Interview - FCAD 2018 : Claire McCarthy on Ophelia
Par Mulder, Los Angeles, le 4.10.2018
Q : What can you tell us about your background before becoming a director ?
Claire McCarthy : I studied Visual Communication with a double major in film and design at the University of Technology in Sydney (Honours), and then did a post-graduate degree at Australian Film TV and Radio School. Worked as a visual artist, musician and documentarian in a variety of odd and varied jobs.
Q : What are for you the main thematic of the Shakespeare’s book and of your movie ?
Claire McCarthy : Filmmaking is such a primal act – instinctive, primal – a journey of self-discovery as much as it is about communication, emotional intelligence, the rhythm and melody of a formal, constantly evolving cinema language. It’s really important to me that there is something personal and binding within the work that draws me in, particularly if I’m not the author too. We’ve seen many stories that explore the existential crisis of Hamlet. But we’ve never seen any story that puts the world around him under scrutiny – the choices and responsibilities he bears. Ophelia in the original story is really undone by love. This version gives her much more grit and agency, yet still keeps her within the framework of her time and culture… The intersection of a burning, personal need to shed light on a particular story or issue, and timing - societies willingness to be open to hearing your view. Ultimately my hope with Ophelia is that an audience can re-experience the Hamlet they know and love, with added delight, complexity and whimsy due the shift of the narrative axis. To an audience who is not an expert in Shakespeare, nor familiar with the brilliance of his masterwork, my hope is the story and characters have new currency and invite an audience to experience, or re-experience this timeless story.
Q : What should be for you a great collaboration between a director and a screenwriter concerning an adaptation ?
Claire McCarthy ; Respect for the other artists creative space, challenging the material as it will engage differently on screen, investigation, and loads of time together.
Q : Where have you shoot mainly this movie and on how may days ?
Claire McCarthy : We shot over three months in castles, cathedrals and cloisters in the Czech Republic and the Barrandov Studios in Prague.
Q : Having made a few films now, Cross Life (2007), The Waiting City (2009), Little Hands (2011), segment from The Turning (2013) starring Rose Byrne, Sisters (Shot in Calcutta, India in 2008) Ophelia is your fourth movie. We have discovered this one yesterday during the Deauville American film festival. Can we say that this movie is a feminist manifesto ?
Claire McCarthy ; Hamlet is one of Shakespeare’s beloved plays and the things he articulates in the story are sublime. I wanted to be faithful to that but also to re-interpret the story and see it through women’s eyes. So I was really thinking about what Ophelia’s experience would be as secondstatus person in that realm. Ophelia is a handmaiden and she’s privy to secrets and taboos that she wouldn't necessarily be able to talk about. The opening drama is slightly different to the original and hopefully it still has the passion and the themes of the original text but viewed through the prism of her experience.
Q : Which moment of this movie was the most difficult for you and why ?
Claire McCarthy : Spending almost six years casting the project, doing further pitching to secure financing, navigating unbelievable politics has been difficult. What has been super hard has not been the fact this is a twist on Shakespeare and is set in castles in the 14thcentury – it has been that we had a number of female characters in the lead role. Hollywood in the cinema space is very retrospective in assessing the worth of an actor, or a project – it’s all about what has worked before and who has earned what at the box office. It’s frankly a miracle our project has managed to be made!
Q : What can you tell us about the way you have worked with the composer Steven Price ?
Claire McCarthy : Working with Steven Price was an absolute joy. We really wanted to devise a bold, confidently emotional score that operated in counterpoint to the story and escalated to a dramatic fever pitch climax. We really both wanted to use almost subconscious vocal lines in a contemporary way and weave this with traditional (and untraditional) melodic patterns and orchestration.
Q : What are for you are the main themes of Shakespeare’s book and of your movie ?
Claire McCarthy : OPHELIA is brimming with provocative youth-fuelled charisma, exploring the nature of true love and beauty, the slippery slope of entitlement, fate and negotiation and the limitations and edges of freedom, relationships and power. This film has the potential to also reach younger audiences who are interested in epic tales with mythic, romance and action components. The themes and Ophelia’s emotional journey raise questions about morality, gender and self determinism, and will be of interest to a younger audience.
Q : How have you successfully built a such great cast included Daisy Ridley, Naomi Watts, Clive Owen, Tom Felton ?
Claire McCarthy : They are such wonderful actors and are so collaborative. Daisy has a strength about her which we saw in the Star Wars franchise. She just blew everyone’s socks off. In the original story Ophelia’s almost like a victim, she’s very delicate and kind of becomes undone by love. In our version we wanted her not to be the waif-like, frail, vulnerable woman. There are elements of that, but Daisy also brings her innate strength to the character. Naomi’s so complex and such a wonderful actress, she’s one of the greats- utterly unafraid. She really just wants to go deep into the material and bring something great to the screen. Clive Owen, Tom Felton & George MacKay are all such stellar actors and it was such a wonderful experience working with them.
Q : Do you have some French actors that you would like to work with ?
Claire McCarthy : The wonderful Eva Green who will be joining the cast of The Luminaries, my current project shooting on location in New Zealand!
Q : What kind of advice could you give to someone who would like to work as a director ?
Claire McCarthy : This is not a glamorous business - you need to be consistent, thick skinned and be prepared to put in the hard work, and then work harder still. This is an art learned best learned by doing – you can learn a certain amount in class or in books, but you will learn the most by far about your craft and your individual voice by making things. Easier said than done I know! But be resourceful – use the tech you have around you – doesn’t have to be fancy pants to tell a story and move people. Expand your world – don’t be afraid to ask for help - and be prepared to share and give in equal parts in return. Find what you’re drawn to – learn about yourself in the process – what pushes your buttons, what draws you in, repels you. Go for challenges. Innovate. Sometimes the things you think can’t work are solutions. Be excited about the work, the challenges and the artistry. Life’s too short to not aim for the highest level of excellence. Remember this is not a business for sprinters – it’s an endurance sport – so stay light on your feet, keep positive and find your family. Keep your feet on the ground and your head in the clouds.
Q : What are your current projects ?
Claire McCarthy : Current projects include The Luminaries, a six part TV series based on the Man Booker Prize winning novel and adapted for the screen by Eleanor Catton and Burning Season, a feature film starring Naomi Watts, Sophia Lillis, shooting in Madagascar in 2019, based on the award winning novel by Laura Van Den Berg and adapted for the screen by Jenny Halper.
Ophelia (Daisy Ridley) is the most trusted lady-in-waiting to the Queen (Naomi Watts).She soon captures the attention of Prince Hamlet (George MacKay) and a forbidden love blossoms. As war brews, lust and betrayal begin to tear Elsinore Castle apart from within in this reimagining of the famed Hamlet.
Directed by Claire McCarthy
Produced by Ehren Kruger, Daniel Bobker, Sarah Curtis, Paul Hanson
Screenplay by Semi Chellas
Based on Hamlet by William Shakespeare and Ophelia by Lisa Klein
Starring Daisy Ridley (Ophelia), Naomi Watts as Gertrude (Mechtild), Clive Owen (Claudius), Tom Felton (Laertes), George MacKay (Hamlet), Devon Terrell (Horatio), Dominic Mafham (Polonius), Daisy Head (Christina), Anna Rust (Young Mechtild)Cinematography : Denson Baker
Edited by Luke Dunkley
Production companies : Bobker/Kruger, Bert Marcus Film, Fourthcoming Films
Release date : January 22, 2018 (Sundance)
Running time : 100 minutes
She is an Australian filmmaker, screenwriter, producer and visual artist. Her filmography includes Ophelia (2018), Little Hands (2011), The Waiting City (2009), Cross Life (2007).
A big thanks to Mallory Meystedt for this nice interview with Claire McCarthy on Ophelia