Billy Magnussen is an actor who is well and truly on the rise and has already enjoyed huge success this year with musical Into The Woods, which saw him take on the role of Rapunzel's Prince.
Into The Woods saw Magnussen part of an all-star cast that included Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Emily Blunt, and Johnny Depp as he teamed up with director Rob Marshall for the first time.
We caught up with the actor ahead of the home release of Into The Woods to chat about the film, getting the opportunity to work with Marshall and what lies ahead.
- Into The Woods is about to be released on DVD here in the UK, so can you tell me about the film for anyone who hasn't seen it yet?
I love it. I love Into The Woods because it just has so much heart in it. I think the music is beautiful. I think that the story goes deeper than just a fairy tale and there is an amazing cast on board. There is just so much heart in it; how can you bash anything that has a lot of heart?
- You take on the role of Rapunzel's Prince, so where did this project start for you? And what was the major for of this character and James Lapine's script when you read it for the first time?
I didn't read the script until the first read through, as they don't share the script. I had never seen the show before either. I was doing a show in New York, this chick walked into my dressing room after the show, and this chick happened to be Meryl Streep. I found out that she had talked to Rob Marshall about me and then I just auditioned. Everything just fell into place and I got the part.
- Can you talk a bit about your character arc and how we see him develop throughout the film?You have a terrific on screen relationships with Mackenzie Mauzy?
She is awesome - I really love that girl. She was such an easy girl to falling in love with. The development of this character... I found out that in the stage production Rapunzel dies and Rapunzel's prince is not quite the same character as in the film.
With Rob, my character is not Prince Charming, but that doesn't mean that he is not right for the princess. He may not be Prince Charming, but he is perfect for her. The imperfections of them are what made them work and I thought that was a cool balance.
- Obviously, Into The Woods is a musical, so how did you find the preparations for that side of the film? How nerve-wracking was it to have Stephen Sondheim around as you were bringing his music to life?
It was nerve-wracking it was just exciting; I was just so excited to be involved with this. I knew that I had to sing in the film so I was working hard with a singing coach. I did my homework; showing up and being prepared is the majority of the battle.
Once I was there, I just had fun with because I had done all of the work. I really did just get to enjoy it. It was not nerve-wracking by any means. I just had fun and I really did want to keep going.
- Rob Marshall is in the director's chair for the film, so how did you find working with him? And what kind of director is he - he is very experienced in the musical genre?
What kind of director is he? I only hope that I get the chance to always work with directors like him. You can't choose the director but you just hope that they have a vision, they share it, and they share the whole experience with you.
He leaves so much room for exploration and he creates the playground for the actors to play on. You hope that you get the chance to work with someone who lets you have fun and then he will let you know what works and what doesn't. That is what you always hope to work with.
- One of the best and funniest moments is the duet with Chris Pine, so how did you find the experience of filming that scene?
It was awesome. It was just me and Chris Pine hanging out on a waterfall and f***ing about (laughs). It was great, it really was. I really am just so thankful for the whole opportunity.
- The movie is both a critical and commercial hit this year, but how have you personally been finding the response to the film?
Great. I am just so proud of the work and people really do seem to like it. I feel pretty good about it. I can't tell you how lucky I am to have been a part of this. I am discovering this movie just like other people are.
- Over the last couple of years we have seen a whole host of fairy tales brought to the big screen with Maleficent and Cinderella, so what do you think makes these tales so enduring and popular on the big screen?
I think there is entertainment in everything. We all have our lives, our hardships, our ups and downs and when I go and see a play or a film, I want to be taken out of my life and brought into that world. I like to be in that playground of a world and that fantasy world and try to bring some of that hope and joy back to my life. That is how I feel about it.
- We are also going to be in Steven Spielberg's new film Bridge of Spies, so can you tell me a bit about that?
Spielberg and Tom Hanks are pretty cool. I had a real field day on that film project as well. I think that Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks are the best of the best and they are just having fun; it is like they are shooting a movie in their back yard.
- Throughout your career, we have seen you on stage, TV, and film, so how do you find moving between all of the mediums? Is film really where you want to see yourself going forward?
When you are approaching a piece, you should always approach it as you believe in the material - it doesn't matter if it is theatre, TV for film. I don't think that there is much of a difference and it really is about having fun.
I think my approach is always the same no matter what medium it is in. Film is not necessary where I want to stay; it is all about the material and if I feel that I am going to enjoy myself and have a good time. I love doing what I am doing.
I have two movies on the horizon; one is called The Big Short and the other one is called The Meddler. And then I am on to this Ryan Murphy mini-series. So that is the plan. I still rock out with my band Reserved for Rondee as well.
Into The Woods is out now on Blu-ray & DVD