Jeremy Strong He really loves acting. This becomes abundantly clear as we settle into a long conversation at the Madeline Hotel in Mountain Village, a few gondolas from Telluride Town. Strong is in town for the North American premiere of his new movie, Armageddon Timesemi-autobiographical photo of James Gray In it, Strong brilliantly plays a wounded, angry but endearing father of the director. We’ve just come from the festival’s annual Filmmakers’ Lunch, where Strong enjoyed some stunning mountain views, and also a few breaths while he was allowed a short break from the Succession settled in.
As we talk about his complex new film, though the height and rush might take a bit from us, Strong immediately proves he’s excited, focused, and terrifying in conversation. He will close his eyes for a few minutes as he gets lost in memory. He’ll smile as he thinks of one scene that went well. And he’s going to get more serious, candid, and prepared as he talks about the past year, including the viral transition to New Yorker The profile that told me he felt was a “deep betrayal of trust.”
Vanity Fair: Have you been to Telluride?
Jeremy Strong: No, it’s my first time.
So I was in for this wonderful brunch.
That wonderful panoramic view of the mountains, yes. I was working late on Wednesday for season 4 [of Succession]Then I got on a plane and found myself here. It feels really different and special here in terms of festivals. The energy is different, there is a sense of community, it is not burdened with the same pressures that some other festivals seem to suffer from. It sounds like it’s really about work. I squeeze myself.
And you’re here for a great movie. It’s a tough movie – and I think your character, Irving, is a tough character and the key to why it’s so successful. We see him physically abusive and introverted at times, but there is also a heart to the way you play. How did you find that – especially given James’ autobiographical roots?
Come with great responsibility to me. Much of James’ work revolves around the relationship between fathers and sons, but this one is more direct and intense. It is tough. I always think that, as an actor, you have to find a way to step in and empathize with the character’s struggle. This guy is somehow drowning in his life. He’s trying to be a father in the best way he can, but he’s not equipped. There is nothing malicious in this character; If there is anything, there is something insignificant in it, incomprehensible. There is just something about it that really touches me. It’s something that many people can relate to. I’m really interested in the deeply flawed and deeply sinful characters. It’s their fallibility that makes them so compelling to me, to know what it’s like to be in that hard place they live in. It’s also a different time. There is a different way of thinking about what is appropriate in terms of raising children, so much of it is a misleading expression of love.
There’s a scene in the bathroom, of course, where we see him particularly violent.
That was a tough day. At the end of the day, I went and got Annie [Hathaway] And I said, “Let’s bring James upstairs and give him a hug now.” We went through a ritual, what a drama – we apply the abuse and cruelty that was inflicted on this child, and I know it was a hard day for him, to be re-traumatized in some way. It was very heavy. However I knew James wanted to be consistent in everything. I didn’t want to prevent anything from what I thought were the cruelty of some of those moments.
You toured Queens with James, right, to learn about his world and his father’s world?
We visited the neighborhood and I asked him to take me to the panorama at Queen’s Museum, which I knew he used to go to often as a child with his grandfather. We went to a lot of important places for him. And, of course, I was down and looting and tried to question him as much as I could about his father—I got a tape recorder in his hand. James doesn’t want the movie to be autobiographical, in the sense of a portrait. He wanted us to find the gist of what he wrote. Lots of them on the page. But I also wanted to try to direct the guy he was writing about. I tried to do it any way possible. Whether it’s through pictures or hearing audio, which is what I was determined to do –
– Accent work is very specific.
Thank you. I felt like I wasn’t ready to do this until my voice was his. Also, there is a lot in the unscripted movie. James is a great storyteller, and a great pioneer. He was telling me a lot of stories. I wanted to find out: what kind of jokes did he tell? What did he like, and what did he not like? What was he interested in and fascinated by? By the time we started, we had a real stock of knowledge and understanding as much as we could of who he was. Then access the group to edit it. My job, in a way, as an actor. You follow the line and you have your instincts, and in some ways you have to multiply those instincts. I remember Sean Ben He tells me that, “As an actor, your job is to be your character’s bodyguard.” I find this to be true.
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