Los Angeles — Award-winning actor Eddie Redmayne, who gave us unforgettable performances as Marius Pontmercy in “Les Miserables” and as physicist Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything,” is back with another memorable portrayal of American social and political activist, author and politician Tom Hayden in the Aaron Sorkin-helmed drama “The Trial of the Chicago 7.”
The 38-year-old British actor talked to us recently about his new film and what he learned from the pandemic as he isolates in London with his wife Hannah Bagshawe and their two kids — Iris, 4, and Luke, 2.
On the other hand, director Sofia Coppola, daughter of iconic filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, and Rashida Jones, daughter of legendary record producer Quincy Jones, both talked about having famous fathers, creating their own career paths, their latest comedy film which is about the relationship of a father and a daughter, “On the Rocks,” and what they learned from the pandemic.
Below are excerpts of our conversations with these talented actors:
Eddie Redmayne (Actor of “The Trial of the Chicago 7”)
Where are you right now?
I am in the U.K. I am back to work, which is interesting and it’s lovely to be back to work actually, albeit in a sort of new normal really. But it’s exciting to be back and acting again.
Did portraying Tom Hayden make you more determined to be more of an activist?
I think, it’s an incredibly complicated question that, and one that I still honestly battle with on a daily basis. Because of the world we live in now, people in the public eye who may have no association with anything political, are given a voice that is perhaps unbalanced.
I believe that, of course we all have our own thoughts, we all have our own causes and beliefs that we are deeply passionate about, and I think that one of the great gifts about being an actor and people getting to see your films is that your voice can be amplified. So with that comes a wonderful thing in the sense that when there are things that you believe don’t have enough attention, you can try and amplify it.
At the same point, you have to be careful, because of course you come from a place of great privilege and there is this kind of, we are very lucky if you are a working actor, you live a good life and you have to be careful that you don’t end up playing through your own, you end up basically looking elitist and for basically sort of undermining the cause that you are passionate about. So my question to myself continuously is what are the things that are important to me?
I try and be an activist in my own personal way, for example here during lockdown in the United Kingdom, people with motor neuron disease, like ALS, weren’t put on the extremely vulnerable list, which was a list that allowed various special treatment I suppose with regards to care and with regards to getting food. And I found that quite shocking.
So the way that was for me, was writing our local constituency politician, and I threw the motor neuron organization that I work with, I am a patron there and I was getting on cross party Zoom calls to discuss why this was happening. So I try to do it at a place that is I suppose a grassroots level.
That being said, there are times when communities don’t have a voice that is as amplified as yours and I feel it is important in those moments just to speak up. I am still trying to work out on a daily basis what my role is. And it gets confused for people in the public eye because our voice is often louder than most people’s because of that amplification.
You have a wife and two kids. What did you learn during this period?
It's astonishing. I've been talking to my friends and some of my friends have managed to be staggeringly creative. During lockdown they've written scripts, they've written music.
I have 2 children that are 4 and 2 (laughs) so Hannah and I have full lives. We have been in the countryside We have chickens, we have a veg patch so we've been trying to grow our own food and be as self-sufficient as we can be but actually a friend of mine put it very beautifully which is well, who knows but this may be a moment that although we are now seeing it, may be a repeated moment but that will be one that has brought of course.
We're in an incredibly privileged position to have a home and to be healthy and to be safe but getting to, for example, Iris my daughter is 4, had just learnt the letters of the alphabet and I actually would do classes every day like school. I got to teach her to read and it's only the first thing but to be there for that, those moments, or to Luke whose vocabulary has just become sort of spilling out during lockdown. It's been a treasured moment in some ways.
I love cooking so I'm doing a lot of that and I've been doing a bit of painting. I'm a very, very shit painter. I used to love doing it when I was younger and I've never really had the time. Since work got crazy, I've gone back to that.
You are shooting right now. How is that during this time especially filming intimate scenes?
I think there are probably some quite intimate scenes with some “Fantastic Beasts," you know Yates, and he likes to get up close and personal. But not intimate in that way. Not massively intimate scenes for Newt here, but honestly, I think we all went in with trepidation going what is this new normal going to be. And to Warner Bros.’ credit and to our producers, they’ve made us feel very safe. We are separated into bubbles. We get tested very regularly. They have systems in place.
For example, often when you’re filming if you’re meant to be filming outside but there’s a chance that it rains, which it always does in England, you have weather covers so you have these other scenes that are there to sort in. They have what they call COVID cover here, if someone were to get sick. They’re doing everything they can and they’ve been great at making us feel reassured. And all the crew, we rehearse in our masks most of the time until we’re shooting. But it feels there’s still a vibrancy. Film crews and film people, they love what they do often and so everyone’s just thrilled to be back and getting stuff in.
Robert Pattinson got the COVID-19. Did you get in touch with him?
He was filming at Leavesden so I had seen Rob. Again, we put protocols in so that the productions are all very separated so that if someone gets sick hopefully it doesn’t come onto another production.
Sofia Coppola (Director, producer, writer of “On the Rocks”)
Where are you isolating right now?
I’m in New York.
The relationship of Bill Murray’s character, the father, and Rashida Jones’ character, the daughter, was charming. How much did that mirror your own relationship with your dad?
There’s definitely parts that came from my dad, more just the relationship, the unique closeness of a father/daughter, how you don’t have that kind of relationship with any other man in your life like that.
I remember talking to him about when I liked some guy and I didn’t understand and wanting a male perspective. So that came from him.
But the kind of bon vivant, the character was from childhood memories of kind of eccentric things, but I remember when I was a kid, after “Apocalypse Now,” he was friends with the helicopter pilot and we were in L.A. and he tried to land the helicopter in the parking lot at Disneyland and the Disneyland security came. It was like those over the top memories.
But he’s not like those characters talking his way out of things — that maybe is a little bit Bill and just guys of that generation. That kind of debonair playboy art dealer is something invented from people I’ve met and friends of my dad, the way certain characters of that generation.
So I definitely made that character. It’s a fictional character made up of different people, the love for my father, and that kind of feeling and wanting to be a buddy movie. But that relationship came from the closeness.
Talk about your reunion with Bull Murray. I know you said once that you always feel nervous directing him and he was kind of acting like your assistant director. Do you have a fun anecdote of him?
Yeah, it’s always fun to have him on set and you never know what will happen, especially being on the streets of New York and people are yelling out “hey Bill,” everyone knows him.
And I think on this, it was fun because he really was driving that car so at one point he said “hop in” and we just drove around SoHo outside of the area where we had the permits for and speeding around. It was just such a fun Bill thing to do. He always looks for the fun, the surprise in the moment.
And it was great to work with him again, especially now that he’s someone that I know compared to the first time I worked with him and we were just getting to know each other. And he always brings so much energy and magic to it.
Tell me more why you wanted to write this story.
I was thinking about having young children and a family and how your relationship is affected by your parents’ relationship and how relationships with men are colored by your relationship with your father. So I was curious to look at all that just at this moment.
And also as a creative person, the crisis feeling of having small children and having to reinvent how you’re going to be a mother and an artist and also fully engage in a relationship, just all the things that were on my mind at that moment.
A friend did have a story about going with her father was a playboy; he was saying all men are like this and spying on her husband. And I thought, 'oh, it’s such a particular relationship you have with your father' and just something that I wanted to explore.
Did you consult your father about the script?
More just talking to him about what he thought about relationships and men and women and the differences. I definitely wanted his point of view.
What traits did you get from your father?
I can see aspects I’ve gotten from my mother and aspects from my father. And I think my mother’s very much an observer and details; I think I get that from her.
And from my father, he’s very stubborn. I’ve gotten my stubbornness I think, which comes in handy to make a movie. And also just seeing him just make it happen and not take no for an answer and have the courage.
It was inspiring to me in my own work seeing that example of working under crisis and learning to deal with being very flexible and driven in that way. I think I learned a lot from my dad.
When did you realize that your father was famous?
When you grow up with someone like that, that's all you know so I never really thought about it. I don't remember a moment when I realized, but I grew up in a small town in Napa Valley so he was the only one that was in the film business. My friends' parents were not. That world wasn't there so I knew that we were a little bit different than them. It was just the only reality I knew so I never really thought about it.
You didn’t encounter any shame as a kid that you were treated differently?
I'm grateful my parents raised us in the small town in the country where we knew everyone so we were just accepted as part of the community and definitely when we went outside of that, I had some encounters that were more unusual.
I don't know, going to Cannes as a little kid or something like that but no, I just felt lucky that I got to be on film sets since I was little because it was always magical and fun to see what they were making and to see how these interesting adults working together to make something.
Your advice to your niece Gia who is also making films?
Oh, my advice for her and any young director is to do what you love and to pursue and make things that you want to see and that's always my advice to her and to any young filmmakers that make what you want to see and what you love and what you believe in and trust your instincts.
What have you as a family discovered and learned during the pandemic being together?
It was a hard time but we also enjoyed this time to be together. It's so unusual to have that time together and what did we learn? We watched lots of old movies together that maybe we wouldn't have had the patience in busy life to really enjoy like the Apu Trilogy and long challenging movies and just spending time together — playing games and cards and just having this time together. It's hard to say specifically what we learned, but I think we all appreciate having this time together.
Talk about female empowerment because with Rashida’s character, she was able to maintain a sense of dignity throughout.
Rashida has so much strength and intelligence and dignity as a person that I think it could come through that a strong person can also be vulnerable. And I think there’s a lot of pressure on women these days by society to be a great mother, a great cook, and make work and be attractive and fit and an exciting waist. And I think there’s a lot of pressure to feel like you have to do it all the way.
I think a lot of my friends and I feel a lot of that exploitation and pressure to do it all which I think is unique to this generation. Maybe it was starting before but we talk about that, it’s something on our mind. And I feel I am an accomplished person but still have moments of vulnerability, especially after having children. I think it’s such a big transition for a woman and probably any parent, but especially a woman. And how do you find your identity in all these different roles and as a creative person?
Rashida Jones (Actress in “On the Rocks”)
When we talked to Sofia, she mentioned that she made this film to explore the concept that a woman’s relationship with a man is influenced by her relationship with her father. Can you comment on that?
Armchair psychology 101 is how you relate to your parents, and especially the men in your life and like the first man in your life will be how you make decisions about your relationships with other men in your life.
So I definitely think there's something there. I think in the movie, Laura (Rashida’s character) has this really larger than life charismatic father, who just creates atmosphere and excitement everywhere he goes, and so I'm not sure, maybe she's afraid that she picked her father. And that's why they go on this journey together, because she thinks, maybe I just picked that same kind of guy who belongs to the world, but ultimately. I think she did pick somebody who is there and is committed to their family. And so, in spite of what she was used to she picked the right kind of guy for her.
You and Bill Murray were in a Christmas show together and Sofia said you had chemistry. Talk about working with Bill in this film.
Bill, he's such a force, and I think everybody feels that from the outside. But he's got so much depth, and it's just magical being able to work opposite him. Because every time you act with him, whether he's saying something, or he's listening, he's active, and it's deep, and it's honest, and there's so many layers to what he's doing.
And then there's also this great dynamic that I love that I think comes across the movie where he's kind of in like spy mode. He's really focused on the mystery at hand, and I'm just irritated with him because he's making my life harder. And I feel like that. That's a really fun thing to play with him.
What is a cool adventure you had with your father, Quincy Jones?
There's so many great adventures I've been on with my dad. He's co-founder of this Jazz Festival in Switzerland, the Montreux Jazz Festival. And, he just really comes alive during that time. It's just the best music and the best food and late-night hangs. And anytime I go with him to that festival, those are some of my best memories with my dad. He loves to travel. So anywhere I can meet him, I'm happy to go.
How suspicious are you of people?
I'm not a highly suspicious person. The people that are close to me I really trust. I do relate to the idea that when I'm not feeling good about myself, I certainly look around me and I start to wonder what everybody else is up to because I don't feel grounded in myself so I can be susceptible to suspicion if I'm not centered, for sure.
This year has been full of events – COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, women’s movement. How do you see the present and near future?
I have to hope I have to believe that. That this is the movement, the activity, the resistance, and the defining of what we believe in and what we stand for. And that it does take a kind of massive upheaval and a confrontation. To reach the other side, I have to believe that, but it does feel like there's a huge reckoning about what humanity is, and especially in this country, what this country is, what we stand for, what we believe in, and what we're fighting for. I hope that love and humanity wins.
But I don't think that comes easy, that always comes at a cost. And it's an interesting time, but I have to believe that we have the future to look forward to in a way that's maybe defined in more empathetic, tolerant terms. I hope.
You are also a mother and an artist, both very demanding roles. How do you manage to be in a relationship?
I think for women, there are so many factors to being a woman and the balance of it, whether it’s work, family, choosing not to have family, your family you are born into, relationship, all these things.
And there does seem to be this thing that has emerged in the last five years and I accredit it to feminism, which is great, but I think what ends up happening, is you have to do all of these things and sort of do it with ease and not be stressed out about it in a way that to me, is completely unrealistic.
It’s hard to balance life, it just is inevitably hard for everybody. And I think pretending like it is super easy and you have it all under control, I have that pressure and I don’t have it under control.
I always feel like something is at risk or something is being sacrificed if I am focused on one area, I find it really hard. And I think now during lockdown it’s been exceptionally hard to work at home and be with the same people all day and find time for myself and also it takes constant attention, it’s not something that you can just kind of let play out as it may, I think you have to have a strategy about whether it’s your day or your week or your month, it requires attention.
The movie is also about trust. You have been in a relationship for a while and even have a kid with him. So talk about how you build trust with each other.
I think trust is about time. I mean I think you can tell somebody who you are the first day you meet them and sure, you can trust that, but you shouldn’t, (laughs) because you don’t know that person. And you don’t really know somebody until you do spend a lot of time with them. Who was telling me, somebody had a thing that was like if you want to really know somebody, take a trip with them, because then you get to see them when you are in the Customs line for six hours and you are tired or you are hungry, you get lost on the road, you want to know somebody in a very deep way before you actually say that you know somebody. And I think it just takes time.
When did you realize that your father was famous?
Yeah I mean I think you don’t know what you don’t know. And he’s always been my father, but I think it really changed around when “Thriller” came out, because before that, he was a producer and a composer and I think people kind of knew who he was in perspective of him. But then once he won all those Grammys and there was a picture of him winning all those Grammys, he became a famous person. And that really changed I think the way people interacted with him and talked about him and knew his name, that was like, I went back to school on Monday and people were talking about it.
I was so excited. Because I mean think about it, it’s your parents and if you see your parents anywhere but your house, you are so, I was proud and excited, we were watching from home. And yeah I was so excited and I remember where we made him a little card with a Grammy on it, a congratulations card. But I am sure that made him more proud than the Grammys, was our little interpretive award. (laughs)
Do you think this is a generational thing of men being faithful and women accepting the fact that men are playboys?
I think Felix (Bill Murray’s character) has a very unique point of view on relationships and women and monogamy. But I do think generationally, the way men talk about things, of Felix’s generation, is very different from the way men talk about things in my generation and younger men. And I’ve been so impressed when I meet 20, 30 year old men, the respect that they have for women and they see women as equals and partners.
And I think there was a little bit more formality around — if you grow up courting a woman in the '50s and '60s — really like the '40s and the '50s and a little bit of the early '60s — you would be used to being the man in the relationship, whatever that meant. You would have to pay or you would have to open the door or you would have to treat her a certain way. And she had to be interested in home making and children and all of this stuff. So yeah I think that is sort of inevitable that if you are shaped by the reality in the era you grow up in and when you are exposed to more, you will change, you will evolve, especially if you are of the age where you can still change.
You have a partner who is also a musician (Ezra Koenig) so talk about music helping you cope during this pandemic.
Oh that’s a deep question. It’s so funny, the first couple of months, I couldn’t listen to music, I think maybe just because my relationship to music is so deep and it’s emotional and I just was like I can’t have any more emotion in my life.
But now I am kind of back to listening to music and actually in this movie too, there’s all this beautiful music and these Chet Baker songs. And I listen a lot to Bill Evans, which is kind of in the same category of Jazz. And I just feel like there’s so little that can really evoke the true essence of how you are feeling without explanation and description the way that music can. And sometimes you don’t want to talk to somebody, you don’t want to tell anybody how you are feeling, you just want to listen to a song and feel that feeling, and that’s been really helpful during this time.
First time I met your dad was at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. A friend of mine introduced him to me backstage and he was very charming and very charismatic. He even kissed my hand.
He’s a sweetie.
It’s crazy because of all of his talents in the world, I would say the one thing and I made this film about him a couple of years ago and I was hoping that this really came across, came through in the film, is his ability to talk to people and connect with people and be that gentleman and be charming and really be interested in other people’s lives. That’s almost the thing that makes him such a great producer, besides all of his musical talent, he sees stuff in other people, he connects with other people in a way where he can hear some sort of inner truth and really bring that out in their music. So I think it is his greatest skill in a way. And I am not sure you can even learn from it or learn to be that way, but I hope that I got some part of that genetically and I hope I picked that up from him over the course of watching him my whole life, because it’s a beautiful, beautiful talent. — LA, GMA News