Today: May 27, 2024

Breakfast with Jonny Wilkinson – Interview with George MacKay

In ‘Breakfast with Jonny Wilkinson’ George MacKay plays Jake, a young rugby player who has the unnatural gift of being able to make every kick that Jonny Wilkinson makes for England. But it works both ways. If Jake misses, Jonny misses. Not the end of the world right? Except today is the World Cup final and things are hotting up at Jake’s local rugby club.

Not only is George MacKay the man of the moment, having starred in three films all released on the same day in October (and now in this one), he’s also handsome, intelligent, does all his own stunts, and has just won a Scottish BAFTA. All this and he still managed to find the time to talk to Filmjuice’s James Hay. Oh, and he’s a thoroughly nice bloke as well.

2013 has been a very busy year for you with three of your films out on the same day: ‘How I Live Now’, ‘Sunshine on Leith’ and ‘For Those in Peril’ all opening on 4th October. That’s pretty mad. And of course you’ve just won the Scottish BAFTA for Best Actor in ‘For Those in Peril’. How does it all feel right now?
As you say, it’s been kind of mad. It’s the first time I’ve had to do a lot of press stuff really, so I guess that’s the one new thing from it. But I’ve been lucky because I’m working on something at the moment and that’s been nice to have something to concentrate on while the films are coming out and all the press side of it’s going on. It’s wonderful talking about the films but it’s strange because you’re always revisiting them, because your job on it essentially finished a year ago, and then it’s almost like it’s a slightly different job talking about a film that’s already happened. So that’s been a strange one for me, getting my head around that because as soon as you talk about a film it brings back all the memories from the job and you’re talking about people, that you might not have seen for months, as if you were with them yesterday because suddenly that’s how fresh it feels again. But it’s been lovely getting to revisit that and see everyone again, so yeah, its’ been cool.

Everything seems to be coming together at the right time for you but I wondered if there had been any tough moments in your career and, if so, does it all seem worth it now?
Yeah, I mean, you go through periods of not getting work but I think I’ve always been lucky and managed to get auditions. It’s rubbish if you’re not getting any parts when you’re auditioning all the time but I think it’s even harder when you’re just not getting the auditions. It’s one thing to feel like you’ve had the chance and missed out rather than to feel like you’re not even getting the chance in the first place to put yourself across, so I’ve been lucky not to have too much of that. But, definitely, a couple of years ago I went through a spell of not getting much work but I was lucky again because that kind of coupled with my A-Levels. So that worked out as I managed to devote some time to school.

‘Sunshine on Leith’, ‘How I Live Now’ and ‘For Those in Peril’ are all bigger budget films with some pretty serious, and even dark, subject matter. Was it nice to do something a bit smaller and lighter like ‘Breakfast with Jonny Wilkinson’?
Yeah. I thought that was what was so wonderful about it. It’s basically a low-key farce and it’s all about timings and literally the ins and outs and I loved the fact that it was all set in one room. I think if you can hold a film in a very small space, I think it’s such an amazing thing, especially with all the films going on at the minute. It seems it’s so much to do with scale nowadays, so to have this film in such a small setting and it just be about those characters interacting in that small space, I thought was wonderful and I was very attracted to be a part of it. Also getting to do something that’s close to theatre is exciting as well, getting back to the roots of how things are done and trying to bleed those mediums together. And it made me laugh. It’s rare that you read something and you laugh out loud and I thought the script was really funny and it was a lovely opportunity as well. I think it’s very important to make choices in your work but also at the same time you learn, you take so much from each job, every job is some sort of stepping stone, you know it’s not just climbing the industrial ladder, it’s a learning experience.

Are you a rugby fan then? You’re kicking looks pretty good, was that all you?
Yeah, that was all me. I played a bit of rugby at school but nothing too serious but [for the film] it was just a case of going out practicing every morning when I was walking my dog, just kicking and kicking and kicking as much as I could, even in between takes, on down time if we were at the club then I’d just go and kick whenever I could.

Do you remember England winning the World Cup back in 2003?
My main memory of the World Cup in 2003, I don’t remember a huge amount of the actual match itself, but I was in the crowd at the Sports Personality of the Year awards and that was obviously the year that Jonny won and I remember seeing all the players outside the BBC and thinking they were giants, you know, every one with a black eye, these mountains of men, so that’s the memory I have of that time.

There are a lot of comedians / comedic actors in the cast, was it a fun film to make?
Yeah, it was a great laugh all the time. Norman [Pace] is wonderful, everyone really, having a crack all the time, sharing banter on set. I think it needs to be [like that] working at such close quarters and everyone got on famously.

You’ve already worked with some pretty big names, Clive Owen, Daniel Craig to name a couple, I wondered who’d been the best and who you’d like to work with in the future?
I learned a lot from Eddie Marsan, who I got to work with last year on ‘The Best of Men’ which was a TV movie, he was an amazing person to be on set with and I learned a lot spending time with him. I think you learn from everyone and every experience but I think in the future, there are tons of big names you could call out but I’m looking to try to have personal working relationships with people, not to say you wouldn’t get that if you worked with one of the heavyweights but it’s more a method of working that I’m looking to learn and explore rather than any one person in particular.

So what’s next then? Hollywood? Oscars? Or more British films like this one?
It’s just a pleasure to be working. You really learn so much with each one and as soon as you learn something you can’t wait to take it onto the next one and have another place or find another way to try it out. I’d love to do some theatre because that’s another method of working. Come the future, it’s dependent on the project and the story being told. [In terms of] Stuff that’s coming, I finished a film earlier this year called ‘Bypass’, which I had a really great time working on, and I’m working on a film at the minute called ‘Pride’, which is a lovely story with an ensemble cast, so that’s the next thing that I’m doing.
But definitely working in different mediums, not just for the sake of dong it but for learning the difference between being on stage and being on set and all that goes with that process.

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