In Anthropoid, Jamie Dornan and Cillian Murphy play a pair of Czech operatives on a mission to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, one of the main architects of the Holocaust and the leader of Nazi forces in Czechoslovakia.
Although they're a team onscreen in the Bleecker Street release based on true events that hits theaters today, Dornan and Murphy didn't spend a lot of time together before filming to try to cultivate a close bond. But it seemed clear in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter ahead of the film's release that a friendship has developed between the two.
As he talked about being a fan of Murphy's work, Dornan slipped in a subtle dig at his slightly older co-star, saying with a straight face, "Obviously he's a great deal older than me, so I've sort of grew up watching Cillian's work." Murphy immediately began laughing at Dornan's playful ribbing.
Apart from expressing their mutual admiration for one another, Dornan and Murphy talked about the research they did to play Jan Kubis and Josef Gabcik, respectively, relying largely on the 15 years of research writer-director Sean Ellis said he put into the project before filming began.
Murphy, well-known for his roles in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, where he played the Scarecrow (he hasn't seen Zack Snyder's Batman v. Superman, he said) and Inception, is reteaming with Nolan for another World War II film, Dunkirk, which will be released next summer.
For Dornan, Anthropoid is a rare onscreen departure from his role as Christian Grey in Universal's ongoing Fifty Shades trilogy.
Dornan revealed that he felt significantly less pressure making the second and third films in a trilogy that launched with more than $570 million at the box office, adding that he thinks some of that initial anxiety may have crept into the first film. He also opened up about being in Nice during the Bastille Day terror attack and the struggle of returning to work the next day.
Writer-director Sean Ellis spent many years researching this part of history before filming began. What sort of research did you do to prepare for your roles?
Cillian Murphy: [We were very lucky that Sean researched the film for many years.] We sort of piggybacked on his knowledge, and he gave us a lot of materials, which we read. For me, the greatest resource was actually shooting the film in Prague. We were able to shoot in a lot of the locations where the mission actually happened and these guys existed, so that was kind of very affecting. We had a Czech crew and a lot of Czech actors. There's a great deal of authenticity to the project, and Sean was very anxious that that was the case from the beginning. You do your due diligence, you read as much as you can, and then, ultimately, I find that you discard that and you concentrate on the characters and you can draw on [the research] if you wish, but I think ultimately it's about bringing as much truth and honesty to the portrayal as possible.
Jamie Dornan: You're in a very nice position as an actor when you're portraying a piece of history that actually happened and portraying characters that actually existed. There's so much more to draw on and your research as an actor becomes much easier than if it's some fiction that you're trying to create a world around and background and history. When it's actually happened, that makes it much easier. There's plenty of information out there — books, online — about this part of history that research was very easy to come by.
Did you know each other before filming or spend time together to develop the bond of two operatives who'd worked together for a while?
Murphy: There's this thing that's come about that wasn't there when I started acting which is they do this thing called a chemistry test. They put a camera in front of two people, it's usually a boy and a girl, and they go, [whispering]. It's impossible. You can't manufacture it or film it, it just has to happen. Luckily I was aware of Jamie's work. I loved The Fall; I was kind of obsessed with that show. And then we just met in London and had dinner together and got on. I think it was kind of coincidental that we were Irish. We could be from anywhere. It seemed to work on camera. And there's very few films — because you make a lot of films and you meet people and you work very intensely and intimately and then you're gone — but there's a few where you actually make friends, and this was one.
Dornan: Yeah, I agree. I was and still am a massive fan of Cillian's work — always have been. Obviously he's a great deal older than me, so I've sort of grew up watching Cillian's work. But I'm very much a fan. It's a tiny industry. Actors all know each other to a point where you always know someone who knows the other person who worked with them. If you're a prick, everyone knows you're a prick, and if you're a nice person, everyone knows you're a nice person. I'd known plenty of people who'd worked with Cillian, and he was one of those people I'd only heard good things about. It's pleasing when it works like this. As Cillian said, it's not always like that.
How do you feel about watching yourselves onscreen? Do you try to avoid it?
Murphy: I think any actor that says 'I never watch my films' is a liar because you have to watch it at least once and also you're going to watch it when you're doing your ADR. I also think anyone who says it's pleasant is a liar. But it's nice to watch it with an audience. And Jamie had the pleasure of watching it with a Czech audience [at the Karlovy Vary film festival]. I missed that.
Dornan: I think you only watch stuff you've done once because I don't think it's that beneficial to you. I think it's important to sometimes be like, 'What's that thing I'm doing with my face? I didn't think I was doing that.' But once is definitely plenty. Outside of ADR, I got to watch Anthropoid with this Czech audience and the story means so much to the Czech people so watching it with that audience was kind of terrifying but they responded very well.
Are there any directors you haven't worked with yet that you want to?
Murphy: I have a list as long as my arm but I find those lists sort of self-defeating because you start to name and then after [the interviewer] leaves the room you go 'Ah, I forgot this person or that person.' So I just don't do it anymore. Hopefully if you make work that people like, they'll get in contact with you.
Dornan: I don't have specific people. There are so many people that I admire and there's directors that I'm desperate to work with that haven't even made a movie yet, probably. There's very exciting directors who haven't made a feature yet. That's what's cool about the job—the ever-changing landscape of people you could potentially work with.
Jamie, switching gears to Fifty Shades for a minute: I know you've been filming the two sequels (Darker and Freed). What's it been like to work with new director James Foley and new screenwriter Niall Leonard?
Dornan: It's been great. We just finished two and three back-to-back, so I'm finished now. Jamie Foley — he's a very different energy to [director] Sam [Taylor-Johnson]. The whole experience was actually quite different. A lot of the pressure of the first movie was gone. Essentially I feel like all of that pressure when you're making the first of a franchise of [movies based on] books that mean so much to people that has so much attention on it, it can be quite paralyzing I think. I think a lot of that creeped in the first time around and it maybe affects the work. But this time, I know because the movie's made a lot of money, everyone's relaxed a bit so there wasn't that pressure to set the tone for the movies so I felt a little more freedom this time and it probably made it more enjoyable.
You were also filming in the South of France around the same time as the Bastille Day terror attack. Were you concerned for your safety?
Dornan: I mean, most of the crew were staying in Monaco. But my family and I were actually staying in Nice because I had my whole family there and we wanted a little more space and to stay in a hotel. The truth is we were asleep [when the attack happened] and woke up the next morning to it and it was obviously horrific. And then the idea of going out and filming, it just felt so stupid to be working the next day and pretending that everything's cool when you're making some frivolous thing. Yeah, it was horrific but being somewhere that's just been attacked the day after, as harrowing as it is, you feel safe in a way that you know it's not a target the next day, the way things go these days.