Jeremy Irvine On ‘The Railway Man,’ Colin Firth [VIDEO EXCLUSIVE]
Jeremy Irvine plays a complex role in Jonathan Teplitzky’s film The Railway Man, the younger version of Colin Firth’s Eric Lomax. The film tells the true story of Lomax who was captured and tortured by the Japanese during World War II, and over the years following, suffering from PTSD and with the help of his wife Patti (Nicole Kidman) and lifelong friend Finlay (Sam Reid, Stellan Skarsgård) goes on a journey to find and confront his former torturer. “It’s a story of, I suppose, about the effects of post-traumatic stress and forgiveness, and it’s a story I think that is very relevant today,” Irvine told uInterview in an exclusive video interview. “We still have a lot of people coming back from fighting in foreign lands, suffering from the same problems, and I think this is a story about that before post-traumatic stress was really realized.”
Irvine’s role is particularly brutal — as young Lomax he endures the tortures of his captors, specifically being waterboarded. “You know, it was described to me before I did it as being like drowning on dry land. I think the reality of that is one hundred times worse,” Irvine told uInterview. “I think it’s the most disgusting things you could do to a person.”
Irvine is the son of Bridget, a politician, and Chris Smith, an engineer. Though fairly new to Hollywood, Irvine is an accomplished actor who has made a name for himself quickly in his theatre work where he’s shared the stage with the likes of Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter and appeared in plays based on the work of Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare. He became known to American audiences in his star-making role as the lead in 2011’s War Horse which was directed by director Steven Spielberg.
Irvine is currently filming Fallen based on the highly popular young adult series, due out next year.
Well, the movie is about a man called Eric Lomax, who is tortured at the hands of the Japanese in the Second World War. And the story flips between him out in the Middle East - sorry in the east and then later in life and it's a story of, I suppose, about the effects of post-traumatic stress and forgiveness, and it's a story I think that is very relevant today. We still have a lot of people coming back from fighting in foreign lands, suffering from the same problems, and I think this is a story about that before post-traumatic stress was really realized. The drawing force I supposed is a love story, the real-man Eric fell in love just as we see in the movie on a train later in life and it all started off in this wonderful world-wind of romance and then very quickly we see the cracks that were caused by Eric's experience.
Well, I mean, what was very important to me in this is that we did the story justice, because this isn't a story that was just created by a writer in his bedroom one day. This is dealing with real people, and myself and Colin got to know the real man that we are playing and his family. And, you know, that meant there was a huge weight of responsibility. I suppose I'll be careful about saying actors are 'suffering for roles' because at the end of the day we go home we go back to a nice hotel room, but yeah, you know, I lost a lot of weight for the role - about thirty-five pounds or so - and that's not easy, you know, in terms on how I did that ultimately through not eating very much. There was some other stuff we had to shoot some water boarding scenes. I was quite keen - I really didnât want me to imagining things. I wanted it to be as real as possible. I mean, yes, I could stop at anytime and that's the real torture not being able to stop. There's one shot in the movie where I let it carry on just a second too long, and you have this one flash of realism, and I think that's real important to the film.
You know, it was described to me, before I did it as being like drowning on dry land. I think the reality of that is one hundred times worse. You hear about people only being able to last eight seconds, and you think, 'What could be so awful that you could only last eight seconds?' And as soon as you experience it, you realize why. It's water. You are not just being held underwater your having water forced into you. It's being forced into your mouth, lungs and stomach, the men's stomach would visibly swell with water and would be stamped on. I think its the most disgusting things you could do to a person.
Well, you know it's great because normally in movies, the difference between movie acting and theater acting - in movies, there's no rehearsal often and you get a script where you work on your own on that character, and then you turn up on the day of shooting and you do it. It's kind of a lonely process and being able to share that with someone, someone who is as experienced and talented as Colin Firth was, it was kind of an acting master class, that I couldn't even dreamt of. Colin was incredibly generous and, you know, would invite me around his house and we would rehearse in his living room and things like that. And it was a wonderful experience. It was not something you often get on film and, yeah, he didn't have to do that for me. I'm just this snotty nose little new kid and, yeah, it was really cool of him.
I mean the only word I could really use is very humbling. I think when you meet a lot people in the movie and entertainment industry you hear the word 'extraordinary' a lot and then you meet someone who really is genuinely extraordinary, and I was very nervous meeting him for the first time, after reading about his experiences, his struggle and what he went through and, you know, superhuman strength. Yeah, I was very nervous, and I was kind of starstruck. In a way I mean, you know, his wife as well - they both had to go through this and the effects of torture it goes down, it goes to the friends and the children.