Today: April 16, 2024

The Debt Cast and crew

Suspenseful new British espionage thriller, The Debt, directed by acclaimed British director John Madden is set to hit cinemas this Friday. It delves into the lives and work of three Israeli Mossads affected by the WWII holocaust and their mission to bring to justice an infamous Nazi general.

Suspenseful new British espionage thriller, The Debt out in UK cinemas on Friday 30 Sept,
directed by acclaimed British director John Madden is set to hit cinemas this
Friday. It delves into the lives and work of three Israeli Mossads affected by
the WWII holocaust and their mission to bring to justice an infamous Nazi
general.

Filmjuice caught up with Dame Helen Mirren, who plays Mossad agent Rachel in her older years; set-to-be-MASSIVE
newcomer Jessica Chastain, who
plays Rachel as a young woman; director John Madden and Tom Wilkinson, who plays the older version Rachel’s husband and
mission colleague, Stefan. Below they discuss things that have come back to
haunt them, what it’s like being a press junket virgin and why they wanted to
be a part of this new film.

The Debt is a thriller that really sustains tension
throughout – but what was your thoughts when you first read the script and
decided to come on board the project?

Helen Mirren: That
it was a really, really interesting story, a lovely role. And then there was
John Madden. I have worked with him before in Prime Suspect, before he did
Shakespeare in Love, he’s a great director. That is a combination you don’t say
no to!

John Madden: It is
extraordinarily compelling and challenging material, thematically weighty and
it is an extraordinary opportunity to tell a story which is in one sense a very
pure genre – the thriller genre – but also one that allows a very complex
psychological drama to unfold at the same time. Usually these things pull
against each other in a project, you have to stop the drama for a moment in
order to fill in the character, but this film is different in this way; you
understand who these people are through the story that is unfolding, it all
pulls against itself in a really interesting way.

Jessica Chastain: I
was really excited when I read the script, especially because I think it is
very rare that you get a script in which a woman is allowed to be very strong,
but at the same time very vulnerable. In a film if the female role is strong,
that is all she is. But I felt that with Rachel there was so much complexity
and dwelling and that was really exciting to explore. Of course, working with John Madden was exciting and I knew
I would learn a lot working with him. And of course, sharing a part with Helen
Mirren; you can’t even get close to matching how brilliant she is, but I just
knew I wanted to be around her and soak up her greatness.

Tom Wilkinson: My
thing is similar to Helen’s. I found the script really interesting with
intriguing themes. Also, working with Helen is great because I have worked with
her twice before and also John Madden with whom I have worked a lot and have
increasingly been playing Ward Bond
to his John Ford.

Helen and Jessica, did you have to go to the other actor and
sort out the actions and inflections of Rachel’s character, so we believe you both
as the older and younger versions of Rachel?

HM: John decided we
should all do the characters with a very slight Israeli accent. It is always an
interesting question when you are portraying a Russian or Israeli, for example,
but in an English language film – in theory you are speaking Hebrew to each
other, but you’re not, you’re speaking English. So, should you use an English
or American accent or a Hebrew accent? John decided we should speak with a
slight accent. We had a very good dialect coach and she had a lot of different
accents to work with, but she managed to make it so we at least all sounded
like we was coming from the same country. Jessica and I did work together to
find little physical things we could do to work together to give the effect of
this being one person.

TW: I didn’t have
any contact with Marton [Csokas, who plays a younger Stefan] for two reasons: the
narrative momentum by then has been established to such an extent you don’t
need to concentrate on making yourself a carbon copy of your earlier self.
Secondly, my observation is that people change during the course of their
lives.

JM: One of the
things the film entwines is the notion of looking back and thinking ‘that can’t
be real’, that I behaved that way. With the two Rachel’s you need an affinity,
a kind of symbiosis but we didn’t struggle to put the two pairs together.

John, can you talk about the particular sensitivities you
had to deal with handling this kind of subject matter?

JM: Well, it is a
big responsibility. The biggest theme in terms of modern history and you owe a
debt to take that seriously, particularly when you are dealing with a genre
that is not famous for moral complexity. We were very vigilant about not
reducing things to simple dimensions and using the holocaust as a useful hook
to make people jump in the cinema. The chief way you can honour what happened
is by making the people real and what you are doing truthful.

Jessica, it seems like you are in a lot of new exciting
movies coming up. How do you deal with the attention and keep yourself
grounded?

JC: I have made a lot of films in the past
four and a half years and for me it has been all about the experience of making
the films. I have always tried to choose projects that are a type of master
class for me and that I would leave gaining something, from arriving to it. It
is a very strange experience for me to learn the other side of it, the press
side of it. In fact we were talking before we came in; before this year I had
never done a press junket and in the last six months it’s like every day I am
meeting someone and talking about the films! I am still finding my footing with
it. In my private life everything is exactly the same, I never get stopped. I
think I have been recognised twice!

Helen, did you have any self defence classes?

HM: I didn’t, but
Jessica did. She had to do the fight stuff. I did have a fight in it and we
call it the geriatric fight between a sixty year-old woman and an 80 year-old
man and it’s really hard to get up once you’re down!

Is there is anything from your own past that has come
back to haunt you?

HM: The thing that
will haunt me for the rest of my life is that bloody photograph of me in a
bikini! Which, in and of itself is a lie as I don’t actually look like that!
But I know that is going to haunt me for the rest of my life and I will be
forever trying to bury it unsuccessfully!

The Debt will be in cinemas nationwide from 30th
September.

Marcia Degia - Publisher

Marcia Degia, who has worked in the media industry for more than 20 years, is the Publishing Editor of KOL Social Magazine. See website: thekolsocial.com

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