Here are two more in the treasure trove of European press interviews for War of the Worlds, plus some good news!
To begin with the good news: The Hollywood Reporter tells us that AGC Studios, tasked with the North and South American distribution of this new series, made a splash at the American Film Market in Santa Monica, California just yesterday!
(Studio boss Stuart) Ford’s presentation on Wednesday of AGC’s upcoming slate of features, documentaries and TV series was arguably the hottest ticket at this year’s AFM. Buyers from around the world, from studios to indies and from theatrical to streamers, packed the main theater of the ArcLight Cinema in Santa Monica. Demand was such that AGC had to book a second hour-long session to accommodate the over-spill. . .
The company also screened footage from its documentary lineup, including Oliver Stone’s JFK: Destiny Betrayed, CNN Films’ political biopic John Lewis Makes Good Trouble and Scandalous: The Untold Story of the National Enquirer. And from its TV division it screened a trailer of the hotly anticipated re-imagining of War of the Worlds, starring Elizabeth McGovern and Gabriel Byrne, which AGC is co-producing with France’s CanalPlus.
So! We don’t know where the series is going to end up, but this news is very promising. Be patient, Americans on both sides of the equator. It seems our aliens are on the way!
Julia Fernandez, news collected on September 30, 2019 – Nov. 5, 2019
The War of the Worlds on Canal +: “an in-depth analysis of human behavior”
Meeting with the series’ performers Gabriel Byrne, Léa Drucker and Elizabeth McGovern, and director Gilles Coulier.
Minor spoilers ahead, so be forewarned!
The cast of the Canal+ series War of the Worlds brings together both French and British actors (and the Irish Gabriel Byrne), a challenge to the director Gilles Coulier, in charge of episodes 1 to 4.
“The process of selecting actors is different in Belgium because we do not have a casting director. For me, casting can be a intense meeting or a simple conversation. Two roles were particularly close to my heart for the choice of actors: that of Emily on the British side, and that of Christine on the French side. For this role, I was impressed by Léa [Drucker’s] performance in the film movie Jusqu’à la garde (Custody, 2017), and she quickly accepted the proposal. We did a casting call for Emily’s character because we were looking for a young actress, and it took us months, but when we found Daisy Edgar Jones, she was the right one!”
The director sought actors with experience, and a certain intelligence of performance (“The moment Gabriel and Elizabeth arrived on the project, I felt that they were made for each other!” ) to embody realistic characters, immersed in an apocalyptic situation.
“In truth, no one really knows in advance how they would react in this extreme situation, and this idea was very interesting to explore,” according to Elizabeth McGovern, who plays Helen. “I think for all of us, what sets the show apart is how it focuses on how humans react to a cataclysm, the idea of the end of the world, rather than surface elements like the appearance of aliens. It analyzes human behavior in depth, in particular the notion that interests me the most: We are all in the same boat, though we live in a world so stratified–the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting more and more poor. People are drastically separated … The series makes the observation that an external enemy could finally unite us, through the goal of common survival, that would put us all on the same level: now there are refugees like the upper middle class, to which the couple Bill and Helen belong. The external enemy is the factor that unifies us as humans.”
In fact, adds Gilles Coulier, “Those who seem to be less favored in life will be compared to those who have a higher social status, and everything changes radically for them! The character of Kariem (Bayo Gbadamosi, who plays a Sudanese refugee), for instance, knows how to adapt to survive.” For Léa Drucker, who plays the researcher Catherine Durand, the conclusion is similar. “I am convinced that in case of disaster I would probably react in the same way as my character: I would be terrified, stunned and lost,” she says. “I remember a particularly violent storm in France in the early 2000s (From the editor: December 1999) when I was in Normandy with my grandparents. I was particularly scared, while my grandparents were very proactive, because they experienced war and bombings. When shooting with Gilles, I again had this feeling of being like a child, not knowing how to react, with this very organic feeling, that this was new, to live something we have never experienced.”
“There is a permanent conflict between everyone’s determination to survive, and our immense capacity for denial–that’s where fiction comes in: it has the power to change our consciousness.” –Gabriel Byrne
The gender-specific themes of loss and survivor syndrome in the post-apocalyptic narrative are recurrent throughout the eight episodes: “In the series, characters are faced with the loss of their children,” adds McGovern. “My character struggles with the temptation to end her life, but she encounters another bereaved mother who ends up making this terrible choice. It is an integral part of the story: Do we still choose life? In this kind of situation?”
For Gabriel Byrne, who plays Bill, a scientist trying to understand the origins of the aliens and save his ex-wife, Helen, at any cost, “The reason the influence of the Wells book has lasted so long is because, in a way, while the world described in 1908 is unrecognizable from a technological point of view, some themes are still unchanged.” The series raises even greater questions about the meaning of being alive: “What is the life force? What enables us to move forward in the face of despair and destruction? What keeps us going until the last breath?” he asks. “Sometimes we are more affected by fiction than by the facts. We become numb to the flow of information … Sometimes it is necessary to rise above that, and to wonder what the conditions are that led us to the world we live in. What causes inequalities in wealth, floods of refugees? What is the legacy of modern colonialism or, in other words, corporatist imperialism? What is changing in the way we receive information? We are so overwhelmed that it is difficult for us to have even one opinion on a subject, because our opinions are unconsciously biased by what we hear and what we read. We do not take the time to have a real overview.”
For the Irish actor, as brilliant as the book and series are, they take place at a time when humanity had no choice about where the disaster occurred. “But how are we managing the gradual catastrophe, the one we are currently experiencing, with global warming?” he concludes adamantly. “There is a permanent conflict between everyone’s determination to survive, and our immense capacity for denial–that’s where fiction comes in: it has the power to change our consciousness.”
War of the Worlds, currently broadcast every Monday at 21h on Canal+.
The trailer with Greek subtitles
Just to add some spice to all of this French translation! wink
Marjolaine Jarry, October 28, 2019
Gabriel Byrne: “In our post-truth era, we must question everything, like the child we used to be”
With seasoned skepticism and thoughtful elegance, the Irish actor portrays a scientist struggling with alien extraterrestrial intelligence in “War of the Worlds,” a series inspired by the novel by H. G. Wells.
The end of the world. The final word. 69-year-old Gabriel Byrne responds to it all:
“No one says, on his deathbed, what a pity I did not do this series for HBO!”
How did we arrive at this grim juncture just minutes after the beginning of the interview? The context of the meeting is probably at least partly responsible: the actor is in Paris to support the series “War of the Worlds” — not exactly, one suspects, an illustration of optimism. Cleverly free from aliens as a hook, this version of H. G. Wells’ novel (either due to the randomness of the calendar or as a symptom of strained logic, another “War of the Worlds” is about to be launched on the BBC) bears the signature of Howard Overman, the creator of “Misfits,” who has already been demystifying the virtuous world of superheroes.
In a post-apocalyptic universe, with suburban neighborhoods littered with corpses, the British screenwriter begins a political questioning of our society’s corruption and we see, in the heart of the darkness, some bursts of humanity. Gabriel Byrne portrays a scientist taking advantage of this environment to reconnect with his ex (the end of the world has a good side), played by Elizabeth McGovern, aka Lady Cora in “Downton Abbey.” In addition to being the brilliant actor she was waiting for, McGovern says Byrne revealed himself to be “atrociously funny.”
In order to exhaust all the humorous topics, we ask him what will go through his mind when death arrives:
“This is an extremely profound question, which puts life in perspective at once. I have a brother who has been a firefighter for thirty years. He has seen people have to choose in an instant what matters most to them, what they will save from their house in flames. In our last moments, we think about our children, our family, what we did with our lives: Did I do good? Did I at least try? Did I harm intentionally? And then there is what we would have liked to do, what we would have liked to say to a particular person … The worst regrets are those that arrive too late.”
Playboy for intellectuals
The man the New York Times once called “a playboy for intellectuals” — blame it on the dark blue eyes that accompany a dense verb, an elegance without affectation when summoning the poet Shelley or the Stoics — started out by having a thousand lives before choosing his own. Plumber, bartender, bicycle repairman, encyclopedia salesman, undertaker, teacher, cook, archaeologist–it was not until he was 29 years old that he decided to go on stage. At age 40, the Coen brothers propelled him to stardom with “Miller’s Crossing,” at the forefront of Howard Overman’s “Worshipped Movies.” He “did not dare to dream” of Gabriel Byrne being cast. His role of gang leader in “The Usual Suspects” offers him, shortly thereafter, both critical and public success, while the French confirm his status of cerebral-sexy muse with “Just A Sigh,” from Jérôme Bonnell: twenty-four hours of crazy love with Emmanuelle Devos.
As for this “series for HBO” mentioned above, he has already made it: Paul Weston, the psychologist of “In Treatment” (“En analyse”), is him. An intense role, it required an actor at the height of his power (each episode is a closed session, taking the same time as a real therapy session), able to give substance to the moral dilemma and ambivalence of a caregiver who suffers.
“It’s a series about listening. which has a lot to do with acting. If I can replace a line of dialogue with a look, a gesture, I never hesitate. In television, we do not remember what we heard, just what we saw.”
Indeed, it would have been necessary to create a category of the Emmy Awards just for Byrne’s hands, or for his look, in “In Treatment.” And himself? Has he ever been in psychotherapy? “Never. Well, I went to see someone, twice. I realized that he was only thinking about my character … A big mistake.”
Watchful and keen
“War of the Worlds,” as far as he is concerned, sounds like the class struggle, the clash between the working class environment that he saw growing up in Ireland and today. The first of a family of six children, son of a cooper and a nurse, he had to “not do what was expected of him.” He was a renegade in all aspects of his life. Class defector and defrocked, raised under the tutelage of the Catholic Church, he once was a seminarian, as a teenager, before questioning the dogma. The thing is, when one starts to think for oneself, it becomes impossible to stop. Watchful and keen, Gabriel Byrne calls for vigilance:
“We live in a post-truth era. We must question everything, like the child we used to be. “
His own field of action, film, does not escape scrutiny: “Hollywood war movies broadcast a typically American ideology of resolution by violence,” said the man who has lived, for years, in New York. “It’s a soft power that deserves a critical look.”
He has a distrust of any form of domination, probably born of his childhood stolen by tyrannical and corrupt Catholic institutions: “I cannot help questioning medical, state, moral authority … All these forms of power that can turn into ‘abuse of power.’ I know it, I still have trouble with that.” It makes sense, then, that he is one of the few actors to defend, publicly, his sisters who denounce male oppression through the #Metoo movement. During the interview, he passionately recommends one of the new Fall books: “Know My Name,” by Chanel Miller, about the rape she suffered and the consequences of it. “All men should read it to really understand what rape does.” Again, he addresses Catholicism:
“We were being hammered that there were pure women and impure women, we were denied access to sexuality … On many subjects, I was indoctrinated, at an early age, and this was so deeply ingrained in me that I sometimes still struggle with it.”
A secondary benefit, however: he does not fear much anymore. To have confronted the anger of God and adopted the option of an empty sky has vaccinated him against some anxieties. “I still have fears, of course. I’m afraid of disease. But death, no.” He smiles and remembers Elizabeth McGovern’s comment on his mordant sense of humor.
“We’re going to sleep every night, not thinking that we might not be here tomorrow … And since we do not know, sleep is good training for eternal rest!”
And so, ladies and gentlemen, good night and good luck!
Mordant indeed! wink
New interviews are coming, so stay tuned!