You would think so, but I’ve worked with Kristin before. With Gary, there was at first when we were in rehearsals and when we first started shooting. But because I’ve now spent so long with Gary… I mean, we shot that thing over a year, basically. And he’s such a warm and generous man that being starstruck or intimidated or whatever has all gone out the window. It’s sort of non-existent because we were on it for so long.
Oldman is someone who’s alternated between leading parts and supporting roles over the course of a very long career. Is that a career path that you kind of see is something you’d want for yourself?
To do what Gary Oldman’s done? Yeah. [Laughs.]
But no, I think the only similarity that I’ve got with Gary is that I’ve sort of been doing that for a while. I’ve played a lot of supporting roles and I’ve played some lead roles, and I’ve really enjoyed both. I don’t particularly just want to play leading roles or just play supporting roles. But it’s a really lovely thing to be able to sort of flip between the two, and you get an opportunity to… I would play a tiny role on anything if it meant getting to watch and work with some of the people I’ve been lucky enough to work with.
You’ve played characters created for films, historical figures from Lord Darnley, Morrissey, Siegfried Sassoon and characters adapted from literature. Do you prepare differently for those different sorts of roles?
No, no, not really. I mean, I have a fear of forgetting my lines. I think that comes from years and years of being on stage, that it’s drilled into you to know your lines before you set foot in a rehearsal room. So that’s always the first port of call. It was quite amazing to find out that Gary’s exactly the same. And that’s because Gary did a lot of stage work as well. Gary knows his lines months in advance. He works that hard at everything. He does the work as they call it. And so, no, it doesn’t seem to change, though the great opportunity is when playing real people is the volumes of stuff that I get to sort of nerd out on before. My passion in life is history, so to get any chance to do anything — like to sit and read a textbook on how to fly a Spitfire, or whatever — it’s always a wonderful [to have an] excuse to do that.
Benediction hasn’t opened here yet, but I’m eager to see it. I tend to hate asking “What was it like working with…” questions, but I can’t resist it with Terrence Davies because he’s such an interesting character. What was that process like?
Well, I think this was a fairly unique Terrence Davies experience, because it became very clear very quickly that I was playing Sassoon, but I was also playing Terrence. I think he sees a lot of himself in the Sassoon that he wrote and it’s one of the best screenplays I’ve ever read. On paper it’s phenomenal, the way the scenes are worked out, the retorts. It’s so fantastic, and I can feel him. You could feel him having acted out every bit of it. And I don’t know if that’s what Terence always does, but that was my experience. He was incredibly specific about what he wants. And it’s less about your interpretation and more about your following the path he’s carved for you essentially.