British actress Jessica Brown Findlay, best known for the acclaimed BBC series “Downton Abbey,” gets to star opposite Colin Farrell and Russell Crowe in her first Hollywood film with Warner Bros. Pictures’ love story “Winter’s Tale.”
Set in a mythic New York City and spanning more than a century, “Winter’s Tale” is a story of miracles, crossed destinies, and the age-old battle between good and evil.
Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) is a master thief, who never expected to have his own heart stolen by the beautiful Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay). But their love is star-crossed: she burns with a deadly form of consumption, and Peter has been marked for a much more violent death by his one-time mentor, the demonic Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe). Peter desperately tries to save his one true love, across time, against the forces of darkness, even as Pearly does everything in his power to take him down—winner take all and loser be damned. What Peter needs is a miracle, but only time will tell if he can find one.
Question: Can you talk about the connection your character, Beverly, forms with Peter Lake (Farrell), and how they’re drawn to each other?
Jessica Brown Findlay: She meets Peter in a really bizarre way, and I suppose it’s a test of his character. She sits down and has tea and just talks and doesn’t take any liberties of any kind, and he just sits and talks, opens up and then leaves. I suppose the first time she meets him, she thinks, ‘This is the only time I’m going to see him, so I’m going to talk to this person and say hello, and exchange some stories and then I’ll have another wonderful memory to have.’ And then I suppose he, who is not open to the idea of the rest of his life, decides that she is a person he’s drawn to.
I think Beverly is someone who will take an experience, keep it and treasure it forever, and he allows her to take one experience and to let it keep growing. I think he makes her forget the reality of the situation that she’s in and allows her to give in to the magic of the beautiful, mad, ridiculous thing that love is.
She obviously is constantly being told about her life by her doctors, who deal in facts and numbers and figures, and she’s given into that. And he opens us this side to the world that I suppose she never thought she’d have. Suddenly that chance is there, regardless of how long it is, even though she didn’t have that long lifetime that we all dream of. Something good comes out of that. It’s really beautiful.
So, I think it plays to that idea that it’s both incredible and mad and blind and brilliant. Love is crazy, but it’s great. [Laughs] That’s what she’s opened up to in a way that she never, ever would have hoped to have been able to have.
Q: Can you talk about working with Colin Farrell? How did you get along and how did you develop the onscreen rapport you have in the film?
Jessica: Working with Colin was fantastic. It was wonderful. What was so nice and so wonderful is that on the first day, I mean, I’m just some girl who grew up in a tiny place just outside London and this kind of thing just doesn’t happen to anyone. It’s a bit weird. It was all a bit like, ‘Whoa. What am I doing here?’ And I suppose maybe he himself had felt like that at times in his life, so he was just wonderful. He came in and just said hello and, you know, poured out coffee and we just started chatting. It was really relaxed from day one. It was so important and just made all the things that you get nervous about disappear.
On set, we’d just talk and he’d make me laugh and vice versa. I tended to make him laugh because I was falling over and tripping up and being an idiot and he’s just generally funny.
It was just the opportunity to be able to work with someone, and he’s so ridiculously good at what he does, but also generous and kind and doesn’t have to play any kind of game. It was just fantastic. And that’s really special. It meant that we could both try things out that maybe if you were sitting there thinking, ‘I don’t even know how to say hello to you,’ if you were playing people who are meant to be ridiculously in love, it helps if you’re able to say hello in the morning. In a very simple way, it was a great way of allowing that to happen. Well, it’s just not very hard. He’s incredibly good, so I just had to react to what he was doing. But it was great fun. It was really lovely.
Q: I also wanted to ask you about some of the other cast members, like Russell Crowe and William Hurt. What was that experience like for you?
Jessica: William Hurt is someone that is … I just felt very honored to be working with him. He’s extraordinary. And, also, it’s important to take it all with a giant pinch of salt, because next year maybe no one would be allowing me to do anything. It was just brilliant to be able to be there in the scenes with him and to have fun with that, to enjoy it rather than thinking about it too much. I think if you do, you kind of freeze. But he was wonderful. Yeah, overwhelming.
He was really warm. There was a scene that we did and he was basically mute for the entire thing, but his presence was incredibly felt. I’ll never forget that. I’ve never experienced anything like that. That was amazing. I learned a lot from him.
And Russell Crowe is someone that not a single inch of me imagined that one day I’d be doing a film with that man. He’s done a lot of work. But I had this moment when I met him: I had a flashback of me when I was however old, watching Gladiator, and that was a bit of a mad moment. But he was great, and really embodied this terrifying creature, Pearly Soames. It was fantastic. It made the scene something that I’d never imagined it would be on the page. It was nuts, but it was good.
Q: Can you talk about how the film differs from a traditional love story, and how the themes of love, destiny and miracles weave into that?
Jessica: I suppose that love comes for Beverly in a way that’s an unforeseen moment. It just happens. That’s pretty much what always happens with love. But it’s different in the sense that you see these characters fall in love and give themselves to each other, heart and soul, and then one person disappears, and you follow the other person and see how that moment—one moment of meeting someone and saying hello—can affect the rest of his life. A quality is still there or has lived on in the other person, and in that way it’s very different. I think that’s quite original.
Q: What do you think will surprise audiences about “Winter’s Tale?”
Jessica: I think it’s easy to be cynical nowadays, in life and love and in so many areas of everything. I think Winter’s Tale is a story and a film that kind of subverts that rather popular trend of being cynical and allows you to think, what if this happened? Imagine if that happened. You go on that journey, and that’s quite surprising. It’s something that’s actually very simple, but beautiful. It’s a story that does leave you feeling warm and hopeful and says something quite beautiful and magical.
Opening across the Philippines on Thursday, Feb. 13, “Winter’s Tale” is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.