Lucy Russell scored a lead role in Eric Rohmer’s period drama
No previous expeuence requwed
Fresh out of drama school, Lucy Russell noticed a casting magazine ad: blonde-haired, French-speaking, English actress required for Eric Rohmer film. She applied. Words: Tom Dawson
he ﬁlm in question. The Duly Am/ The Duke.
is a lavish historical adaptation of the
memoirs of (irace lilliott. a Scottish-born noblewoman who lived in lirance during the period of the Revolutionary 'l‘error. Having read the advert. l.ucy Rtissell tracked down a copy of lilliot's long- out-of-print book in a library archive. read it and sent the producers an audition tape. which she ﬁlmed in her own home.
So far so good. but when asked to meet Iiric Rohmer in Paris. Russell was alarmed to discover how difﬁcult the script was to read aloud. ‘My spoken French is very fluent. bill your spoken vocabulary is very different from your written vocabulary". she says. 'l kept coming across I8th century words that I had never come across before. I thought I‘d blown it. liric said: "Take the script away and familiarise yourself with it. and then come back.”
Russell returned to the l’rench capital. having memorised the whole of the opening scene. only to
be told that she would need to learn the entire part of
(irace lilliott verbatim. ‘Rohmer then said that he wanted to see me in costume because some people look too modern.‘ continues Rtissell. ‘and I had to have try-outs with my co-star .lean-(‘laude l)reyfus.'
This was now three months after her initial audition. and still no one had actually informed Russell whether or not she was going to be cast in The Duly Am! The Duke. livcntually'. she called up Rohmer. who ﬁnally conﬁrmed that he had ofﬁcially
22 THE LIST Vi j/f-‘i l -:l, PCS?
‘Now I have a lot more conﬁdencein myself as an actress’
chosen her for the lead role in his ﬁlm.
In a recent interview. the octogenarian Rohmer pointed out that dttring the ﬁlm‘s shoot his directing of actors went no further than giving them technical instructions. ‘lieelings are the actor‘s business.‘ he says. (iiven that Russell had only acted in one prior ﬁlm. the low-budget thriller Iii/liming. did she not feel under immense pressure to develop her own performance for the craggy auteur‘.’ ‘Yesf she says. ‘lnitially I felt I had been left teetering. Rohmer‘s directing was technical. yet it was also really helpful. lle‘d help with the pronunciations. or he’d get me to talk more slowly. He’d suggest the way I should hold myself and that I should walk with little
steps. These physical details feed into the interior of
the character. It provided a shell for me to put (irace into. I suppose it‘s like being treated like a grown- up. where you have to make your own decisions. And now I have a lot more conﬁdence in myself as an actress.‘
Certain l’rench critics have complained about the conservative. pro-royalist stance of The [July/1m] The Duke. Russell. however. defends her characters political afﬁliations. ‘(irace lilliott had come from a monarchist country llingland. where she grew up]. which had already had a bloody Revolution and had brought a king back. Why would she be in favour of getting rid of a king in her adopted country? And
she‘s not as much of a monarchist as one might think. because she‘s in cahoots with (‘harles l’ox. who was a liberal. I don‘t necessarily agree with her world view. but given where she came from and her life experiences. it's perfectly logical.‘
Russell. who is soon to appear in l’hilip l’rowse‘s version of (‘hekhov‘s T/It’ ('lieri'y ()re/turr/ at the (ilasgow (‘iti/ens Theatre. admits that in her early twenties she didn‘t consider acting as a realistic career choice. ‘I tried other things that I thought were serious jobs and realised that I didn‘t like them very much.‘ she says. ‘I thought: “Why not try and earn my living
doing something I like". If I’m crap at it. at least I’ve tried.~
Judging by the reviews she's received for The Lady And The Duke. she’s trittmphantly succeeded.
The Lady And The Duke opens Fri 15 Feb at GFT, Glasgow and Filmhouse, Edinburgh. See review.
Lights, camera, action . . .
EVERONE'S TALKING ABOUT animation these days: Monsters. Inc. a new Oscar statuette for cartoons etc. The British Animation Awards celebrate animated short ﬁlms. music promos and commercials. and the winners will be announced at the end of the month. And those winners are picked by audience vote. 80 If you lancv having a say in the BAAs. get yourself along to the animation programme screenings at Filmhouse. Edinburgh Sun 17 & Mon 18 Feb. OFT. Glasgow Tue 19 & Thu 21 Feb. or DCA. Dundee Tue 19 Feb and cast yOur vote.
Furry Story at the BAAs
SCOTLAND’S HORROR Film Festival Dead By Dawn has announced more details of its forthcoming programme for the weekend 29-31 March at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse and Lumiere. The rather brilliantly-named Shaky Gonzalez will come to Scotland to introduce his new film, One Hell OfA Christmas. And, in something of a bloody coup, Dead By Dawn is also bringing Herschell Gordon Lewis, ‘the Godfather of Gore’, to Edinburgh. Lewis will present his 1963 blood- splattered classic Blood Feast and - excitement - his long-awaited sequel Blood Feast 2 - All U Can Eat.
DEAD BY DAWN lS ONE OF two lllm testlvals Edinburgh's Lumiere clnema hosts as It approaches closure at the end of March. The other event is the second editlon of the Irish Film Festival. launched by the Lumlere last year. Rough Cuts once more laments the closure of this tune cntema.
Film Festival announces a call for submissions to its 56th programme in August. For full details go to: www.edfi|mfest.org.uk/sub missions