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Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston Interview
Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston Interview
Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston are both renowned British actors who have featured in a variety of box office busting films and critically acclaimed television shows, including the likes of Steven Moffat’s Sherlock Holmes, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Atonement, and Thor, The Deep Blue Sea, Wallander respectively.

Coming together to play two First World War soldiers fighting on the front line of the Somme, they spoke to View’s Matthew Turner about working for the world famous director Steven Spielberg, the amazing experience of riding in a cavalry charge and the success that playing Sherlock Holmes can bring.
An obvious first question: what was it like working with Spielberg?

Tom Hiddleston

It was just amazing. We've been talking all day about how he was the architect of our imaginations as children – in terms of the films that he made, we're right smack bang in the middle of the target audience for those films, Jaws and E.T. and Indiana Jones -

Benedict Cumberbatch

I was a bit young for Jaws – you must have been way too young for Jaws ...

Tom Hiddleston

Yeah, but we saw it on video or whatever.

Benedict Cumberbatch

I don't want to get into trouble – I listened to my parents ...

Tom Hiddleston

I remember I was 12 years old on the opening night of Jurassic Park and 15 when Saving Private Ryan came out. So yeah, I've grown up with him and you have all these expectations of who he's going to be and then you meet him and he's so excessively kind and generous and humble and passionate, a mixture of impeccable preparation, pre-vis, storyboards and then spontaneity on the day, keeping it loose, keeping it fast, keeping it mobile ...
He's a great combination of all the things you need – there's no mistake, he's Steven Spielberg...

Benedict Cumberbatch

And while he's sort of the ultimate general in charge of this incredible circus with all these facilities at his fingertips, he's incredibly approachable, avuncular and personal. So you can go into the hut before or afterwards, look at the monitor, frame up the shot, talk to him about dialogue, about character, about something else coming up, have an anecdote about his extraordinary countless experiences and biography, so you feel you're part, you're included, you're not just a cog in a massive machine.

Tom Hiddleston

I was just going to say, if all this sounds pat, he really is really amazing. He's just the man that he is – I tend to think that Steven Spielberg has become this enormous global brand for a certain kind of cinema. But you forget that there's a human being that that name is attached to and that he's a filmmaker with a particular artistic fingerprint. Just like Danny Boyle or Martin Scorsese or younger people like Aronofsky and Andrea Arnold and all these people and this is right from the truth of his heart, this film – it isn't just some sort of massive Spielberg factory that churns them out; he is on the ground, feeling every beat. And that was the most exciting, moving aspect of working with him, for me.

Benedict Cumberbatch

Yeah, absolutely. You're not just part of a factory line doing a Spielberg film, there are very heavy epic, beautiful Spielbergian elements because that's what he is, he's a craftsman. He's built up his auteurship and his way of painting a picture, but it feels like it's a new experience for him, every day that he's on set. And yet he can hold the whole film in his head at the same time as organise pre-vis, edit at the weekend and the day off to know what shot he's missing or needs on the Monday.{linebreak]
And still come in smiling and do something completely different because an animal, which is beautifully unpredictable - to drag you into a present moment of concentration, which is obviously the gold you want to capture on film – will change and all circumstances change around them. It's about being able to do stuff on the run and he's a great combination of all the things you need, really, to be where he's at – there's no mistake, he's Steven Spielberg.

Tom Hiddleston

With the cavalry charge sequence, the way he directed me and Benedict and Patrick Kennedy - who plays Lieutenant Waverley - in terms of the emotional guidance we got, was particularly extraordinary. We'd practised for weeks, those charging sequences, but there's a moment when Captain Nicholls sees the machine guns and Richard [Curtis] had written it in the screenplay and also Michael [Morpurgo] depicts the moment so beautifully in the novel, that Joey suddenly feels a lightness on his back, that he doesn't realise that there's nobody riding him anymore.

So Steven wanted to show Captain Nicholls' death without you seeing him die, you don't see him get shot. But he said, 'Tom, this is the only piece of slow-motion in the film, because actually I don't think slow-motion is very effective as a dramatic tool – sometimes it hits but you have to use it sparingly. It's going to be completely silent and I want to see you see the guns and then I'm going to cut back to the guns and then I'm going to cut back to Joey and you're not going to be there. And the camera's going to move across your face but I don't want you to do shock or surprise or fear or terror. How old are you?' And I said, 'I'm 29.' {linebreak]
He said, 'Okay, so at the top of the shot, give me your War Face, the face that you've been doing all day, you're winning, you're triumphant, you're a noble officer and it's all going well. And then I'm going to say “Guns” and when you hear me say “Guns”, the camera will zoom in and I want you to de-age yourself by twenty years, so you're 29 and then you're nine. I just want to strip away the man and see the boy. Can I leave that with you?’

And I thought that was one of the most heartbreaking pieces of direction I'd ever received – it was just so emotionally acute. In the middle of this great, grand, epic action sequence, with 120 horses going 40 miles an hour, he had the space, in his filmmaking head and in his heart for something very intimate and I thought it was amazingly impressive.
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Content updated: 20/10/2019 22:10

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