Over the last few days with the Jameson Dublin International Film FestivalFounded in 2003, the Dublin International Film Festival sets the agenda of the year with its programme of outstanding Irish and international film. More coming to an end Scannain was out and about taking to the actors and directors on the red carpet. Last Saturday was the Irish premiere of Alan Rickman’s second directorial film A Little Chaos, starring Kate Winslet. Actor Cathy Belton, writer Alison Deegan, and Rickman were in town for the premiere.
So Cathy what was it like playing Louise who is this emotional anchor for Sabine (Kate Winslet) in A Little Chaos?
Do you think so?
Oh definitely. She’s really the only character who’s with her for a very long time.
It was great. It was really fantastic, Kate and I had this wonderful time together. At one stage we had filmed stuff that was in the flashbacks. This was because they wanted to establish very fast that Louise was there for her.
What is it like working on a period piece, especially a French period piece?
Unfortunately I didn’t get to go to the ball, but even being a lady in waiting was still quite the experience. Wearing a corset really helped set the tone and helped me into my character. Most period stuff I’ve done is in theatre and I’ve always loved it. The costumes allowed you to be transported physically as well to this time period.
A Little Chaos is a very layered and nuanced film, what was it like bringing it to life?
Well the best thing I can say about that is if you are a writer you have to just sit down and you must absorb everything you have read and that you know about something and then really the best thing you can do is forget it and ust sit there for a long time and listen. Then suddenly you find yourself there with a voice in your head and then another voice and another voice and that really builds and builds, until you have yourself a little solar system and that little solar system is the film. You understand how the planets react to each other and that’s really what I did or I tried to at least.
What scenes were the most challenging to bring from the page to the screen?
What I think what I did basically was I had a crash course in screenwriting and I had two hundred and fifty pages of a screenplay which I gave to Alan (Rickman) and what he showed me basically was that you can nip things and nip things and nip things so that if you’ve only got a hundred and something pages of a script all of those words have to make a difference and you have to understand and you have to try as hard as possible to say as little or as much as possible with as little words as possible. That’s what I learned.
There are so many interesting characters, Sabine, André, King Louis. Who was your favourite to write for?
I think you know that really the central role, Kate’s role was the most interesting. Mainly because I didn’t know what she was doing, I really didn’t know what had happened to her until I started to work one day and I realised I had written two hundred pages and I thought Oh my gosh I’m going to have to do something here. In a way I was listening for her voice and that character strangely brought that forward and that character had showed me what happened to her and that’s how I realised what did happen to her.
There’s a pivotal scene late in A Little Chaos and we won’t spoil it but what was it like writing that scene?
Well as a wife of thirty years and a mother of many daughters and sons I wanted to say when you have a big ol’ marriage it’s like a dinosaur hide. It’s got scars from previous events and really what you have to say is, “I put those scars there too, I made those choices too”, so really you’ve got to understand that if you’re standing there and I’m standing here the relationship is something where nothing happens by accident, everything happens by design whether you know it or not. It’s about taking responsibility, what I wanted to say was blaming one party doesn’t work anymore.
Alan what made you choose the beautiful A Little Chaos as your second directorial outing?
Well you said it’s a beautiful film.
Then maybe I foresaw that it would be and wanted to be attached to it. It’s so well written by Alison, it’s filled with images you want to capture. It’s a very modern story between a man and a woman with a stunning backdrop. It’s truly a story about now as well as about then where we take history and ring it’s neck a bit.
You’re an actor and director so when going into a film as both how do you ensure that you don’t accidentally monopolise the best scenes, is that a challenge?
As the director you’re also the protector of the film and the last thing you want to do is unbalance the film. You know every scene is part of a whole and so even though there is a long scene between myself and Kate nevertheless it’s her we need to watch.
That scene in particular in the garden between yourself and Sabine and she doesn’t know you’re the King, what was that like to film?
Well it’s a wonderful scene and it was potentially going to be very fun to shoot and we kind of enjoyed shooting it, but the day we shot it the wind changed and we were on a flight path and so every thirty seconds we had a plane go by. Sadly it became a bit of a nightmare, good old editing room to the rescue.
There’s this wonderful subplot with her family, what was that like constructing because as I watched it all unfold I was completely taken in.
You’ll have to go again.
I know, because when I heard the voice for the first time I thought someone was talking in the cinema.
Well I’m glad you think that because that’s the important thing about it, because that needs to be fed in and not sledge hammered into the audience’s brain. All of these elements contribute to her discovering who she is and we have to do it with her.
You’ve got a great cast as well, you’ve got Matthias, Kate and Stanley Tucci. He brings a great kind of humour to A Little Chaos, what was it like working with Stanley because his character comes out of nowhere?
Yeah and I think his character is a gentle version of the true person. What a fantastic luxury to have him in the film and not least because he’s an actor who directs so you’ve got his eagle eye flicking around.