The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them – James McAvoy and Ned Benson on the red carpetLondon Film Festival 2014
This is the third instalment of a series of films written and directed by Ned Benson. All of them revolve around the same period in the life of a couple, but each story is told from the perspective of each party, thus with a different focus. Him is concerned with the perspective of the male party, Her on the perspective of the female and this film, Them, hones in on the couple and their life together. We spoke to Benson and lead actor James McAvoy on the red carpet at the film’s premiere as part of London Film Festival 2014.
Was it hard that your first feature was basically three films, rather than just one?
Ned Benson: The decision was based more in the storytelling. I wanted to create a movie about relationships, and ultimately the decision was based in the idea that the only way to tell a relationship film properly was to show both perspectives – the male and female perspectives. So I started with that, and that’s a three-hour-and-ten-minute film you can see in two parts, or you can see this two-hour version, depending on what type of audience member you are and what film you want to see.
Was Them always in the plan as well or did that come after?
NB: It wasn’t in the plan until this year, February is when I started editing it.
How did you find the process of combining the first two parts into a third film?
NB: Tricky but interesting; you know, we had to create a whole new rhythm, a whole new tone. I had two separate tones with the other two films, they had their own rhythms and those were based on a script that existed, this didn’t have a script, I was creating something new out of stuff we had already shot, so in a sense I was rewriting.
Is there much more in the two other films that viewers should look forward to seeing, or is it something that could be seen on its own?
NB: You know definitely, if you’ve seen them first, those other two films open the story up, all the subplots and the supporting characters had their own storylines. Also the relationship between James’ character and Jessica Chastain’s character has its whole arc in the Him film and Eleanor’s relationship with her parents and her sister open up in those films so they are very separate, different films. This just focuses more on Jessica and James and those other subplots just sort of fall away a little bit. But those are much more perspective-based experiences of really being with Eleanor or really being with Conor, versus this one, which is the back-and-forth but more individual dialogue.
Was it important to get the interaction between the main characters and their parents into the film?
NB: Very important because I wanted to imply or at least show that this couple – and we all – are reactions to our parents and what their relationships are. So I constantly wanted to show Eleanor sort of looking at her parents and their relationship and how it affected her, and Conor looking at his father and how his past relationships have affected him, which becomes apparent in the other films as well.
What was it that attracted you to the project?
What about the character of conor did you most enjoy playing?
JM: Getting to work with Jessica Chastain, getting to work with Ciaran Hinds. Those were two very special things. Ciaran and I ended up, even though we only spent five days together, I kind of felt like he was my dad by the end of that. That was pretty cool. The rest was pretty hard, you know, dealing with somebody dealing with parental bereavement. [It’s] something that I could relate to quite easily, you know I think most parents could relate to that quite easily, so that was actually quite horrible most of the time. Even when he’s dealing with it well and he’s managing not to let it come to the surface and dominate his day, it’s what drives him, and the loss of his wife and all that. It sounds like a right downer I know, but it was a laugh a minute.
Did the scenes with you and Ciaran in the restaurant require a lot of direction from Ned?
JM: Ned and Ciaran and I probably did the most rehearsal out of any of the relationships that I had in the film, probably even more that with Jess. Ned is a really special director, and as a first-time director who wrote it as well, he understood the character inside out. He’s one of those guys who, in saying very little, manages to convey a hell of a lot. A lot of directors can’t really communicate well and can’t really tell you what it is they want, and you have to sort of code-break and figure out what it is that they’re after. With him, he is just eloquent and articulate and so in love with storytelling, that he can tell you the story in his head and how he came to this thing and so he was really all over it.
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them is released in selected cinemas on 17th October 2014.
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Watch the trailer for The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them here: