A Minute With: ‘The King’ cast on Shakespeare and role models
Actor Timothee Chalamet plays an unwilling heir who inherits the throne in The King, a medieval coming-of-age tale loosely based on William Shakespeare’s plays about Prince Hal and his transformation into England’s King Henry V.
The 23-year-old Call Me by Your Name and Beautiful Boy actor stars alongside Joel Edgerton, who plays Hal’s hard-drinking friend and mentor Sir John Falstaff, Lily-Rose Depp, who portrays Catherine, daughter of France’s King Charles, and Ben Mendelsohn, who features as Hal’s father, Henry IV.
The Netflix film premiered at the Venice Film Festival last month, where Reuters spoke to the cast members and director David Michod about the drama, which also features a recreation of the 1415 Battle of Agincourt.
Below are edited excerpts of the interviews.
Q: This was a very different part from your previous leading roles, what were the biggest learning lessons making this movie?
Chalamet: “I felt less interested and less naturally drawn to anything that had to do with power but more to do with helplessness and being human and a young human at that – when you’re still figuring out who you are, who you want to be and having to navigate world affairs basically or governments or the snake-like nature of a royal court.”
Q: You, like your character, are a young woman in a position of power, how do you cope with the pressures of being someone many look up to or scrutinize?
Depp: “You do feel that responsibility whether you want it or not. But I think it’s also … important to remember that it’s hard to consider yourself a role model … when you’re still kind of figuring out who you want be yourself.”
Q: You wore many hats on this project – you co-wrote it, produced it and star in it. Why was this a film you felt so passionate about?
Edgerton: “Quite often when you see this story, and there’s been so many wonderful versions of it, you never really see a super young person playing Henry, and Henry was 25 or 26 when he became king. So this was our chance to not only tell our story for other purposes, political purposes, and extract our own essence out of that story but to put youth in the seat of power.”
Q: What was it like making this film? The battle scenes in particular must have been hard work.
Michod: “They almost killed me… That sounds like an exaggeration but it’s only a little bit… It was something about the heat and the mud and the stress of it. I mean, it’s so huge.
“We shot that battle in two weeks. Normally I think (in) a movie of this ambition, you would maybe have five weeks to do it … I remember driving away from that battlefield when we’d finished it, just feeling like I’d survived something and feeling traumatized … Anyway it looks good in the movie, I think, now.”
Q: Is there a hope the film will help modernize Shakespeare for younger generations, especially given it’s a Netflix movie?
Mendelsohn: “When you have Timothee Chalamet playing King Henry, you’re opening doors… to an audience that most probably isn’t familiar with the Shakespeare stuff … Timmy’s a movie star. Timmy’s got bang.”
Reporting by Hanna Rantala; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Ed