THE BEAUTIFUL MIND SERIES – Actress, Lucy Boynton, on being a woman in film and embracing the darkness in alternative selves.

Stepping in and out of other selves
When you’re becoming another human, you have to find something in them that resonates with you. But it’s not that they have to be like you. In fact what excites me most are the characters that I don’t see in myself. In no other job do you get to step in and out of other selves like this.

Why I’m drawn to the dark
There’s something dark in actors. To be able to be so transient in identity there has to be a certain amount of yourself that is – empty is the wrong word – open. You have to be an open wound. I love the darker material because it is an extreme that I don’t experience in my own life. It quenches some kind of absence in me.

The darkest character I will ever have played…
Is one I’m going to play in Medusa, an upcoming film by Osgood Perkins. He’s the director I also worked with in The Blackcoat’s Daughter and I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House. The films Osgood writes are dark and devastating but also beautiful and rooted in grief and loss. Violet, my character, is dark but only in the sense of absence of light. There’s an innocence to her darkness.

The empowering feeling of instilling fear
Being brought up as a woman, you have a sense of vulnerability projected onto you, in the way you are taught to take care of yourself walking home at night and so on. But in this film, Violet is the one the others fear. For someone who looks like me, someone you might mistake as vulnerable, it’s empowering to instil fear in others.

Wow this is dark!

Every blink every flinch every breath
I love film acting because of the intimacy. Every blink, every flinch, every breath is caught on camera. Acting is this wild thing. You’re expected to come out and immediately unload all this energy, but if the environment isn’t conducive it’s like expecting an athlete to hit the track and perform cold.

A dream education from Naomi Watts
I’m young and still working it all out so it was a dream education to work with Naomi Watts on Gypsy. She’s so attuned to what the other actor or actress might need. The set usually becomes a dynamic, noisy place between takes but she’d ask for quiet and space for us to be able stay in the headspace of our characters. Our scenes were always quietly intense and I found that being able to stay in the emotional spectrum of a character made it easier, but also more liberating.

What’s great is when you have real chemistry with other actors. I think you’ll really see that in Bohemian Rhapsody our film about Freddie Mercury which opens in the UK in November. Everyone got so close so quickly on that film which meant we could be much more instinctive as actors.

Strong women and the movies
I’m an actress not an actor, because implying that the female version of this job is somehow inferior seems ridiculous and redundant.

Empowering women is the punch line to so many conversations these days. And yet it’s still considered forward-thinking to say, ‘I want to make a film about a strong woman’. No-one says ‘I want to make a film about a strong man’.

If it’s a film led by women and about women the assumption is that it is just a story for women. The idea that a man can’t be moved by a story told by a young women or an old woman is bizarre. I cannot wrap my head around that given that one of the reasons anyone watches a movie is escapism, transportation of some kind.

Dealing with journalists – if you’re me
Sing Street was the first film I did where I had to do a proper press tour. Both my parents are journalists and before the tour my mother sat me down and told me which tricks not to fall for. One is the silence tactic. The journalist says nothing and you feel the need to fill the silence, and thereby say more than you meant to. ‘End your sentence’ my mother said, ‘and learn to feel comfortable with the silence.’

Dealing with journalists – if you’re Sergei Polunin
But then there’s Sergei Polunin, the ballet dancer whom I worked with on Murder on the Orient Express (I played his wife). When he was six years old Sergei took a vow always to tell the truth. So when he’s confronted by journalists, he does the opposite from me.

Honouring the mystery
It’s beautiful when you see someone be completely present and honest like that. It’s so much more human. But then there’s a problem of how much do you really want to reveal about your own self? Especially in our industry when there is less and less mystery to actors. Think of the old Hollywood. There there was only mystery. Nowadays you know so much about the actors that you are much more aware of their job of pretending – and that undermines the suspension of disbelief we need in order to connect with a film. It kills the mystery.

The irony that I’m saying all this in an interview is not lost on me.


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