Helen Mirren & John Madden Interview For ‘The Debt’
Director John Madden’s espionage thriller ‘The Debt’ begins in 1997, as shocking news reaches retired Mossad secret agents Rachel (Helen Mirren) and Stefan (Tom Wilkinson) about their former colleague David (Ciaran Hinds). All three have been venerated for decades by their country because of the mission that they undertook back in 1966, when the trio (portrayed, respectively, by Jessica Chastain, Marton Csokas, and Sam Worthington tracked down Nazi war criminal Vogel (Jesper Christensen ) in East Berlin. At great risk, and at considerable personal cost, the team’s mission was accomplished – or was it? The suspense builds in and across two different time periods, with startling action and surprising revelations. ‘The Debt’ is set for release August 31st in the US and September 30th in the UK. Check out what Helen Mirren and John Madden had to say about the film below.
What was the appeal of this story for you as a filmmaker?
John Madden: You can’t not want to make a thriller as a director, it’s the most pure cinematic form. It’s the form which tests your skills in the most exacting way. It’s like playing on a really good Golf course, not that I’m a golfer, but I can imagine (laughs). Those challenges and overcoming those challengers is very stimulating. But it’s not about me, it’s the story you are telling. The most appetizing thing for me was that it’s a fantastically compelling story, about very big subjects – the guilt and the aftermath of the holocaust, how people are brought to accountability for that. If it were only that it might sound a little didactic and not very interesting. It’s about what happens to these three people who are pursuing this objective, the way they become involved with one another, the conflicts that develop between them. That’s terribly engaging, it allows you into a point of entry in the film that you don’t always get in thrillers, because you are so involved with what’s happening to them emotionally.
How was it working with Jessica Chastain as Rachel, the same character?
Helen Mirren: Jessica and I, unfortunately didn’t have as much time to spend together as both of us would have liked, because of scheduling. We did get to spend some time together, where we sat with the script, just eye-ball each other, talk to each other, and find ways to make the character into one. But I have to say, really the majority of that work Jessica took on board, she looked at tape of me, studied me, tried to get a feeling of how I was when I was younger. I really think she done a fantastic, fantastic job. She approached her work with a seriousness and a dedication that was actually rather like me when I was her age (laughs).
How was it working with the cast and John Madden, I know you’ve worked with Tom and John before?
Helen Mirren: I was with old friends on this movie. I’ve worked with Tom Wilkinson before, I’ve known him forever, we’ve sort of grown up together, parallel careers in theatre and film. Likewise Ciaran is a very old friend of mine, I was really amongst friends which was great. Also John Madden, I’ve worked with him before, John directed one of my Prime Suspect’s. I’ve always wanted to work with him again because he directed one of the best Prime Suspect’s, his was fantastic. I’m very comfortable with him as a director. Then of course he went onto direct Shakespeare In Love, and became an Oscar-winning director. It was a great thrill for me to work with him again.
John, you get to work with Helen again…..
John Madden: Hmmmmmm, she’s gone off the boil a bit (laughs). She’s royalty, that’s a bit of a cheap one but she really is. She’s always been spectacularly skilled and bold as an actor. She’s now got to a place in her career where she’s entirely comfortable, she doesn’t have anything to prove to anybody, she’s universally admired, which I don’t think was ever important to her, but for her it just liberates her about being unquestioning with whatever choice she wants to make about what she does. You just look at her career, especially her recent career, she just chooses whatever she wants to do, from outrageous comedies, to obscure re-imaginings of Shakespeare, or a thriller, or a drama, whatever it may be. She just wants to explore and exercise her formidable skills. She’s amazing, she has it and she deserves it.
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