Steven, the biopic aiming to chart living grimace and talented singer/songwriter Morrissey’s life before musical stardom, has just added to its cast. Downton Abbey veteran Jessica Brown Findlay has signed on to play a key role.
Jack Lowden has the lead, playing the man known back in the day as Steven Patrick Morrissey, a teenager escaping his mundane existence to find fame and fortune by founding The Smiths with Johnny Marr in 1982 before striking out on his own in 1987. The film, to be directed by Mark Gill based on the script he wrote with William Thacker, will follow those early days. Findlay will be Linder Sterling, a Liverpudlian performance artist and musician who becomes one of his closest friends.
Gill is about to start shooting the film, with Entertainment One planning to release it in the UK either later this year or early next. As for Findlay, who was last seen in Victor Frankenstein, she most recently worked on comedy drama This Beautiful Fantastic, which has yet to announce a release date.
Director Robert Icke has become the great hope of British theater. The 29-year-old has a rare talent for tapping into a text’s driving forces. He staged “1984” not as a possible future, but as a warning from history. Last year’s “Oresteia,” compressed and contemporized, felt like a box-set thriller. Now, bringing the same scrutiny to “Uncle Vanya” at the Almeida Theater, he gives us Chekhov in high-definition, its every texture exposed; a study in stasis. His meticulousness might hinder the play’s momentum and, for all its lit-crit insights, it’s more moral than it is moving. Small bother, though: This is rich, wry and wise – level-up stuff.
Like playwright Annie Baker, whose version of “Uncle Vanya” played New York’s Soho Rep in 2012, Icke gives Chekhov a contemporary, colloquial update, slowing stage time to something more like life. The names are anglicized – Vanya is Uncle John (Paul Rhys), sometimes Johnny — although it’s not specifically set in England. “To leave them in Russian,” the director’s note explains, “would be to make strange that which Chekhov intended ordinary.”
This is Icke’s way: He finds pinpoint images that pull the play into the present — earrings on middle-aged men, or a young woman (Sonya, played by “Downton Abbey” alum Jessica Brown Findlay) dressed in shabby mens’ shirts. He stays faithful to the original but stretches it all a bit further, upping its contrast, reactivating its drama. Astrov and Yelena don’t just kiss, they rip one another’s clothes off and roll about on the floor.
You see the play afresh and, moreover, in full. At three and a half hours (three 10 minute intervals keep us alert), Icke’s version gives each interaction its due. Abstract ideas – age, beauty, time, work, love – glide past one another like orbiting planets. It really is profound, heaving with life.
On Hildegard Bechtler’s slow-revolve of a wooden set – always moving, but going nowhere – there’s a sleepy atmosphere. People sit and read newspapers, toy with Rubik’s Cubes, tune guitars. Everything’s unhurried. Nothing’s urgent. Leaving on call, Tobias Menzies’ doctor puts his watch back on, as if time, here, were irrelevant. Ian Dickinson’s soundscape highlights the silence. Wood creaks, rain falls, an airplane whirs overhead.
Out of this emerges a study of inaction: the ways we waste time and the ways time wastes us. John and Sonya bury themselves in work – but, as the eco-friendly doctor says, “God only knows what our real work is.” Icke peppers proceedings with images of disrepair: guitars that detune, roofs that spring leaks. Furniture piles up on Bechtler’s set until, without anyone noticing, there are too many rugs and too many chairs. It’s the exact opposite of Michael’s beloved forests, disappearing bit by bit, year on year.
Rhys plays the title role as a man incapable of imposing himself. He’s too soft for it – the burr of his beard matches that of his voice. Life’s held him back – through grief, labor or simply personality – and he’s held back from life. When John notes, “I could have been a Schopenhauer or Dostoyevsky,” you almost believe him.
Icke’s great on the agonies of middle-age. Rhys shows us the ache of 47 year-old knees, but Hilton McRae (as the professor) suggests the tortures ahead – gout, breathlessness, worse. Even Elena (Vanessa Kirby), at 27, thinks herself “old.” The play’s attuned to the particular darkness of men, and the soothing presence of women. The lonesomeness at the play’s heart becomes unmissable, as three drunken fortysomethings howl Bowie songs at the moon.
The production is exquisitely acted. McRae catches the pomp of a man who’ll use a wooden chair as a lectern in his own sitting room, while Menzies finds the underlying oddity of Astrov, a darkness that surfaces like a long-range submarine. Brown Findlay’s Sonya, so in want of a decent conditioner and a confidence boost, is quite wrenching to watch, so entirely and so hopelessly in love, while Kirby is a superlative Elena: lithe, fickle, hypocritical, shallow and yet always sympathetic. It’s a performance that confirms her as the outstanding stage actress of her generation, capable of the most unexpected choices. Fumbling with Astrov, she gets her head stuck in her jumper – for all her outward ease, she’s as clumsily human as any of them.
However, Icke asks us to analyze these people, not feel for them. Its slowness prevents momentum; its constant significance, credibility. Icke’s knowingness, though amusing, can get in the way.
His sincerity can clear a path though. At the end, Michael holds up a globe and lays a finger on Africa. The heat, he says, must be unbearable: “Now, I mean.” It pulls us back into the present; a direct accusation. Their inaction is all of ours.
Photographs have been released of the cast rehearsing for the upcoming production of Uncle Vanya at the Almeida Theatre. Jessica Brown Findlay plays Sonya alongside Paul Rhys’ Vanya. Vanessa Kirby is Elena and Tobias Menzies plays Astrov.
This is a new version of Chekhov’s play from Robert Icke, who also directs the show, following his radical re-imagining of Oresteia which transferred to Trafalgar Studios.
Uncle Vanya runs at the Almeida Theatre from 5 February to 26 March with a press night on 12 February.
We have added x08 new photos from This Beautiful Fantastic, including a poster, promotional stills and some on set images…
Jess attended the Stella McCartney Mayfair store Christmas lights switch on party on November 25th 2015, we have added x13 photos to the gallery. We also have a new HQ still with Daniel Radcliffe from Victor Frankenstein which is currently playing in cinemas!
An emotional Christian Louboutin told the audience at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards how he refused to cancel his trip to London after the Paris terror attacks because he will not “live in fear”. The French shoe designer presented the first of the night’s prizes, for best design, alongside actress Jessica Brown Findlay. It went to Anna Fleischle for Hangmen at the Royal Court.
Fighting back tears, he said: “I cannot hide the fact that it is very difficult for me to be on stage tonight. “For those who don’t know me, I’m Christian Louboutin. I’m a French citizen, born, raised and still living in Paris.
Twentieth Century Fox’s own version of Frankenstein, based on the 1818 Marry Shelley novel, is being resurrected this Thanksgiving.
Here’s a new featurette for Victor Frankenstein, ‘Of Monsters and Men,’ wich wants you to remember the man, not the monster. James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe are interviewed in this video in which they discuss electrifying new life into an old tale.
The trailer, released earlier this fall, features McAvoy as the title character, with Harry Potter, Horns and The Woman In Black‘s Radcliffe as the newest Igor, the hunchback assistant to Dr. Frankenstein, in the latest adaptation that will open in theaters on November 25th, 2015.
“Radical scientist Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy) and his equally brilliant protégé Igor Strausman (Daniel Radcliffe) share a noble vision of aiding humanity through their groundbreaking research into immortality. But Victor’s experiments go too far, and his obsession has horrifying consequences. Only Igor can bring his friend back from the brink of madness and save him from his monstrous creation. ”
Victor Frankenstein, directed by Paul McGuigan, also stars Mark Gatiss, Jessica Brown Findlay and Andrew Scott.
Finally we have our first official promotional still as Jess as Lorelei in the upcoming Victor Frankenstein movie!
We are pleased to a share with you a brand new clip featuring Jess, for the release of Victor Frankenstein, on November 25th, (US) and December 3rd (UK). We also added x screencaps to the gallery…
Paul McGuigan has been dishing the details on upcoming film, Victor Frankensteinsaying it’s very different to Mary Shelley’s original novel and fans of the book might be in for a shock. Total Film sat down with the director to talk about why he wanted his adaptation to be different, and went behind-the-scenes to get some exclusive on-set pictures featuring Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy.
“[Frankenstein] has always been a mad scientist with funny hair – and that’s it,” shrugs director Paul McGuigan. “He’s not really had a backstory. So we give him one – a backstory that we’ve chosen to make up. So there’s not a reverence to the book. I think sometimes people are over- reverent about it. I don’t know if you’ve ever read it, but it’s as dull as dishwater, man. In a way, my catchphrase is always: ‘If you love the book, you’ll hate the movie.’ It’s that kind of twisting of it.”
Total film also caught up with stars James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe who were keen to support McGuigan’s more modern version of the tale. “There are things that you’d want to see out of the original,” admits McAvoy. “The archetypal mad doctor, mad scientist. And that’s perfectly there, in bucketloads.” But apparently, there will also be more comedy, action and… err, body fluids?
“One of the most stomach-turning scenes in the film will probably be the scene where I go from being a hunchback to not being a hunchback any more,” says Radcliffe. “It involves… I don’t want to say, because it’s so gross, I’ll ruin it.” We can’t wait!
Co-starring Jessica Brown Findlay and Andrew Scott, Victor Frankenstein will hit US cinemas November 25 2015 and UK cinemas December 4 2015. Read Total Film’s interview with Paul McGuigan, James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe in full in the new issue on sale October 23 2015.