Alan Rickman and Helen McCrory talk meeting, acting, and… wine?
During a recent interview with the Independent, Potter and A Little Chaos co-stars Alan Rickman (Severus Snape) and Helen McCrory (Narcissa Malfoy) talk about one another in great detail since the time that they met, which was actually on the set of Half-Blood Prince back in 2008.
McCrory starts her review of Rickman way before she met him:
There are a lot of myths about Alan. That he is prickly and unpleasant – because he often plays quite cold, dry people – and that he always wears black. But he couldn’t be further from his screen personas if he tried. And I’ve seen him wear grey at least twice.
I first heard of Alan when I was at drama school. He was doing Les Liaisons Dangereuses in New York [in 1987], hailed in the papers and held up as an example by my teachers at the Drama Centre. We met in 2008, on the set of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, when Helena [Bonham Carter] and I were playing the Lestrange sisters, and Helena, Alan and I were making a spell ‘to the death’ together.
Though he was brilliant in the part, he wasn’t so method that he swished around in his large black robe in between takes. Instead we’d have a coffee and a giggle – he has a naughty sense of humour – and I’d say, ‘So what’s your power again?’
She goes on to describe how their friendship grew over time and the type of person that he is, in and outside of acting:
I was surprised how our friendship developed at first: it’s lovely when a movie star phones you up and says, ‘I’m going to come see you in that play. Do you like to know if people are in?’ So I said, ‘Actually, do you mind coming around [backstage] after?’ Otherwise I can get nervous and direct the whole performance to that one person. So he came and asked me out to dinner; I wouldn’t have assumed someone who’d reached such heights would do that.
He’s a very subtle person: there’s an art in the way he reads lines, and he has a similar aesthetic in his home – it’s all clean lines and muted. So much of his personality is in A Little Chaos [a new film directed by Rickman and starring McCrory and Kate Winslet]. It’s quiet and meditative. He thinks about what he says, rather than plunging in. I think I’m less in control than him.
While we both like a giggle and a good bottle of wine surrounded by [actor] friends, he avoids the industry world. Maybe he’s shy, and walking into a room of people he doesn’t know isn’t relaxing. I don’t feel that: I find evenings out such as B[AFTA] parties good fun.
I started out in theatre, so I think of Alan as a director at the [Royal] Court and writing and directing films, rather than about films he was in. I’ve never seen Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves [for which he won a B(AFTA)]. Maybe that’s why we’re friends: I don’t sit quoting lines back to him after half a bottle of wine.
Rickman begins his review of McCrory by reminiscing about their time on set of Half-Blood Prince with one another and the type of experience that they encountered:
We properly met on the set of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, in full costume. Helen with that white stripe in her hair, me with those black buttons and black contacts. Helena was there too. We had a scene with the three of us, nose to nose, having to look threateningly at each other. Helen has a huge sense of the ridiculous, and with all that costume and make-up, there wasn’t a hope: we were all trying to behave like grown-ups but laughing to an annoying degree; the producers and crew got a little impatient. It’s run like an army camp there, so I was grateful for those moments of laughter.
He then gives us his own version of how their friendship escalated and how he admires her as an actress:
Our friendship was incremental: first I’d go to see her in plays at the Donmar and then afterwards, get drunk with her and the rest of the cast. There would be social gatherings, and I got to know her better there, too. We both had Welsh mothers – it’s a huge thing when you have Celtic blood running in your veins and not English; there’s an inherited energy, a kinship.
She has an amazing access to her emotional life as an actress. She is always truthful, too. She can be critical of a director, but she speaks her mind out of respect for the writer. The text prompts the questions; her aim is to convince you that she’s living inside the text, not performing it.
I felt relaxed asking her to work for me in A Little Chaos. She plays a wife in a loveless marriage to André Le Nôtre, who designed the gardens at the Palace of Versailles. Helen has a kind of darkness of spirit to bring, and I loved watching the edifice crack in the role.
With us it’s mostly about laughter and the odd Martini – the two tend to blur into each other. She has a much faster energy than me; she’s on the front foot and I’m not always. But I love anybody who makes me laugh, and her ability is unusually high. She’s witty in an 18th-century way; like Jane Austen, she can pick up a word, play with it and put it down again. She recently talked about lobster sauce sophistication. Where did she get that from?
You can read more from this wonderful interview right here.
A Little Chaos will be hitting UK cinemas on April 17. Will you be going to see the period drama when it’s released? Are you excited to see Rickman and McCrory in another film together? Let us know with your comments.