The Rise hit the big screen over the weekend and is one of the British films not to miss this autumn as Rowan Athale makes his directorial debut.
Luke Treadaway, Matthew Lewis, Iwan Rheon and Gerard Kearns make up a young and exciting cast list as they play four friends who want to make a better life for themselves.
We caught up with the actors to chat about the film, what attracted them to their roles and working with Rowan Athale.
- The Rise has hit the big-screen today so can you tell me a bit about the film?
Luke: The movie follows four friends who come up with a plan to set themselves up with some money that they rob from a local criminal; played by Neil Maskell. Neil’s character has stitched up my character Harvey and sent him to prison for a year after planting drugs in his flat.
So while Harvey is in prison, he made a plan to get his own back and steal money off him, as well as putting him in prison or killing him.
It is about these four friends overcoming the obstacles of this ridiculously over convoluted plot, and you see if they do actually rob this place. So it is a film about friendship and them trying to make something of their lives.
- Dodd, Dempsey, Harvey and Charlie are the four central characters in this film, so what was it about them and Rowan Athale’s script that initially drew you to the project?
Gerard: What drew me to the film in terms of Charlie, were the conversations and the way that they battled through their problems with each other; I found the banter between them fantastic. The arch of that was also really interesting to me. As soon as I read it, I really wanted the part.
Iwan: I have always had a bit of a crush on Gerard Kearns, so that is what drew me to the film.
Matt: As soon as I read the script, I thought it was funny, it was clever, and it was something different; it was trying to avoid the clichés that this genre can sometime churn out.
Furthermore, Rowan also had a huge passion for this project, and as soon as I met him, I felt that this was a guy who wanted to make the best possible project that he can. As soon as I met him, I knew that I wanted to be involved in this.
- The central relationship between the four characters is the key to this film, so how are we going to see the characters, and the friendship develop as we go through the film?
Iwan: You see the underlining love relationship develop between Charlie and Dempsey quite a lot throughout the film. It is so subtle that you almost would realise it (laughs).
- Matthew this movie gave you a chance to film in your home city of Leeds, so how did find that?
Matt: It was wicked. Having worked since I was five in cities all over the country it was fantastic to finally be able to film in my own city. I was really keen for these lads to have a good time, and we went out quite a bit.
Leeds is a good place and in the movie, I think that we have really showcased some wonderful sights. It was a unique experience that I really enjoyed.
Gerard: Have you seen the movie?
- I have, yes.
Gerard: Did you enjoy it?
- I did yes. As Matthew said it avoids all the clichés and pitfalls that you expect in a British film in this genre, and it was completely different to what I was expecting. I really enjoyed it.
Iwan: It’s nice that it is quite warm. A lot of British go for grittiness and there is always a rape scene or a big fight scene going on. However, this film does end in a very warm way, and it doesn’t go down that path. The Rise is a movie about people, and it is a really nice ending.
- Can you talk a bit about the research that you did for your roles - Gerard you are playing a character that comes from a home blighted by alcohol?
Gerard: Yeah I did. I went and met up with some social workers to find out how they deal with families with those problems; it was to create a backstory really. I found that really interesting.
Then I went up and spent some time with Matthew to work on the Leeds accent as well. Basically, I just underlined and highlighted anything that came up in the script that I felt I needed to work on; welding, for example.
I went welding because I knew on the day, especially on a low-budget film, that they wouldn’t have the time to show me what to do. So I went to a welder and told him that I wanted to learn how to weld. He just gave me a load of metal and said ‘have fun’. So that was absolutely fantastic.
Luke: I went and spoke to a guy who had been in prison for a few years. I knew that it would be a huge impact on your life if you served some years behind bars.
So I went and spoke to him and tried to understand, in some small way, what that would have been like; I guess it is really hard. Then I did a lot of the accent work as well so it sounded like I was actually from Leeds.
- How did you all find tackling the Leeds accent?
Gerard: Matthew really struggled with it (laughs). Matthew your accent was terrible in the film.
Matt: I am still working on it now.
Iwan: I think it really helped us being in Leeds on location because you go to a pub or a supermarket, and you speak to someone; you do get the chance to pick up some colloquialisms. So you really do pick up things that you can bring into your accent; that really helped me.
- How have you found the response to the film so far?
Matt: It got four stars in The Express, so that is nice. We did a few festivals earlier in the year such as Toronto and London. It has also come out in America, and a lot of people are really into across the Atlantic. So hopefully people are keen on it here as well.
Gerard: It was full to the brim at every screening in Toronto.
Iwan: We just had a really great response from the people. We just had people saying that this was the best film there - which is really nice and a little overwhelming.
- It has been playing quite extensively on the festival circuit in the last year, so have you managed to get out to any of them?
Matt: I was hoping to go, but I have not had chance to get out to many of them unfortunately. Rowan, Iwan and a few of the other guys did go out there.
- Speaking of Rowan how collaborative a process is it between actor and director as you were developing these characters?
Gerard: Rowan said ‘stand there’, ‘say this’ and ‘do that’ (laughs). To be fair to Rowan, we had to do a very intimate scene with Charlie where he tells his mum that he is leaving.
I remember coming on set, and it was the first time - well not the first time, but one of the few times - where the director had created a very quiet atmosphere and asked me ‘how do you want to do this? Where do you want to sit? How do you feel? We can to this in as many or as few takes as you like’.
He really made me feel comfortable as an actor in terms of trying to deliver the best performance. In that way, it was very collaborative and very generous and helpful in his directing and his approach to the scene we were trying to achieve.
Matt: We did quite a lot of improvisation stuff; Rowan mentioned to me in the early meeting that we had that he was keen on doing some of that. It was important that we all got on and there was a real chemistry between the lads.
I think that some of the funniest bits came when Rowan just left the camera on Iwan, or whoever, and just left us to improvise and have a go at each other. Rowan actually put a lot of the stuff in there.
Iwan: We really did have a lot of fun.
Matt: The script didn’t need a whole lot of work; as soon as I read I thought that the dialogue was what was really strong about it.
Iwan: The script has a lot of words - if you know what I mean? But it is stylistic in that sense that it needs that to root the plot along. I think it is a strong and stylistic choice to have that much dialogue.
- Finally, what is next for you?
Luke: I do have another film on the horizon, but I am not allowed to talk about it just yet as it has not been announced.
Matt: I am the same.
The Rise is out now.