but… Actually, scratch that. I love to say I told you so.

In 2012, I wrote a cover feature on a little British movie scripted by Noel Clark called Fast Girls, co-starring Lily James as a runner determined to score Olympic gold. It was Lily James’s first cover interview, and in it I wrote that “She will end up being more than just a pretty face in empty action films like Wrath of the Titans. She’s likely to become a real star.”

And now here she is, playing the lead in the new Disney extravaganza Cinderella, which opens today in the UK. Fair makes you proud. So, for anyone who wants to know where Lily James is coming from, here are the highlights of my 2012 interview with the then barely 23-year-old star in the making. Given the fuss about Lily’s tiny waist in Cinderella, note her comments about doing 600 sit-ups a day. Petite she may be, but this is no anorexic shrinking violet, this is one tough (though fat-free) cookie.

05. The Book

My cover interview with Lily James in The Book, June 2012

Lily James on getting fit for Fast Girls: “I had to train five times a week, two and a half hours a day. I was doing weights, circuits, running, jogging. My diet was changed to six small meals a day, with protein shakes, lots of chicken, nuts and raisins. It was really hard, and I got quite down for a while. I don’t like exercise that much, though I love dancing, yoga, being active. Soon, however, I became obsessive about my sit-ups – as soon as I began to see those six-pack muscles forming, that was all the incentive I needed. I did 600 a day – 50 V sits, 50 sit-ups, 50 leg raises. If you do less than 600, you’re wasting your time. You can do 300 without pause, it only takes 15 minutes.”

Acting for Hollywood:Wrath of the Titans was insane. It was my first film, and everywhere I went there was someone holding an umbrella to shade me from the sun in Tenerife. Your every whim is catered to – ‘Do you want this? Do you want that?’ With Fast Girls it was really exciting to feel much more like we were working together and pushing to get it done. We had to work for everything, shoot the whole thing in five weeks, it was really exciting.”

Favourite film scene: “The bit in Heat where Al Pacino and Robert De Niro meet. They crossed all the cameras so they got every angle in one go and it’s JUST AMAZING.”

Acting on stage: “I feel much more confident on stage. Guildhall School of Music & Drama, where I went, was very classically based theatre training. I love the family feeling of doing a play, going to the bar after, pushing the character to its limits. When you see the great screen actors like Meryl Streep or Al Pacino, they all started on the stage. There’s something lost now with the decline of rep theatre; it would be good to have the time to develop yourself before being thrust into the spotlight. To be entrusted with big roles before you feel ready… Then again, I guess you’re always learning, so you might as well take each opportunity and go for it!”

Acting mantra: “As long as everything is truthful and from the heart, you can get away with anything. Carey Mulligan is so honest. People long to see sincerity and people being genuine.”

Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey: “Sometimes I wanted to scream!”

Downton Abbey: “I love period drama, exploring the history, and all the costumes. But it’s also very contained and reserved, I found sometimes I wanted to scream! You get more of a release doing modern stuff.” [At the time, she’d just started filming Downton, but no episodes had been shown.]

Her personal style: “I like long boho skirts, lots of jewellery, rings. I live in East London, and you have no choice but to start shopping in charity shops if you live in East London! It’s hard to maintain your own style sometimes in this business. When you are having photoshoots for the first time, you are presented with stylists who slip you into dresses, and you have to be diplomatic. You can really express yourself through your clothes, but it takes a lot of time and money.”

Her late father: “My dad passed away while I was at drama college so my whole world changed. I used to love singing while my dad played the guitar: Bob Dylan, Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell, I was brought up singing all those. The hardest thing is not being able to share things with him: everything I have done since leaving college I can’t tell him about. But I feel everyone who’s left this world is still here with us, I really believe it.”

Lily James also stars as Elizabeth Bennett in, I kid you not, ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’, out later this year.

In the psychiatrist’s chair: six revelations from David Lynch (interview part four)

29 Jan

David-Lynch

What follows is self-contained, but there’s more good stuff to the interview. Click the links to read parts one, two, and three, or for a review of his current photography exhibition.

Despite the recurrent obsessions on display in his patently f***ed-up films, David Lynch has never undergone psychoanalysis. “I went one time,” he explains, “and I asked him if it might affect my creativity. And he said, ‘David, I have to be honest with you, it could.’ And I said, ‘Well, I’m happy to meet you, but I have to go.’”

I tell him that in that case I’m going to play psychiatrist, right here in this Paris hotel suite. I’m going to give him six words – connected with key imagery from his films – and he has to tell me the first thing that comes into his head for each. Surprisingly, Lynch agrees. The results are strangely revealing…

fire

1. “Fire.” I’m thinking of Lynch’s trademark close-ups of cigarettes (above); the blaze that haunts Wild At Heart; the burning cabin in Lost Highway; the very title Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. But what’s Lynch thinking? Fifteen seconds elapse.

“Well, it’s… It’s kinda…. It means different things in different situations. When I just think about fire, it’s so pure, I don’t think about anything else.” And then, shockingly: “When you said it, I was picturing being in it.”

Your first student short was of heads throwing up and catching fire, I add. “It was the reverse, actually. But the elements water, earth, air and fire, it’s no accident that we really like those things, and things get reduced down… Fire is so magical. There’s a texture to it that occurs nowhere else. And controlling something like that… It wants to get bigger if it can, and then you’re very worried that one will go out! With me, I always think about magic, the unexplainable.”

jazz

2. “Jazz.” Lynch works very closely with his composers, though it must be said, Bill Pullman in Lost Highway (above) is the least plausible jazz saxophonist ever seen. There’s hardly any pause this time: “Freedom. It’s like no constraints, an opening, and then barriers going away and lifting and breaking and experimentation and… it’s like attempting for something.”

brain 3. “The brain.” Each Lynch film out-grosses the last on brain injuries; in Eraserhead the hero’s head is made into pencils; The Elephant Man is killed in his sleep through the sheer weight of his head; Blue Velvet has the shot cop briefly still standing, brains exposed, like a faulty electrical appliance; in Wild At Heart Sherilyn Fenn wanders about in shock after a car crash, holding her brain into her cracked skull (left), while asking if anyone’s seen her hairbrush; Lost Highway tops the lot by burying a glass coffee table in a man’s cranium.

“Well, um…” Nineteen seconds go by. I wait. Then: “The brain is just like a plate but the nervous system and the mind is, ah….” Fully 27 seconds of silence as he furrows his brow comically like a boy at examination time. “It’s the thing that traps us and ultimately frees you.”

bed

4. “The bed.” In The Grandmother, Lynch’s best early short, a lonely boy grows a grandmother from a plant on his bed, on which she later dies; Wild At Heart contains a number of heroic sex scenes (above). Complete silence for 48 seconds. What part of “first thing to come into your head” does he not understand? Then Lynch giggles like a schoolboy to whom one has whispered the word “sex”. “It’s sort of like… A bed is used for many things, but it really is a closeness to death.” Pause. “And birth, too.”

red curtains5. “Red curtains.” I’m thinking of the afterlife/limbo of Twin Peaks (left); how in Lost Highway the camera moves over red curtains like a spaceship exploring a strange planet. Immediate response. “Curtains are both hiding and revealing. Sometimes it’s so beautiful that they’re hiding, it gets your imagination going. But in the theatre, when the curtains open, you have this fantastic euphoria, that you’re going to see something new, something will be revealed.”

outside

6. “The outside.” This is where Jeffrey finds the severed ear in Blue Velvet; the woods are where all the weirdness happen in Twin Peaks (above); there’s the Lost Highway itself. I tell Lynch I’ve read that he was terrified of the outdoors as a child. Immediate response. “Right, I did have a period of that. I really like captured space. Even great vistas are okay because I see some edge. But the word ‘outside’, it’s uh, too random. I lose a bit of control with that word.”

And yet your dad worked for the Department of Agriculture. “My father was a woodsman, yes. And wood has played a huge role in my life. So I like building things out of wood, I like chainsawing, I like the smell of the wood, I like the look of a tree, particularly my father’s favourite tree which was the Ponderosa Pine. The wood is… everything all the fairy tales made you feel.”