Rising Australian stars Tilda Cobham-Hervey and Eamon Farren tell Sophie Tedmanson about their new film Girl Asleep and their close friendship. Styled by Kate Darvill. Photographed by Duncan Killick.
Rising Australian stars Tilda Cobham-Hervey and Eamon Farren on their new film Girl Asleep and their close friendship.
How did you two meet? Tilda Cobham-Hervey: “We have the same agent. Her name is Trish McAskill.” Eamon Farren: “She is the leader of our careers and lives! One day she rang me and said: ‘Darling, I have just met your little sister, she’s from Adelaide and she has a movie coming up.’” TCH: “I believe you were not so keen at the beginning.” EF: “That is not true!” TCH: “Trish is very much like a mother and best friend. I knew about you already because you worked with the Windmill Theatre Company and I have watched every one of those shows since I was a child. As soon as I met Trish, I remember her telling me: ‘You have this big brother.’” EF: “So we sort of had to get along or we would have been in deep trouble.” TCH: “I think we had dinner together after that and then did a short film together called Marcia & The Shark. We spent quite a few days in each other’s pockets and the rest of it has been just running into each other … our worlds collided because we have similar friends and people around us.” And then you did another short film together, The Suitor? EF: “Yes, Tilly plays an enigmatic and studious young woman in the 1930s or 40s. Her aunt is trying to set her up and I play the hapless young suitor who falls in love with Tilly. It kind of felt weird because we are [like] brother and sister.” So what was the first time you worked together and what was it like? TCH: “The first time we started working together was on the first short film. But I was also involved in the initial development of the play Girl Asleep. We played around with a whole lot of ideas and it was excellent fun to be part of. Then I wasn’t able to do the play because of 52 Tuesdays [her debut feature], but I watched it two or three times in Adelaide and Eamon made me laugh so much I was crying.” Was it hard translating Girl Asleep to film? EF: “It was always going to be a massive challenge from the
beginning. Windmill are such a brave, ingenious company and they make such cool work. It has their brand, it has their feel. I think if anyone could do it, they could. What makes the film great is that Matthew Whittet [scriptwriter] and Jonathon Oxlade [production design] made it so original, which I think is really hard to do.” TCH: “What was so exciting was that they didn’t steer away from anything. It was so bold. It feels like the love child of Napoleon Dynamite, and Wes Anderson and Michel Gondry kind of worlds, which I have always loved. In the film they do a lot of theatrical tricks and in the play they do a lot of filmic tricks. It was a nice way to challenge that.” EF: “It’s great to a see a film that it is not the exact frame of its theatrical origin.” TCH: “Everyone had to trust the crazy. We were in a studio the whole time and there is one scene where I am riding a fake horse and there was a wind machine and projector. When you are doing those kinds of things, I think a lot of people have to put blind trust in the fact that in the end it would make sense.” It has had such a huge response, internationally as well. TCH: “What is also so incredible because it’s a kids’ movie and that’s how it is marketed. But really it is a movie for everyone. I have a 12-yearold brother and a lot of the films marketed for that age group aren’t in the same realm as this one. They’re not as bold nor as breathtaking. They don’t have the same odd sense of humour and this film doesn’t dumb down for children. They really inspire kids and challenge them.” EF: “That’s also true because it explores the awkwardness and the kind of cheekiness of everything. The dancing and singing feels like adolescence. The film embraces all that weird stuff.” What is it like to work for a small theatre company like Windmill – is it like a big family? TCH: “I have worked in Adelaide a lot and I grew up in Adelaide and I am about to do another film there. I think it is a testament to how a small community makes work. I think the arts community is small but extremely supportive and is extremely
“I WATCHED IT TWO OR THREE TIMES AND EAMON MADE ME LAUGH SO MUCH I WAS CRYING”
tight-knit and everyone helps each other out a lot. There is a real sense of family between companies and projects there. I think that is why I love working there so much. Everyone was really doing it because they were so passionate, unlike big projects where that isn’t the case.” EF: “I totally agree. Windmill are very loyal to their artists and it’s a company of many incredible people. They’re people who back what they’re doing and I think that makes you feel like this is what it’s about. This one feeling … this is why I do this. I think that is what makes them special.” TCH: “I think it is a strange job from outside. I would always want to be working with people I love who share the same artistic sensibilities. That is the exciting part of the job. I think what happens at Windmill doesn’t happen in other film or theatre companies. They kind of always work with the same people and you get this trust and you build a real community around storytelling. You can push your boundaries much more and be happier about that.” You both have a lot going on. Tilly, you’ve been in The Kettering Incident and Barracuda; and Eamon, you’re working with David Lynch on the new Twin Peaks. EF: “I am excited to see what it turns out like. It was an incredible experience. I am also going over to Broadway for four months to perform The Present [revising the sell-out Sydney Theatre Company show starring Cate Blanchett], and that is going to be so fun. It is a really cool moment for Australian theatre.” How do you feel about doing Broadway? EF: “It’s surreal. I don’t know what to expect. I’m sure it’s going to be exciting and it’s going to be great – we get to live in New York for four months. The opportunity is really amazing but the cast doesn’t really know what to expect. I think it is a dream for everyone. Doing this part on Broadway is a dream come true.” Do you feel like it has been a really big year for you both in professional terms? EF: “This play came out of nowhere for me. Sometimes, it’s a great year and sometimes it’s not. But I have been really busy lately and that is gratifying. I had the pleasure of working with some amazing people in the past year. It has been a wicked year and a half. I am grateful but also excited about what I can do next. But having said that, you don’t know what is coming next. ” TCH: “I find it exhilarating and terrifying all at once. I do go slightly mad not knowing what is going to happen next. I think what I have really learnt in the past year is to keep my brain active. I am trying to find other ways to keep my brain energised and find other ways to become more creative. I’ve been very lucky in the past few years as well. I also know that it could end at any moment, so I’ve been studying, too.” Tell us more about your studies. TCH: “I am studying in Adelaide. It is a study grant that they give out in four different categories where you propose what kind of study you want to undertake. I loved school and I was bit of a nerd and I found it quite hard not going to university, so I am at the point now where I like the idea of going to university. I have been lucky to have work come my way at the moment. I don’t necessarily want to go to a strict drama school but want to do little parts of learning all around the place. I proposed my own version of university that involves studying with Europeans and doing a few more practical classes.” Sounds like Tilly university! EF: “She is so utterly boring [said sarcastically]. Welcome to our brother/ sister relationship!” How did you both get into acting? TCH: “I started doing circus when I was nine. My parents are in the arts industry; my mum was a dancer and my dad works in lighting and set. So I did grow up
around theatre and then I went into the circus. But I was always more interested in the storytelling than the tricks so I was quite uncoordinated. Also, when I was 13 I did a show in Sydney with Kate Champion’s dance theatre company and my mum was playing my mum in it. I then did a short film [Australian comingof-age drama 52 Tuesdays], which was accepted into a Berlin film festival. It was a total surprise because I didn’t think about doing this job forever but it just sort of happened. I would have always been in the arts in some way. I have made little shows in my bedroom and I will always try to keep doing that sort of stuff.” EF: “I think it’s really cool. I grew up on the Gold Coast with a mum who is a teacher. I went to drama school where I met this amazing drama teacher, who I’ll never forget. She had moved back from England and started running this school for drama kids. The best thing she did was not kick me out of class because I was a shithead. When I went to high school, I did some community theatre and always loved it. My first job was working on a film at Movie World in the Gold Coast. I went to do a year of international business and economics at university in the Gold Coast. I knew I was going to be an actor and it was my economics professor who, at the end of first year, suggested I audition for acting school. All my friends in the Gold Coast told me I was wasting my time and theirs because they probably did all my assignments. I eventually quit economics. There are certain things like this industry that make you want to restlessly run towards it.” TCH: “Yes, sometimes there is not a lot of control over the direction your life takes.” We have so many Hollywood films being made in Australia now it seems the boundaries have gone. Do you find that helps as actors – that you don’t have to just be successful in LA anymore and that you’re part of a more global acting community? EF: “I hope that good work will always be around and there will always be a platform to showcase that. Girl Asleep is good work and has found its platform in festivals.” Do you think people are thinking more outside the box, thinking more creatively? EF: “I think filmmaking needs more people working outside the box.” TCH: “I think the whole world gets smaller because of technology. It is also about adapting the technology to what you want to say. The more you travel, the more you learn.” EF: “My mother never understood the industry. [In teaching terms …] it is like a staffroom, but you have a new staffroom every three months. But you still keep in touch and can work with those people again.” Is it a good era in which to be young actors? TCH: “I do. I think the media [being in the public eye] is a blessing and a curse. The Instagram side is full on and I feel a little trapped. Being a young actor is becoming more celebrated as well, especially film and TV. You have so many platforms to watch TV on. If you put money into film and TV, it can be recognised globally.” Do either of you want to direct, write or produce in future? TCH: “No, I would hate it. I would not be able to deal with the responsibility of telling someone what to do and say.” EF: “I don’t want to either. I just want to keep acting. The most exciting and scary part of this job is to keep on acting no matter how old you are. It is one of the best jobs in the world and you just want to keep doing it as long as they have you.” Do you keep in touch with people you have worked with? TCH: “We build a family with these people. You don’t see them for a long time but it can seem like the shortest time when you meet them again.” EF: “We have to make an intense connection with these people, which is so dynamic.” Girl Asleep is showing in cinemas now; the play will be revised at Sydney’s Belvoir in December.
Dior Homme jacket, $3,900, top, $940, pants, $1,400, and shoes, $1,750.
Chanel sweater, $2,100, pants, $5,050, and hat, $1,490, from the Chanel boutiques. Hair: Koh Make-up: Charlie Kielty