Hugh Bonneville interview
A prolific star of stage and screen Hugh Bonneville has been wowing audiences for the past two decades starring in numerous productions. His theatrical credits include working with director Sam Mendes at the Donmare Warehouse and treading the boards at the Old Vic. On the silver screen he has most recently starred in Iris, alongside Kate Winslet, the Brit rom-com Notting Hill and in the James Bond Film Tomorrow Never Dies.
Asylum is released on the 16th of January for rental
LOVEFiLM: What attracted you to Asylum?
Hugh Bonneville: As always it's the script really, it was so dark and disturbing. Unusually I hadn't read the book - but it just really appealed to me and it was certainly a departure from my own stuff. And to play opposite an actress like Natasha [Richardson]who I know and respect very much it was an interesting departure. I found the characters, although very hard-edged, fascinating. And I thought Patrick Marber's script - as with all his writing - you find yourself liking and loathing the characters in equal measure.
LF: The character of Max seems to be a complicated one, he goes through many changes through the film. Was that what attracted you to playing this character?
HB: He [Max] is the ultimate stuffed shirt. Respectability is everything, climbing the career ladder is everything and you really get a sense of this oppressive little world of institutional psychiatry, which he is manoeuvring within and wants to reach the top of, and he's ticking all the right boxes.
He is getting good at his job, he's got a respectable wife, respectable son. It's the idyllic family unit - which the powers that be respect and expect to nurture and of course when that starts fracturing in a spectacular manner, it's the beginning of the end really. The film is undoubtedly a hard watch because you feel this sense of foreboding that it's all going to go horribly wrong the moment she claps eyes on Edgar. And she brings not only her life down but the lives of those around her.
LF: What was it like working with Natasha? She's been very vocal about the project and has been working on it for years…
HB: That's right, I think she bought the rights, or certainly got involved with the project something like six years ago so it's been a real long labour of love. It's a film that's had as classic a development hell as any film can, so it was deeply, deeply personal for her to get this to the screen.
She's an extraordinary actress and it certainly shows off her talents. I think it's the best thing she's ever done because it's so raw and so vulnerable and yet there's wit and warmth as well. She really laid herself bare, in more ways than one! I think it's a very passionate performance and uncomfortable to watch at times because you do see this woman making a complete fool of herself in terms of society and in terms of her own sanity and she [Natasha] never shied away from that or apologised for that.
I think she showed Stella warts and all and it can be quite a scary thing for an actor to do and, as I say, she doesn't pull any punches and the men around her are such shits on the whole! Again, it's a reflection of the period, this casual chauvinism that's just part and parcel of my parents' generation, or the generation above ours.
LF: Were you involved in the film early on I production?
HB: Oh no hugely late. One of the producers certainly didn't want me on board and was determined not to have me, and it was only when I finally managed to get a personal interview with the director who didn't even know that I'd been sniffing around the project for some months and was slightly horrified that he'd been kept in the dark about my interest! So he's [the producer] someone I certainly won't be working for again and the loathing is mutual so that's alright!
I'd heard of it for a while and I'd worked with Natasha some years before on a project and just let it be known that I'd really love to do it because I'd got hold of a script and thought it was really interesting. So I was very much the last cog in the machine
LF: What was it like working with director David MacKenzie?
HB: He's great. What is extraordinary about him and his work, is that you would think he does very few takes or very few camera angles because he likes scenes to play out. And yet, when you're filming it he covers every single angle you've virtually got 'mouse-cam' and you've got angles from every single conceivable position and take after take after take.
He's absolutely ruthless and relentless about getting the best of what he wants, so you never came away feeling that you were short changed or that you'd just grabbed the shot. He insisted on having the time and the focus for each and every camera angle so he would make you feel that each angle that he shot was going to be the one that would be used but of course in reality that's humanly impossible.
So you felt pretty knackered at the end of each day.I admire his tenacity, he's like a terrier, he won't let it go not until he's 100% satisfied, and even then he won't let it go, he wants the extra 10%.
LF: The location for Asylum is pretty spectacular, and you get quite a sense of eeriness and dread when watching the film. Was that true in real-life?
HB: Absolutely, we filmed the bulk of the location stuff at Highroids Hospital, or Haemorrhoids as we used to call it, near Leeds, and part of it was still a functioning hospital. It's gradually being closed down, but it's used quite a lot for filming locations.
We were filming in a part that was definitely eerie and I think the film really captures that brilliantly. A lot of these walls and corridors were quite non-descript but once the design team had been in and had lit it in a way, you really got the sense of it.
LF: What are your plans for the future? I know that you've just finished work on new Brit film Scenes of a Sexual Nature, but what's up next for you?
HB: I am currently stuck in L.A, I'm doing a sitcom for CBS, we've done about five episodes out of twelve this season and it's called Courting Alex and it stars a girl called Jenna Elfman who was in a show called Dharma and Greg.
We start going on the air in January, end of this month, so by mid February I'll know if I have a job or whether I'm coming home, so it'll be interesting to see! They're utterly ruthless there, if a show doesn't work within about 2 episodes, "Bye Bye!" and so I may be back here to enjoy the winter or I may stay over there to enjoy the California sunshine.