Wednesday 19 June 2019

'Everyone was disinhibited' - How pretending to be lions and tigers helped stars of The Favourite to bond

Irish produced film The Favourite is up for five Golden Globes tonight

ANIMAL MAGIC: Leading ladies Emma Stone, pictured, and Rachel Weisz
ANIMAL MAGIC: Leading ladies Emma Stone, pictured, and Rachel Weisz
ANIMAL MAGIC: Leading ladies Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, pictured
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

Betrayals and a bitter rivalry lie at the heart of the five-time Golden Globe-nominated movie The Favourite, but the Irish producer behind the magic, Ed Guiney, has revealed one of the secrets to its success - actors taking on the guise of animals to shake off their inhibitions.

Speaking ahead of the awards ceremony in Beverly Hills tonight, Guiney said the theatre games led to a special on-set bonding that helped leading actresses Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone and Olivia Coleman perform at their very best.

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Talking about director Yorgos Lanthimos' pre-shoot readings, he said: "Yorgos did this thing in rehearsal, that we have never done before and always wanted to do, where he had a three- week rehearsal period where stars could say each other's lines and take part in theatre games where they would do different lines in the voice of a different animal, that type of thing."

By the end of rehearsals, where actors would "go around pretending to be a leopard or a lion", he said "everyone was disinhibited and very good friends, and a real trust formed so it led to a very constructive environment".

There was another added bonus that little lighting was used in the making of the film: "When you see the film, it looks beautiful," said Guiney. "It's shot by Irishman Robbie Ryan, a brilliant photographer from Sandymount. He used virtually no light at all, which is very unusual. All the night-time scenes are [lit by] candlelight and fire, so very little time was spent lighting the set during the day.

"This meant that most of the time was spent on the floor and it was very actor-focused. It allowed the cast to try different things and experiment and, when you are working with actors at that level, they bring so much to it. They can just improvise so you are getting such rich material and rendering of the script."

It has been a long road for Guiney, who is now Ireland's leading producer and runs Element Pictures, one of Europe's most successful film companies, with Andrew Lowe. He described how one of his earliest attempts at film left him dejected: "I remember I was trying to get a film made [then] called The Tale of Sweety Barrett. The financing kept falling through and I remember being so desperate and lonely because it kept falling apart," he said.

The film was eventually made and didn't put him off pursuing his life-long dream. "I grew up wanting to be a film producer without really knowing what that was," he said. "My bedtime reading was most of the Hollywood guys who set up the studios."

Then, when he was at university he met Lenny Abrahamson, who was starting out on the path to becoming an acclaimed film director. "We just started by making these films in Lenny's house," said Guiney.

With Oscar-nominated Room under his belt, as well as critically acclaimed The Lobster and his current production The Favourite - which is one of the most talked-about movies of this year's awards season - Guiney maintains that when you have a passion for your career, determination will pay off.

"I guess I made progress, but it is a really tough business and it continues to be so. You need great self-belief and you need to be really persistent, you really do," he said.

"I have a pretty good tolerance for uncertainty too, so I can keep going without knowing exactly how it's going to work out. If you have a mental belief in what you're doing, then there will always be a path."

Stressing the great talent he works alongside, the producer said: "I have known my business partner, Andrew Lowe, for over 30 years so that is a very long- standing relationship and friendship.

"I think it's all about finding the people you have a common interest with and who complement your skills, and certainly Andrew and I, in running Element Pictures, we are very complementary to each other and have great people working on our team."

Tonight, The Favourite will be the one to watch, with Tony McNamara up for Best Screenplay; Olivia Coleman nominated for Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy; and Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone both up for Best Performing Actress in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture.

The Favourite is also in the running for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy.

In addition, Caitriona Balfe is nominated in the category of Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Series - Drama, for Outlander, while Saoirse Ronan will be among the Golden Globes' presenters.

Read more: 'There's so much sadness in her background' - Olivia Colman on her incredible turn as Queen Anne in The Favourite

The Favourite movie review: 'A delightful film, funny, absurd, anarchic and profound'

'We're pinching ourselves' - Irish producers of The Favourite celebrate five Golden Globe nominations 

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