Q Tell us how you became involved with this project.
Well, it was very flattering to know that there was interest in me from the beginning. And then I met with our director, Bill Condon, and Steve Golin, our producer. We got on very well. I’d seen Bill’s Dreamgirls and Kinsey. I knew of Bill’s reputation and brilliance.
When you get an offer, you start developing the character. If you get an offer and accept it because it’s an exciting challenge, as this obviously was for many reasons, you suddenly, after the brief spell of euphoria, panic and ask, “How the hell am I going to do this?”
There was a lot to take on with this character, physically and vocally, but also the politics and the sort of import of the story we’re telling. Without doubt, I think it’s safe for me to hold my hands up and admit the fact that I did get flattered into the idea of doing this film before really understanding what it was that I was taking on.
For me, that was a ferocious game of catching up and soul-searching about what it was we were intending to do with this project and why we were telling this story and why we were using the sources we were using and the way we were telling it. So that was kind of the casting process. It was one of those very lovely moments where you get an offer. And I answered yes very quickly.
Q How did you prepare to portray Julian Assange?
It was all a bit crazy because the more I looked at the role the more I realised the amount of detail and research needed. It was very hard to start off with, to find a strong focus on him [Assange]. Primarily, there was a huge amount of information to try and master.
It started with two books on him. But keeping in mind what Julian’s take on the books is was also important because it’s no secret that he pretty much despises these accounts. So I went other source materials, interviews he’s done where he’s very vocal about his opposition either to the person interviewing him, so everything is contextualised.
It’s him in the flesh and if it’s him feeling a bit uncomfortable, like in the “60 Minutes” interview. There was a whole subsection where the interviewer was saying how as an interviewee he was very interesting, but the producer then comes on and discusses how long it took to negotiate the interview, what kind of an image Assange wanted to put across. To start to then filter what I was watching as how Julian had managed what he was doing, his performance, if you like, in his interviews, that was another sort of layer to strip away.
Every time I tried to start work on his appearance or movement or habit or dialect, I would get completely seduced by what he was saying, not how he was saying it or looking whilst he was saying it. So it was really hard. There were just these traffic jams of different bits of information coming in at different times.
Q Please talk about working with Daniel Brühl?
I adore the man. He’s brilliant. He’s a first-rate actor. He really is extraordinarily good and incredibly patient and understanding and brilliant. Actually, he was the first person I thought of when I read the script. He’s German, obviously, so that’s something for nothing. He’s got the same coloring as Daniel (Domscheit-Berg), which is another great thing. But his work speaks for itself.
Q Walk us through the process of developing everything from the physical appearance, to Julian Assange’s dialect.
It all sort of happened at the same time, so to talk about the process separately is probably good. With Chris Blundell, the brilliant Oscar-winning makeup artist of a genius, we sat down and talked very early about hair color. I was quite happy to go all white and then in production afterward, there was a bit of contention with that, so this is the compromise which is actually really good because my hair length would have only been good for a certain amount of time anyway and we’ve got very long wigs in this as well as short or medium cut wigs. So it was to give us flexibility.
He’s got very light hair on his eyebrows. So we bleached my rather thicker, bushier eyebrows here rather than plucking them out, although we did shape them a bit. Then, contacts as well in the eyes, we experimented with different colors with those and then landed on this sort of dark blue steely gray kind of his color, very blue in some lights when it’s very, very direct, but he has more hooded eyes than I do, so again, more shadow around his eyes. So I experimented for a bit with prosthetics around the eyes, but it limited facial expressions. It made me look like I had plastic surgery and couldn’t then perform him.
Then another element was the face. I’m quite long-faced and he has sort of softer face, rounder face than I have. And I wondered if I could do something here to try and break up the cheekbones and just do a bit of that, so we experimented with plumpers and fake teeth and we actually came up with what I do now use which is little set of teeth which just kind of clip in and just protrude the gum a little bit more. He’s got a more protuberant top lip than I do. So that was all very helpful.
So the teeth were the next addition. And they didn’t interfere too much with the work I was doing with Sarah Shepherd, the dialect coach, to simulate Julian’s voice. Before talking about accent, there’s a very specific sort of tongue placement that he has which gives him a lisp but it’s not a frontal lisp, it’s not his tongue coming between his teeth, it’s sort of a contact with the roof of his mouth. So it’s sort of more air escaping at the sides. The teeth didn’t interfere with that, which was great, and then also the placement obviously was very important. His voice is sort of further back down, it’s more of a baritone than mine.
And also, he gets quite tired when he’s talking a lot, he talks very quietly at times. So that was important. And to know what his vocal range was, that’s part of the research and the anecdotal evidence I needed from people like Nick Davies, Birgitta Jónsdóttir, Daniel himself, about what he sounded like when he got angry. Did he ever raise his voice? Hardly any of them describe him as ever raising his voice. Getting angry, yeah, but not raising his voice.
So all of those things fed into the work I did with Sarah, how to adjust volume for presentation, how he was in front of cameras, what then we can get away with imagining him being in private that was different than the public persona that’s very well recorded. A huge template for what we’ve done is stuff that’s either featured in the film like footage of real life recordings, whether it be the announcement at the Frontline Press Club or the interview on Icelandic Television announcing the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative or standing up at a podium in Washington to launch the “Collateral Murder” footage.
It was also very scary because of course, you know, there’s an immediate comparison; with the click of a button, you can watch both versions. And so there was a level I held myself up to and there was a level that I just went, “Well, this is still interpretation rather than impersonation.” So I wanted to get as near to him as I could without moving away from certain things that I wanted to feed in that were nearer me. And our version of him, I think, has enough strength in continuity to be a believable version in the bubble of our telling of this story.
Q What would you say you’d want audiences to take away from seeing this movie?
A greater understanding of the achievements of WikiLeaks and Julian and Daniel and their relationship and partnership together and also just to be politically motivated.
Whether they support OpenLeaks or WikiLeaks, to have an understanding that they are part of a democratic process, to push beyond the news, to search out for their own truth, their own values within that truth.
To have an understanding that isn’t already prepackaged for them, that people actually tried to tailor-make through looking at the raw data, as he would say. Either through that website or others.
Whatever the outcome of their breakup, to not let that obscure the overall message which is good things happen with this organization and that needs to be investigated and look at it yourself. Go and see for yourself, find out for yourself.
Benedict Cumberbatch on t
Go Behind the Scenes with Benedict Cumberbatch
In London recently, Paola Kudacki took her young nephews to see Star Trek. Leaving the theater, her 6-year-old nephew remembered Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays the role of Khan, saying, “He has such an interesting face.” He does, Kudacki agreed. A couple days later she got the call from TIME, asking her to photograph that same interesting face.
“I was very excited because his career has been so big but it’s just beginning,” Kudacki said. She continued, “I wanted to capture the intensity of his face but also the quietness. I wanted to take a serious approach, very quiet, and intimate.”
The shoot was quick and collaborative. Kudacki planned on photographing a few different looks as she also recognized Cumberbatch for his polished sense of style, saying it’s “classic, simple, but really chic.” While Cumberbatch was willing and even brought his own clothes, his schedule was packed with interviews and appearances in support of the movie The Fifth Estate, in which he stars as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange; so they didn’t have time for the changes. Instead Kudacki kept a few layers near the set that Cumberbatch could easily add or layer.
In the flurry of their work, Kudacki reached over her camera and mussed Cumberbatch’s coiffe. She stole one snap before a stylist restored his careful waves.
Of the resulting image, Kudacki said, “He’s looking into the camera, very confidently, but there’s something kinda broken. It’s kinda like when he says he likes to bring humanity to the character.” She also observed, “I think he’s very respectful of the characters he’s playing.”
With the instincts that triggered that one swift click of a shutter, Kudacki too, respectfully revealed a little bit about the person behind Cumberbatch’s usual dapper appearance.
Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya: This dish is full of Caribbean flavor!
IMG_4012 by withmiracle on Flickr.
Roasted Pecan + Acorn Squash Soup
(Source: ohsosilent, via kristenmerieandacupoftea)
IMG_9348 by k.k.k.k.k on Flickr.
at my villa