Ed Speleers talks about preparing for the physical challenge of filming A Lonely Place To Die in the Scottish Highlands and what it taught him about himself as an actor. He also discusses working with co-star Melissa George and watching the film with different audiences.
How was shooting in the Scottish Highlands? Was it unforgiving at times?
Ed Speleers: Scotland for me was brilliant. I'd never been there and I think I was naive as to what to expect really. It's a breathtaking place, so not just going to Scotland but to be a part of those Highlands and those vast open spaces, and get involved with that was brilliant. So, I was very lucky to be a part of that job and grateful that Julian [Gilbey, writer-director] got me on board.
How serious did you have to be about being physically prepared before taking on a role like this?
Ed Speleers: Immensely serious. Preparation is key. Once I was cast in the movie, conversations between myself and Julian really opened up and he made it very clear that if I was going to be up in the Highlands with him I needed to know how it works with the mountain. I had to learn how to climb basically. And he dropped me in at the deep end. We went down to Cheddar Gorge and did some great old Chris Bonington routes down there. I was getting a bit of confidence from that first day and I was starting to feel quite good about what I was doing. But then little did I know that what I was going to expect in Snowdonia was a different level again. It was a bit like jumping three leagues higher in a division... the sheer exposure and the sheer scale of everything. So, I did get nervous down in Snowdonia, but what it allowed me to do was get very much ready for Scotland. I don't think I realised how beneficial that was until I got to the Highlands. But it meant you respected that environment. Bruce Blagden, who was the climbing instructor on the film, and Julian said it to me umpteen times: "You have to respect the mountain; you have to respect what you're doing." We were making a movie but we had to respect the environment we were in at the same time. And I did learn to do that.
How did you enjoy working with Melissa George?
Ed Speleers: Melissa is a treat to work with. I've been very lucky in all my jobs to work with some really interesting actors. On this one, it's happened again. When you're watching the movie back you can really see what she can do. She's a very good actress and a lovely lady to work with.
How much do you learn about yourself as an actor being in an environment like that?
Ed Speleers: That's a good question. I think on each job I've learned something more and I think I try to embrace each job because it brings new challenges. I think what I learned was to believe in myself a lot more. And I think that only came through working with people like Julian and Melissa and Alec, and having that team-ship and encouragement from other people allows you to learn. I think that's why it's important to learn from job to job. I learnt also from watching other people. There were days when [co-stars] Sean Harris and Karel Roden were working together and I had nothing to do, but I'd come down and watch... I'd sit by the monitor and watch what was going on. I'd watch what Julian was doing just so that I could soak up as much as possible. And I think that certainly helped. So, I look back now and think that I've changed that little bit more. And as long as I can keep developing and keep changing and possibly get better, then that's what I want to try and do.
Melissa has talked about the need for patience in an environment like that as well. Is that something you'd agree with? And perhaps also being more forceful with a director if ever you started to feel uncomfortable?
Ed Speleers: I think if you were to feel uncomfortable that would be a valid point but I felt very comfortable in Julian's hands and I think that's what was very reassuring when it came to trying to get on with the performance and do your job as an actor. It's vital to be able to trust what the director is telling you and it's not always that you can get that 100% trust. But Julian had such a clear-cut vision of what he wanted, from day one. I remember on day one, in fact, I started to perform a scene a certain way and he said: "No, no, no... you're doing it like this." And he gave me a clear-cut idea and it made sense. And each day went like that. So, I didn't ever feel uncomfortable. Patience, yes, you do need patience. But you need patience in any job and you need patience in any shoot. And you've got to appreciate that everybody is there for a reason and doing a job.
What's been your favourite or most surprising reaction to the film so far?
Ed Speleers: Well, I sat at the Frightfest screening and it was great. When there's huge long action sequences and then suddenly there's a scary or gory moment, they all clap and they all applaud and they all really get behind it. So, it was great to have such an enthusiastic audience. As for when the laughs come, I usually get laughed at in real life, I don't usually get laughed at from an acting point of view, so it was actually nice to get a couple of chuckles here and there. It made me go a bit tingly. But I think you get different reactions from different people, so as long as they can see that this is a hard-hitting, great fun but relentless action movie... I certainly think it's very original. So, if people can get that and walk away: "Wow, I've had a good movie experience", then I'm happy.
Interview: Rob Carnevale Photo: Kaleidoscope Entertainment