While you may have seen Eleanor Tomlinson in such films as Alice in Wonderland or The Illusionist, in director Bryan Singer’s Jack the Giant Slayer, she’s landed her first big studio leading role as Princess Isabelle. When the production was filming outside London back in the summer of 2011, I got to visit the set with a few other reporters and Tomlinson told us more about her character:
“She didn’t want to be a princess. She was just born into this life. As amazing as it is, it’s not necessarily what she wants. She feels a bit trapped. Her relationship with her father, after her mother died, is coming under a lot of pressure, because he’s the king and he doesn’t understand her. She just wants to be a normal girl. She wants to fall in love for love, not for the kingdom. She’s got that temper, that spark about her, which is different from other fairy tales, I think.”
In addition, Tomlinson talked about what it’s been like working on her first big studio movie, the costumes, collaborating with the other actors, the 3D, and so much more. Hit the jump to either read or listen to the interview.
Before getting to the interview, if you haven’t seen the trailer for Jack the Giant Slayer, I’d watch that first:
If you’d like to listen to this interview, click here. Otherwise the full transcript is below.
Eleanor Tomlinson: I wasn’t sure. I’ve been in the trailer all day, so I thought I’d bring it anyways.
We haven’t seen anything yet, we haven’t learned anything yet. What’s the thing people should know about this movie, if you don’t mind? What’s the one thing that people should really know?
Tomlinson: To know about the movie, wow. It’s an adventure, there are so many special effects flying around. It’s going to be really fun, definitely. I think there’s something there for the whole family. There is something you can really enjoy, and I think it’s going to be a really fun, family film. I’m really excited.
What attracted you to the role?
Tomlinson: Well, it’s my first part on this scale. It’s just phenomenal. She’s the princess, but there’s so much more to her. There’s this feisty side that we don’t normally see in princesses, and there’s so much to play with. It’s really exciting to find these different levels, and trying to make her fiery but not catty, trying to make her loveable but still fierce. It’s been really interesting. It’s been hard work, but it’s been great fun.
Can you talk about how much you’ve been shooting with green screen, and how much is practical? I imagine there is a lot of green screen work you have to do.
Tomlinson: Yes, there is lots of green screen and blue screen. It’s very technical. They’re doing amazing things that I haven’t really done before. It’s incredible, the stuff they can do now. Yeah, it’s great. It’s really cool.
As someone who is experiencing something like this on this type of scale for the first time, how do you handle that? Does that make it more difficult for you?
Tomlinson: It’s mind-blowing. You just kind of have to take it all in.
You are playing a princess. Would you say your character is a typical princess?
Tomlinson: She’s definitely not typical. That’s kind of what I love about her. She has this side to her, which is really fiery. She didn’t want to be a princess. She was just born into this life. As amazing as it is, it’s not necessarily what she wants. She feels a bit trapped, I think. Her relationship with her father, after her mother died, is coming under a lot of pressure, because he’s the king and he doesn’t understand her. She just wants to be a normal girl. She wants to fall in love for love, not for the kingdom. She’s got that temper, that spark about her, which is different from other fairy tales, I think.
Tomlinson: Yeah. He grew up as a farm boy, and he came from nothing. He was really poor, and he knows of royalty as this kind of unimaginable life. It’s untouchable for him. When I kind of stumble into his life, he’s just like, ‘Wow. Unbelievable!’ He does kind of have us on that pedestal, and, as the film progresses, it’s about that relationship, and how we break it down. I want to be treated normally. I don’t want to be treated as a damsel in distress or the future queen. It’s interesting how that dynamic changes throughout the film, because there’s this mutual respect.
You said this dress is your favorite. How much more elaborate to these costumes get?
Tomlinson: (Laughs) This dress is pretty elaborate. I’ve got two dresses in the movie. This is definitely the most elaborate. The costumes have been fantastic. [Costume designer] Joanna [Johnston] has done a really, really brilliant job. I can’t wait to see it all put together on film. It’s been phenomenal.
Has anyone living, dead, real, or fake inspired your character, in your performance?
Tomlinson: Yeah, that’s one of the things we talked about when we first started. [Director] Bryan [Singer] and I were having this conversation, and names like Sigourney Weaver came up, because she has that individuality, that strength. She’s feisty. She doesn’t take no for an answer, and she’s not going to be pushed about. We kind of liked that attitude that Sigourney Weaver has. Names like that came up, but I wanted to make her very individual to me, just to see how different it could be, as opposed to just basing it on someone.
How has it been working with Nicholas? Have you been doing rehearsals together?
Tomlinson: Yeah, we’ve spent a lot of time rehearsing together. He’s so fantastic. He’s a great actor to work with. I’m very lucky. It’s nice to have a co-star you can just chat with about a scene and then rehearse. It’s nice to have that pressure taken off. It’s good.
Tomlinson: Yeah, lots of special features. I can’t wait to see the blooper reel, because it’s going to be epic.
How would you describe Bryan Singer as a director? What have you noticed about his style that really speaks to you?
Tomlinson: I’m just completely in awe of Bryan. Working with him has just been incredible. It’s so interesting to watch him, just the way he works and visualizes things. You can’t really visualize what things are going to look like, and we spend a lot of time changing things around, but it’s working. What we get is great and he’s very happy with it. I think he’s got so much on his plate, and he doesn’t forget his actors, as well as bringing in all the CGI and special effects and stuff. To have someone like that, who is that understanding of performers, has been really good.
What do you think that 3D has brought to this? Have you noticed anything about your own performances in 3D that you didn’t otherwise?
Tomlinson: Yeah, 3D, the ever-changing 3D. It’s great. It’s been really interesting. My family came to the set a few times, and I see them with their 3D glasses on. It’s lovely to have them there and be a part of it, and see the magic that we’re playing with, because it really is incomprehensible until you see it on a 3D screen.
Do you find you’re more aware of the camera in shooting a 3D film?
Tomlinson: Not really. Maybe in setting up the shots, because things move a lot slower, and they’re more particular with the foreground and making the shot look interesting with the 3D.
Can you talk about the beanstalk scene, with you and the house? Can you talk about filming that sequence?
Tomlinson: Wow. That sequence went on for quite awhile, but I think we all hit that point where we’re all happy with it. It was great fun shooting that. I think we shot that in the first week, starting the job with that. It’s a big scene to shoot in your first week. We had quite a few script changes, which has been interesting to juggle. I think we’re very happy with it.
Tomlinson: Yes. That is kind of the basis of how the story then evolves, because he has to fall in love with her in that moment, and risk his life to climb a beanstalk and fight giants to save her. It really had to be sold in that moment. We think that we captured it.
What are the physical preparations been like for the movie? We were talking before about rock climbing and stuff.
Tomlinson: Yeah, we had a lot of training. We had, I want to say, a good month of rock climbing, boxing, horse riding. It’s been very physically challenging, but I have loved every single second of it. Danger? I love doing stunts. It’s so much fun.
How much action does your character see then? How much fighting does she do?
Tomlinson: Not so much fighting, but there are loads of running away and reacting to things. You have to be physically fit for each take. It’s great. It’s really cool. It’s been a lot of fun training up.
Would you say you’re athletic then?
Tomlinson: Oh my God. I don’t know about that, but I try. I try my best. It’s been great fun. It’s been really good.
Have you tried to walk around in the neighboring villages in any of these outfits you’ve been able to wear?
Tomlinson: (Laughs) I can’t walk five steps without someone on a walkie talkie going, ‘She’s wandering over there.’ I’m pretty stuck, but hey, it’s been great.
Tomlinson: I was thinking about the armor, personally. I think it would go great in my hometown. I don’t know. I’m not sure. Hopefully.
Is that a crown you’re wearing right now?
Tomlinson: Yeah, it’s a crown. This is the end sequence we’re shooting, after we come down the beanstalk, so we’re armored up for battle and ready to go. The giants descend and we have to fight them.
How long does it take you to get ready, with your outfit and your hair?
Tomlinson: I think hair and makeup takes about an hour and a half, and then another half hour for costume.
That must really help you get into character when you get in the costume.
Tomlinson: Definitely. Until I’m in hair extensions, and makeup mayhem, I don’t feel like a princess at all. It really makes a difference. It’s really cool.
How has it been working the giants and all these things that aren’t really there?
Tomlinson: It’s hard work. It’s really hard work, but it’s really interesting. We have this camera, I think it’s called a SimulCam, and when you play it back, you can see the giant in the scene you just shot. It’s incredible. You’re reacting to a tennis ball that’s way up there, then when you watch it, it’s this huge giant’s face on it. Wow. That’s cool. I just can’t wait to see it when it’s all edited together and the special effects are all crystal clear. It’s going to be, hopefully, amazing.
Do you find that you like being able to see it like that, and then going for another take, rather than using your imagination?
Tomlinson: Yeah, I love using them both, because we always have these odd little explosions happening. It’s a complete real fear of I don’t know what’s going to hit me in this take. It’s been really fun playing with what you know is there, having seen it, and what you think is there. It’s cool.
Tomlinson: I was quite the tomboy as a little girl, so wearing the armor, the dagger, and the crown, yeah. It’s been great. I’m the luckiest girl in the world. It’s amazing.
I bet you’re happy you’re not in heels.
Tomlinson: These actually got heels built in. Yeah, it’s great.
When you were younger, were you a fan of the Jack and the Beanstalk fairy tales?
Tomlinson: Yeah, of course. It’s one of those fairy tales your mom and dad read to you when you’re little. Never once did I imagine myself in it. It’s just phenomenal. Words just can’t really describe it. It brings the biggest smile to my face.
How much have you been watching the pre-viz inform your performance? The whole film look like it’s been pre-vized. Can you talk about the dynamic of performance that you’re making your own, as opposed to what Bryan has imagined?
Tomlinson: Well, we have to match to the pre-viz. We have to match to what Bryan has seen and wants, with the way the giants are going to move. We have to match that, but also we have to make it very individual to our characters, and if something doesn’t make sense, we can work around or with the pre-viz to make it more logical. It’s interesting juggling the two, but we do have to follow the pre-viz. It’s very weird, having a cartoon of your character, doing what you’re about to do.
Do you have anything lined up after this wraps?
Tomlinson: Yeah, hopefully another movie, but I can’t really talk about it too much.
You haven’t signed a contract for that yet?
Tomlinson: No, not yet.
Did you go to drama school here?
So you’re the exception to the rule then, the oddball exception, whatever it is. A lot of people in England are all drama school.
Tomlinson: There is a lot of hype about drama school, I think. If you’re an actor in England, that’s just the way to get into it but I’ve been so incredibly lucky in that I was brought up in to it. I still might go to drama school, if I wanted to do theater work, definitely. It’s a completely different type of training.
Is that something you’re interested in going into, maybe?
Tomlinson: Yeah, definitely. I’ve done a bit of it, but I would like to play around more with that as I’m older. It’s very exciting.
What are some of the most useful pieces of advice you have gotten from people more experienced than you, either family or people you have worked with on the set?
Tomlinson: I enjoy it and just smile through it. There are days where you’re just pulling your hair out, but, at the end of the day, we are the luckiest people alive, doing what we do and loving our job as much as we do. Things don’t get that much better.
Looking back, is there anything you’re really proud of on this set that you pulled through?
Tomlinson: Getting the part, yeah. That was a mission. I still can’t believe I’m here. I just kind of pinch myself and go, ‘Oh my God, I’m on the set of Jack the Giant Slayer. It’s incredible!’ It’s phenomenal. I won’t know until the end, when I see the final thing, so it’s terribly exciting.
Tomlinson: It was very late, and I was just walking home, because they kept telling me there is almost an offer but not quite. I was just walking down my street and I got the call, and I just sat down in the middle of the road and burst into tears. It was great.
You have filmed a whole bunch of sequences, action and talking scenes. What’s a particular scene thus far that you have totally enjoyed, more than maybe others? Is there a certain favorite?
Tomlinson: I’ve loved all of them. Each one has been challenging in its own different way, because they’ve all got something different in them. One scene I really liked, actually, was the very end scene with our children. It was so weird being called “Mummy.” Oh my God! It’s been really good. There have been some really fun things. Some stuff you can really get into, and some stuff is more challenging, but yeah. It’s great.
Between all the action and all the intimate moments, what do you find easier?
Tomlinson: The intimate conversations have its moments, because you have to sell the characters, because there is so much going on. It’s so easy to get lost in the special effects and forget about the performances. The dialogue scenes have been great. It’s been great working with Bryan and the writers to find where we’re going and what’s the story. Yeah, it’s been really, really interesting.
This is going to be your first big starring role. Can you talk about how you will pick your roles from here on out, because this will be a defining moment in your career?
Tomlinson: Hopefully the next job I’m going to do is much more different than this. It couldn’t be more different from this, which is great, but, at the same time, it’s important to keep my feet on the ground. If a job comes my way, it’s great and very exciting, and I’m just pleased living in the now.
Hypothetically speaking, have you “borrowed” anything from the set?
Tomlinson: Yeah, of course I have. I’m not going to tell you what.
There’s not an actual dagger in there, is there?
Tomlinson: I do have an actual dagger, but they think I’m lethal with it.
Jack the Giant Slayer opens March 1. Here’s more from my set visit:
- 15 Things to Know About Bryan Singer’s Jack the Giant Slayer From Our Set Visit; Plus Video Blog Recap and Written Report
- Ewan McGregor Talks His Character’s Role in the Story, Working with CGI, Similarities to How to Train Your Dragon & More on the Set of Jack the Giant Slayer
- Bryan Singer Talks Big Visual Effects, 3D, Unfriendly Giants, Bringing a Fairy Tale to Life on a Grand Scale, and More on the Set of Jack the Giant Slayer
- Nicholas Hoult Talks the Challenges of 3D, Bringing a Fairy Tale to Life, the Success of X-MEN, and More on the Set of Jack the Giant Slayer