The feature film version of Eleanor Catton's book The Rehearsal is released in theatres tomorrow. Jesse Mulligan meets one of the film's young stars, Ella Edward.
Good fun acting in a feature film?
Is it what you thought it was going to be like?
Well, you can’t really know what anything is gonna be like. But I’ve done other films before. Every different production is different, but it’s the same kind of working system, I guess.
How did you get the part? Was it the usual audition process?
I was called in for an audition and then a recall and a second recall, then I was flown down to Wellington to do my final recall alongside James Rolleston – to see how we looked together and connected together on screen.
And it obviously worked.
I guess so.
Do you get nervous before rehearsals?
But you overcome your nerves.
Does it put you off going to drama school? I guess you’d expect drama if it’s called drama school.
I don’t know if I’m going to go to drama school. Everyone always asks me and I’m not sure. I guess I’ll see what happens.
Is it helpful that your dad [Mike Edward] is an actor?
It’s greatly helpful.
Did he give you tips about auditioning or did it sort of come naturally?
He likes to… I’m not sure what the right word is, but he likes to share his knowledge of acting. Since I was a kid I’ve been hearing him talk about acting and all his teachers from drama school and their different techniques and what-not.
When did you give it a go yourself for the first time?
I did an amateur production of Les Miserables when I was seven, as the young Cosette. I joined Dad’s agency – Auckland Actors – and did a bunch of commercials, some random low-key theatre stuff, a short film called Munted, which I really like. Then I kind of just stopped for a while. I started doing theatre again in my teens and randomly just got this.
How do you go about taking the character off the page and bringing her to life? Is something you think about or is it an intuitive process?
I was quite shocked when I saw the film because I always imagined Isolde as something quite separate from me and I hadn’t really thought of myself as Isolde during the filming process. But when you watch the film you only have the story that is shown to you on screen. So it was shocking seeing myself as Isolde, actually.
Were you pleased with how it came across?
Yeah, I was. It was really interesting. They cut a lot of stuff, but I think it was for the better.
Does it take a long time to understand how your face works that close on that big a screen?
I guess I don’t really think about that. I try and be as natural as possible without thinking how they’re seeing you. That’s at least what I do.
Was it hard work?
Some scenes were… Yes, I have to say.
What’s hard about it?
I found being emotional the most hard, especially in the break-up scene, just trying to get to that place. We had a coach on set called Rachel House. Right before that scene she took me outside and she made me scream silently - using my guts and my stomach and my throat as loudly as I could without any sound. That was, I think, helpful.
And then the hard work is over and you get to put on a pretty frock and head to the premiere. Was that good?
That was good. That was exciting. I felt really detached, actually. I thought I’d be more, like, overwhelmed. I was quite distant in myself. I don’t know why.
Have you met Eleanor Catton? What was that like?
Yes, I have. That was really great. She’s really, really smart. I really like her. I read the book after filming. You can tell she’s really thinking about what’s happening, but not sometimes commenting on things. I’m not sure whether that’s me reading her behaviour or because I read the book.
You weren’t allowed to read the book beforehand or you chose not to?
In one of the first meetings I had with the producer Bridget [Ikin] I asked if I should read the book and she said probably not. And so I didn’t. At the start of the process they didn’t want to recreate the book as much as use it as a springboard.
Have you got anything else on the way?
I’m doing The Changeover later this year with Miranda Harcourt in Christchurch. It’s a smaller character, but it’s based on a Margaret Mahy book.