Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch Claire Foy

Variety - - Actors On Actors | Contents - PAT R I C K M E L R O S E THE CROWN SHOW­TIME NET­FLIX

BENE­DICT CUMBER

BATCH Did “The Crown” choose you, or did you choose “The Crown” — or was it a bit of both?

CLAIRE FOY I was five months preg­nant. I’d just done “Wolf Hall” and gone, “OK, I can have a baby now.” I just was like, “If this is the end of my ca­reer, then I’m happy.” I was re­ally happy to be preg­nant and just loved not work­ing and loved the idea of eons of time ahead of me where I’d be bring­ing up my child.

CUM­BER­BATCH And then ...

FOY And then you get an in­vi­ta­tion to go and meet Stephen Daldry, who I just think is ex­tra­or­di­nary. I went in with that sort of im­pres­sion of go­ing, one, this is ridicu­lous I’m in a room with these peo­ple. But two, in what world are they go­ing to give a preg­nant woman the role of the Queen of Eng­land? My nose had started to spread, and I was quite sweaty a lot of the time. Also, just be­cause it’s one of those jobs where — I don’t know if you do this, but I def­i­nitely do it — where I think in my head, “I know all these in­cred­i­ble peo­ple who [could play this part].”

CUM­BER­BATCH Al­ways. You feel this sense of guilt like, “Are you sure you’ve got this right? I mean, there’s lit­er­ally five peo­ple I know who would cut off their right hand to do it, and who would be much bet­ter, in my opin­ion.” All the time. It’s like you know how lucky you are when it works out for you. That’s an­other key mo­ti­va­tor for me — just to sort of prove peo­ple’s trust or faith in me. I just go, “Right. Well, they’ve made this choice. I’ve re­ally, re­ally got to ful­fill.”

FOY But it was dif­fer­ent, wasn’t it, with “Pa­trick Mel­rose,” be­cause you were at the very, very, very be­gin­ning of it, weren’t you?

CUM­BER­BATCH I was. The books had been out for a while. I’d come to them quite late by word of mouth, and im­me­di­ately was like, “This is ex­tra­or­di­nary ma­te­rial.” It’s some of the most beau­ti­ful, stun­ning prose of the 21st cen­tury, in the vein of Eve­lyn Waugh and Wode­house. It’s got that in­cred­i­ble ease about it and wit. In a line, you get the whole pic­ture of a char­ac­ter. It just holds you. There are these amazing laugh- out-loud mo­ments, but also this trauma at the cen­ter of it. This man who’s abused by his father from the age of 5 on­wards.

FOY Know­ing you as an ac­tor and hav­ing worked with you, I can see that you put so much of your­self into the role and that so much of it was about you be­ing free. I saw you make choices and do things that I could see that you in your head were go­ing, “Oh, I’ll do that now.” There’s one in­cred­i­ble scene where you take about 400 dif­fer­ent types of drugs. They all have their own dif­fer­ent per­son­al­ity in your body. It’s the most ex­quis­ite thing I’ve ever seen.

CUM­BER­BATCH I want to ask you about the ex­quis­ite craft on dis­play in “The Crown.” You’ve cre­ated a huge amount of em­pa­thy, enigma, vul­ner­a­bil­ity, hu­mor, and with so lit­tle. It is a mas­ter class in re­straint, but, my God, it’s all go­ing on. Your phys­i­cal­ity, the way you hold your­self, the ten­sion in your hands, the shift of the skirt in a seat, the power play, but also be­ing com­pletely cut off at the knees, whether it’s by Philip’s be­hav­ior or a courtier or an un­ex­pected chal­lenge. It’s a real marvel.

FOY The thing about Peter Mor­gan, who’s the writer of it, is that he watches you, knows you’re get­ting com­fort­able and then gives you an in­cred­i­bly emo­tional scene. He knows that the choices you have are re­stricted, and he wants to see you strug­gle with that.

CUM­BER­BATCH Was that go­ing on in the first [sea­son] or was that very much more markedly there in the sec­ond?

FOY It was go­ing on in the first, but I think the sec­ond was very per­sonal. For me, any­way, it felt very much about their marriage. Her world was so small. She be­came so kind of cut off. I felt it was quite re­lent­less in the cul­mi­na­tion of her emo­tion­ally un­rav­el­ing re­ally but hav­ing nowhere to go.

CUM­BER­BATCH It was a real pres­sure cooker to watch as well. It was such re­lief at the end: that com­pact, that love re­turn­ing, that un­der­stand­ing of what’s gone on has gone on, but the love is still there. Which I thought is just heart­break­ing.

I WAS FIVE MONTHS PREG­NANT. I’D JUST DONE “WOLF HALL” AND GONE, “OK, I CAN HAVE A BABY NOW.” I JUST WAS LIKE, “IF THIS IS THE END OF MY CA­REER, THEN I’M HAPPY.” I LOVED THE IDEA OF EONS OF TIME AHEAD OF ME WHERE I’D BE BRING­ING UP MY CHILD. — CLAIRE FOY

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