Antonia Campbell-Hughes is one of the most exciting actresses around with a varied range of film and television work already under her belt. She has returned to the big screen with The Canal, which sees her team up with filmmaker Ivan Kavanagh for the first time.
The psychological thriller has been winning over critics and audiences and is one of the films in this genre to hit the big screen so far this year.
We caught up with the actress to chat about The Canal, working with Kavanagh for the first time, and some of the other projects that are on the horizon for her this year.
- The Canal is your latest movie and it has just hit the big screen, so can you tell me a bit about it?
Everyone is saying that it is an Irish film, but what it really interesting about it and what really appealed to me when it was first sent to me, is that it is a co-production. Ireland is really good at doing that. The Canal is a really good representation of that as it has that quite popular scandal and noir type appeal to it.
I don't think that it is necessarily a horror genre movie, it is more like a psychological thriller, and there's a lot of hat tipping to old Hitchcock references. When I first met the director, he cited Don't Look Now and movies like that. Also, the cast represent that co-production Euro; Rupert Evans is the lead, Hannah Hoekstra is Dutch and Steve Oram is British - there are actually very few members of the cast that are Irish (laughs).
When I was a child some of favourite cinema were mostly French cinema but also things like The Cement Garden as they were timeless and placeless; that is what appealed to me about The Canal and that is what comes across on screen.
- You take on the role of Claire in the film, so what was it about this character and Ivan Kavanagh's script that was a major draw for you?
For me, the character was the fact that she was so normal (film). I had taken on many lead roles and they were all characters who had a singular journey that was the focus of the film, and I just liked the idea of playing a character that has one quite simple focus. The director Ivan Kavanagh said to me 'she has got one singular objective, and that is she has a pure love for the leading man and it is all encompassing, it is all positive, and it is quite blind. It is like unrequited love.'
Even though the film is carried through Rupert Evans' character's journey, which is a classic paranoid state for psychological demise, my character just has the unrequited and pure love for him. I liked the purity of that.
- I have mentioned Ivan Kavanagh already and he is back in the director's chair for The Canal. How did you find working with him? And what kind of director is he?
I suppose he and I had a meeting of minds as we are both film obsessives; we like certain types of cinema and he is very much a cinema fan. He is an actor's director and everything is very valid. I am choosing my words carefully because I choose projects dependent on whether I think that they have a deeper purpose that just entertainment - at the end of the day, cinema is entertainment, but I want to have self-respect and dignity in everything that I do. He very much echoes that.
- How collaborative a process was it between yourself and the director?
Very. He gives a lot of character background notes and he does that for all of the cast and the characters individually. He also gives you freedom and he is very supportive and nurturing. We talked a lot about the process. He casts with trust and he knows that I would be able to bring something to the role.
He is very appreciative and he asked me would I do this project because it was a role that was much smaller than I would normally do. There's a line 'no role is too small.' If it has integrity and it is about the bigger picture of the end product and every component that matters.
- You have mentioned Rupert Evans a couple of times and he takes on the central role of David. How did you find working with him on this project?
Great. He is an incredibly accomplished and charitable actor and has been working since he was a teenager and has seen all scope of filmmaking from big budget to... He is incredibly generous and incredibly kind and while those seem like simple words, you don't encounter them very often in this commerce driven industry that we are in.
Simple things like gratitude, grace, kindness, and listening don't come enough in what is quite a dog eat dog business. He very much was all of those things and was a gentleman through and through.
- The Canal was released last week, so how have you been finding the response to the film so far? It played really well at Frightfest.
I don't really know as I have been doing ComicCon for another film. What I am really happy about with The Canal... again, I really enjoyed taking a step back and I don't this as my film but something I have been very happy to be a part of and very lucky to be a part of.
I knew that working with Ivan would be something that had notoriety, was dignified, and was more than just a horror flick. It has played that way and it has been received that way. It is an auteur's film and the main reviews that matter to me are Little White Lies, and that is where it has been getting its acclaim.
- We are going to be seeing you in Les Cowboys alongside John C. Reilly, so how was that filming experience?
I have a small role in Les Cowboys, which will be playing at Cannes. John also has a small role in the movie. François Damiens and Finnegan Oldfield will take on the central roles in the movie. Thomas Bidegain wrote Rust and Bone and A Prophet and this will be his directorial debut.
I was very excited to be offered a role in it, as it was important to me to get the chance to take on something that had political validity as well. We shot in India for Pakistan and that was a very interesting journey for me.
- DxM is another project that you are set to appear in, so can you tell me a bit about that?
What I found interesting about DxM is that it is about science, and so there was a lot of research done from MIT and we had MIT researchers. The movie is about quantum theory and the psychology of the mind. DxM is a Red Bull Film, has been financed by Red Bull, is a new annex to the company - which is scripted theatrical cinema - and it is one of the first movies to come out from that.
There are some martial arts and some dance, but it really is about the science of the mind. My character studies quantum immortality and I did a lot of mathematical academia for it. I was doing a lot of wirework and green screen and it is a very big film in that regard.
- Have you done green screen work before? How do you find working in that way?
Yes, I have done some. It is a very slow process. I also think it is quite humbling because it makes you realise that you are kind... it is just a bit limiting. You are a lot less free. Your body is used and needed a lot more to capture an image, so they shoot your arm or your back and you are acting less. The final product is brilliant.
- Throughout your career, we have seen you move between film, shorts, and TV projects, so how do you find moving between the different mediums?
At the moment, film and television cross over quite smoothly as TV is very cinematic. My career has changed all of the time and that has been a conscious effort... I choose to do so. But more in terms of budgets as when you are given limited tools, people can be very resourceful, and that is where great cinema can stem from - I really believe that. I am never swayed by lacking on someone's CV as I like fresh minds, I like when people are given limited resources as they have to be resourceful because with that comes tenacity.
Otherwise, people can become lazy and it shows in the end product. I like to be challenged; coming to a tiny project with very little money is a challenge - but once you have done that, it does become your comfort zone - so going to a big multi-million green screen platform is a new challenge. I really do like to move back and forwards.
- You have enjoyed an acting career that has spanned over ten years and a wide variety of roles. How has the way that you choose your projects changed over the years?
I have to say, many things have come to me and they have chosen me, which sounds really naff (laughs). It is the project first and foremost, what it is about, what is stands for, does if give anything other than being just sheer entertainment. Because I have played quite a lot of roles, I don't want to be pigeonholed or type cast, so I am always looking for a new challenge.
- We saw you show off your writing skills back in 2009 with TV series Bluebell Welch, so is moving behind the camera something that interests you?
I have two shows in development. One is with the BBC and in the third draft. The project is with Retort, which is part of Talkback Productions, and it is a comedy. I also have a film in development with the Irish Film Board. They are both vehicles, so I am in them as well.
I started in comedy, then stopped, and this has all been in effort... I have been very lucky to have been approached to go back into comedy with my own show. The film is with the Irish Film Board and it is with a director that I did an independent film with, and she is called Alexandra McGuinness.
- Finally, what's next for you going through the rest of 2015?
Les Cowboys is currently at Cannes, Andron is coming out in September, and DxM comes out next year. I am filming in Spain next week and that is about a serial killer called Stephen Morin, it has a great cast.
I am excited about that because I am playing a real-life person in the early eighties. She was a very religious woman who turned the serial killer's faith, so I quite like the challenge of being a disciple of the lord.