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Times Interviews - Danny Boyle and Jonny Lee Miller

The Times website has interviews with everyone but Benedict about the upcoming production of Frankenstein. The optimist in me hopes that this is because they're going to feature him next week but we'll see.
As the site is behind the paywall I thought people might be interested in the text.



The relevant part of the Jonny Lee Miller interview:

Miller calls Boyle’s Frankenstein a “crazy experiment” and he has a point. Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch will alternate the roles of Victor Frankenstein and the Creature from day to day. This is extraordinarily ambitious, especially for two such ostensibly different actors. Miller is an instinctive, interior actor and Cumberbatch, who most recently played Sherlock Holmes on TV, more cerebral, flamboyant. How do they work together? Miller shrugs. “We realised early on that we were going to get on. I don’t know if it’s sheer luck. Danny must have sensed something. I can’t imagine that everyone would be able to work this way.”

It can’t be easy to swap roles. Miller laughs. “That was the worry to begin with; how precious were Benedict and I going to be? That’s my idea, you can’t do that! But as long as you acknowledge each other, it’s fine.” Does he prefer playing Frankenstein or the Creature? “The Creature is much more physical, with bells and whistles. I’m surprised how much I like playing Victor. He’s been harder to discover. It’s not a story about a monster; it’s about two guys, about abandonment, love and loneliness. The Creature is a man who is treated as a monster because of the way he looks.”


And Danny Boyle on directing Frankenstein:


I haven’t directed a play for 15 years now, but Frankenstein has been on my mind for a long time. I first talked to the playwright Nick Dear about the idea of doing an adaptation of Mary Shelley’s novel when we worked on The Last Days of Don Juan at the Royal Shakespeare Company. Nick’s first drafts were faithful to the novel until we came up with this idea of opening the play from the Creature’s point of view. Doing so gave the Creature his voice back; Mary Shelley gave him a voice, but so many manifestations of the story have denied it him.
Starting from the Creature’s point of view was the key to unlocking the adaptation. The key to then getting the production up and running was to rebalance the story. Once you don’t start with Victor Frankenstein, it’s fantastically refreshing because it means that you have to rethink everything. Once you get going you need to balance the Creature with his obsession with his creator.
So we rebalanced our approach by coming up with the idea of double casting the actors. If you are going to do that, Victor ultimately has to be an equal. So the first half of the play, the first 20 or 30 minutes, is very much from the Creature’s point of view.

And then it shifts to being this great debate between the two of them. We wanted to get away from movie images of the Creature and also the idea that he is a stitched-together series of parts. He’s a whole body that has been operated on internally. You’ll see evidence of his internal organs in the play.
Mary Shelley clearly based Frankenstein on Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron, these extraordinary men in her life. They were vain, egotistical Romantic poets who are obsessed with the flowering of science. Of course the play — well, in this production anyway — emphasises that by putting two men at the heart of creation, women are excluded. And, in reality, there was Mary Shelley constantly being pregnant, giving birth, losing children and writing this incredible book. Every time that she got pregnant, Shelley suddenly became ill! He couldn’t stand her having all the attention. And so Frankenstein is a brilliant depiction of the self-importance of men.

Casting Victor and the Creature was always going to be a gamble. But Benedict [Cumberbatch] and Jonny [Lee Miller] just feel right, in the same way that Hugh Grant just wouldn’t feel right. You literally can’t cast it with four combinations in mind, so you have to go for quality. You have to back their ability as lead actors. They have to have the ambition and talent to command the stage, particularly as it’s the Olivier Theatre. It’s a challenging stage, a huge, huge space and it can swallow up actors very easily.

Benedict and Jonny are like a Venn diagram. They cross over constantly. I know already that they can command that stage. It may surprise people about Jonny. He really knows how to do theatre. His approach is different to Benedict’s, but the end result is the same with both of them. You can tell when they hit another gear and you can hear the purr of the motor. I never worried about them being able to do it, it’s about whether I can fuel them enough. There’s some conceptual work, but the job of director is mostly fuelling actors. They are insatiable. They’ll take anything off you and have a go with it. Then you can see them working it out together. They have to own the play to really make it work.
It’s quite the opposite of film, in which actors fuel the director; in theatre you’re fuelling the actors for this marathon performance. I remember from my days at the Royal Court that, as the opening night approaches, the actors start to push you away. Once Frankenstein is up and running I’ll visit once a week, perhaps even once a fortnight. You have to let it go; in the end the play belongs to the actors and the writer.

I am really enjoying it, though. I have had the most extraordinary year of acting with James Franco in 127 Hours and then Jonny and Benedict in Frankenstein.

And I spent Sunday out in Essex on Underworld’s pig farm, which is where they write their music. They are doing a lovely job of scoring Frankenstein; they have really served the play. It’s very varied, I think that people will be surprised. Well, I hope they will.

It all sounds very exciting.
Tags: theatre: frankenstein
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