Rebecca Hall is back in new film A Promise, which sees her star alongside Alan Rickman and Richard Madden.
The actress talks about the role, working with Madden and Rickman, and the comfort of her costume.
- How did you get involved in A Promise?
I was in Paris and I had a call from my agent saying Patrice Leconte wants to meet you. And I thought finally this is my moment to infiltrate French film and speak French! And I was crushed to realise it was in English!
I had to read it on my iPhone, an entire script - I only had a night. But I did it. I had no French at the time - it’s a bit better now - and he had very little English at the time, it is definitely a lot better now, but we still managed to have a very clear conversation.
- Were you familiar with the books of Stefan Zweig?
I knew who he was because in my local bookshop in London there’s those ‘recommended by the staff’ things and they always had a Stefan Zweig there.
All these beautiful editions, just kept churning them out and every time I’d go to the bookshop I’d flick through one and go that looks really interesting.
I’d probably really like that. Now I’ve read them all and I really like them.
- Is your character different from the way she is in the book?
She’s quite different. There is less of her interior voice in the book.
I’d say in the book she’s much more of a figure, in that sort of troubadour sense of worshipping something from afar.
Whereas in the film I think she’s completely enigmatic and consciously so for about half of it, but then suddenly the wall comes down and you see everything.
- Was it difficult for you to play a German in this period?
I’d done other roles in this period, specifically in this period, and I felt very differently about this one.
I’d done a mini-series called Parade’s End where I played a character called Sylvia Tietjens who existed in exactly the same period and it felt to me incredibly important to make her a museum piece, a posh upper-class accent, the social thing, because there was something so English about it.
This, I felt - she’s more of a universal character, in a way. If I wanted to be authentic to the time I should have been speaking in German.
But this was being made by French people in English about Germans and shot in Belgium.
- Do you believe obstacles between two people who are in love can make their love stronger?
Yeah I do. I think that is why this story is credible because it is a sort of aphrodisiac to have that to hold onto when you have nothing else.
That’s how the reality of it in her head is much stronger than the reality anywhere else because she’s got very little to go on.
So I think it can be a potent aphrodisiac, distance, but I also think it can be misleading.
- How do you feel about Lotte?
To me she’s a character full of light and warmth and optimism who thinks she knows herself very well. But in a way she is so light at the beginning she might float away, she doesn’t really know herself, she’s not in her body.
And to me I felt the story was a sort of her growing up in a way, falling in love - genuinely falling in love - and not understanding what that was and then growing to understand it was that process.
- Music plays an important role in the film. Did you listen to anything particularly while preparing for the film?
Yes, I did. This is something I have completely in common with the character - if I could have been a musician, I probably would have been.
I love music, and I always make a playlist for characters. This one was a little bit more specific because it just had a lot of Beethoven on it.
- How was working with Alan Rickman and Richard Madden on set?
I mean, Alan Rickman is Alan Rickman, you can’t really compare him to anyone, but Richard (Madden) I think is a really exciting young leading actor and there aren’t so many of them.
I think he’s got a really intelligent quality and is incredibly dedicated and cares enormously about what he does.
And he’s great fun and has a great openness, which I love, so we all had a really special time on this one. And we bonded because we were the only three British people on set
- Do you feel comfortable in costume?
I’d be lying if I said it was comfortable. There’s nothing comfortable about the lacing and the boots and none of it is weather adapted so you’re always either boiling hot or freezing cold and it’s kind of horrible but appropriate and so in that way it’s fun, it works - certainly with Lotte, it helped.
I was able to be more flighty and emotional in a strange way because I was so restricted, but it kind of lent itself to a feeling of anxiety and claustrophobia.
- Did you get to keep any of the costumes?
I nearly always steal something, yes. I stole the locket, the necklace with the little clock that makes a log of jangling noises during the film.
A Promise is out in cinemas now and will be available on VOD/DVD from 4 August.
Tagged in Rebecca Hall