“He’s out of his depth”
Asa Butterfield is Jake
“Shes a very cool and eccentric character” “I wanted to play the badass!”
What was it about Jacob that leapt off the page for you? Jacob is the normal one in this wacky world. He’s the pillar of normality when everything else is chaotic. He’s the one that the audience are going to relate to, the one they’re going to sympathise with, because he’s taken out of his comfort zone and thrown into this totally alien world. He’s out of his depth and that’s something we can all relate to.
Do you think actors should be outsiders? I think the best actors are outsiders, definitely. You have to be able to empathise totally with other people, other characters. If you can’t do that then you can’t totally put yourself in their shoes, and you can’t feel what it would be like to be them. Being an outsider makes you able to appreciate and acknowledge when other people are outsiders. It just makes it so much easier to get into their head, figure them out.
Were you jealous of anyone else’s powers? The birds, the Ymbrynes, they can sort of manipulate time. And I thought oh, that’s unfair, that’s just cheating, you can just beat anyone! So that would probably be the coolest power to have. How did Tim sell this to you? He just said, “Read this book and tell me what you think. And if you like it, maybe you could be in it.” I could play anything for Tim – I could play a tree, a broom, anything [laughs]. It’s a bird in this movie. It was such a gorgeous story, and a very cool and eccentric character.
How close is the film to be book? It’s a bit different, I would say. The old photographs in the book are absolutely beautiful – spooky, and haunting. You’re like, “Oh my god, of course Tim is going to direct it.” Only Tim could direct this, actually. He always brings emotion and poetry, and it’s always very delicate. It is unique. He has such a great vision.
This isn’t a typical superhero movie, is it? I think in the outside world these abilities would be seen as a handicap and these children would be persecuted because of that. But on this island, they’re kind of celebrated for being so unique, and the message in the film, for children as well as adults, it’s just, “Be yourself, no matter how strange you are.” That’s what Tim does best. I feel like he understands the hearts of outcasts, and he celebrates them. It’s beautiful. Film Emma’s very different from book Emma… That was the first thing I noticed. I expected to be this fiery, badass character and then I read the script and she was the total polar opposite. I was like oh man, I wanted to play the badass! But you know what, this is Tim Burton and Jane Goldman. Just trust them. They’re going to do an incredible job and all you’ve got to do is create a character that doesn’t exist already, which is what you do for a living anyway.
Do you know why they changed her powers? From talking to Jane Goldman about it, it fits in more with Hollywood. If you have a fiery badass character she does tend to dominate. But the film’s a celebration of individuality and more importantly it’s about Asa, and how Jake goes on this emotional journey. At first I didn’t agree with it because I wanted to be this cool girl who played with fire. But it does make much better sense. It’s much more romantic, it makes their moments together much more tender and sweet. And just that image of her being up in the sky is actually more Tim Burton than a girl with flames coming from her hand.
Eva Green is Miss Peregrine Ella Purnell is Emma