Jean-Marc Vallee interview
After receiving critical acclaim for his off-beat family drama C.R.A.Z.Y, Jean-Marc Vallée decided to make a daring veer of course with his debut period drama, The Young Victoria. Citing Julian Fellowes as the reason behind his sudden decision to get on board with the project, Vallée moved into unfamiliar territory, working alongside the Monarchy (literally). We talk to Vallée about his all-star cast, Hitchcock and what it was like working with Scorsese…
LOVEFiLM: How did you get involved in the project?
Jean-Marc Vallee: I was reticent to read the script because I am not a fan of period films and I didn’t know much about British Royals. I said to my agent, “should I read this?” and she said, “yeah you should read this, it’s written by Julian Fellowes who wrote Gosford Park." Of course, I accepted and for the first time I was finally reading something that I could see myself directing, something that I could relate to. The main character is this young woman - a rebel, rock and roll in her way – who wanted to do things on her own and wanted to show the world that she could fulfil her destiny. I thought it was beautiful, the way she met Albert, her soul mate, and how an arranged marriage became a true, beautiful passionate love story - which for Royals is unheard of. When I read about Victoria and Albert, I began to understand how they were both special. Choosing your films is a lifestyle choice. It is what you’re going to be doing for the next two years, so this beautiful love story was worthwhile. I tried to make it as beautiful and as respectful as it should be.
LF: How did you approach the love story?
JMV: The two leading actors - Rupert and Emily - had such a great connection and when that happens you just think, thank god. Their relationship was so professional, so meticulous and so generous. Even though Rupert is in love with Keira, Emily and Rupert have this great connection. In between takes it was as though they hadn’t stopped acting. Rupert portrayed Albert in a subtle way, with lots of nuances. Albert was a funny and straight forward man who wanted to set a good example as a human being and as a Prince.
LF: What is your favourite moment in the film?
JMV: My favourite moment in the film is when Albert finally shows up at the coronation ball and they dance. They start to dance and no-one says a word. Everyone is looking at each other thinking, “Are you seeing what we are seeing, these two are hot.” The Duchess and Queen Adelaide exchange a look that says so much. At the end of the scene the look between Albert and Melbourne is just bien.
LF: The King’s birthday scene was particularly memorable, was it important to channel real, raw emotion?
JMV: It was a spectacular scene but at the same time you had to respect the quality of the emotion involved. Monarchy is a prison where everything needs to be perfect but then here is utter heart break. In this scene Emily was so subtle in conveying her pain. It was like, “Don’t cry, no tears, hold it in.” It’s more touching to see someone hold in their emotion.
LF: How did you feel about having Martin Scorsese on the production team?
JMV: The smile on my face when I found out that Scorsese was going to produce the film! He’s a master. Quite a director.
LF: Did he give you any good advice?
JMV: Yes, in his own way, but he’s so busy. He’s always had a close relationship with Graham King. I had notes from Scorsese through Graham, but I never met him unfortunately.
LF: Sarah Ferguson was obviously involved in the production, what was she like?
JMV: Very, very nice. She came to the set a few times with her daughters but like Scorsese she was remotely involved. She was very effective in her participation with the media. I am the one who suggested that her daughters have some sort of a walk on part in the film and Beatrice said yes. However, it attracted more attention than I thought. I didn’t realise about the gossip surrounding the Royal family in this country. The idea was to show Beatrice right at the beginning, just like Hitchcock did in his films. His presence was in the first five minutes so you don’t search for him throughout. That’s what we did with Beatrice. We showed the English people their princess at the beginning of the film.
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