Ben Whishaw Talks Brideshead Revisited
Actor Ben Whishaw is very quickly becoming a leading British talent not just on the big screen but also in the theatre, the twenty seven year old's first love.
But no two roles have been the same for Ben moving between Perfume, an adaptation of the novel by Patrick Süskind, and Bob Dylan biographical film I'm Not There.
'It’s important to me to try and find new challenges and find work that is going to test you and push you into some new direction that’s very important to me.
'But it’s also very random the way that these things come along, actors really are at the mercy of other people and I guess that I have just been very lucky that so many interesting parts have flown by.'
More recently he starred in thriller Criminal Justice for the BBC but his new role brings him back to the big screen in Brideshead Revisited in which he swaps prison bars from period drama in the part of Sebastian Flyte.
I caught up with the notoriously shy Ben to talk about his new role and what lies ahead for the young actor.
The film centres around Charles Ryder, who is befriended by the flamboyant Sebastian Flyte, son of Lord Marchmain, and is seduced by this exciting new world of privilege and glamour. As Charles' emotional relationship with the family deepens he becomes infatuated with Julia but finds himself at odds with the family's overpowering Catholic faith.
Ben's character of Sebastian enjoys the pleasures his privileged life has afforded him, but he also senses that something is missing, and he tries to drown his frequent episodes of depression in alcohol and, unlike his family, an atheist.
'I was really draw to him because he is a sort of rebel really kicking against a lot of the restraints that his mother and his religion have imposed on him.
'He can be kind of outrageous and extravagant and flamboyant and that was appealing. But I also found his story really moving as there is something tragic about him as well in his self-destructiveness.'
But it's Ben's character of Sebastian that has experienced the greatest change as director Julian Jarrold and screenwriter Andrew Davies and Jeremy Brock have made this character more explicitly gay than in Evelyn Waugh's novel, perhaps making it more contemporary for 2008.
'I felt that it was the right decision, to me when I read the novel it’s fairly clear to me that the character is homosexual I don’t think it’s necessarily a sub-textual, ambiguous thing it seems quite clear.
'But I suppose in turning a novel into a film those things become painted in perhaps brighter colours but I thinks it’s still true to what was written.
'I was very comfortable it was a really nice juicy challenge it was a really lovely complicated character so it was just a joy really I loved it.'
Brideshead Revisited is just the latest in a long line of book adaptations, a genre that has found major success in the last twelve months with movies like Atonement, No Country for Old Men and to a certain extent There Will Be Blood all finding success.
But when adapting a movie from book to screen there is always the question on how big a part the novel is to play, with Atonement is book was a heavy influenced by There Will Be Blood was loosely based on oil.
'It was pretty big I kept going back and reading and re-reading bits and taking little details from the novel that we might be able to get in: Sebastian’s red pyjamas you know? You have got to get his red pyjamas in.
'It was beautiful little details that Waugh (the author) gives you it lovely to have that constantly feeding the work.'
The trademark of any period movie is of course it's locations and grand halls and Brideshead revisited is of course no different as the cast found themselves filming in Castle Howard in North Yorkshire.
'It’s really really helpful to be in that environment because it really informs the way you feel, you stand differently in those houses and you somehow feel different particularly when you think this is mine, this is where I live, this is my house, this is my home you can’t help but be effected by that.
Well we had, as group, we had rehearsals with a lady who specialises in that period, manners, how to hold a cigarette, how to light a cigarette, how to sit down on a chair and so on.
And then there was just trying to understand the enormous sense of entitlement that these characters have, the aristocracy they are entitled to everything.'
"And while Ben has mixed up his role in the past it seems like this is a trend that is to continue: 'I have just finished making a film about John Keats, the poet John Keats, which will be out next year and I’m just finishing off a play here in London at the National Theatre and my next job is a film version of The Tempest by Shakespeare playing Ariel.'"