From director/co-writer Leigh Janiak, the indie feature Honeymoon follows young newlyweds Paul (Harry Treadaway) and Bea (Rose Leslie), who travel to a remote lake cottage for their honeymoon with the promise of some private time for romance. But when Paul finds Bea out in the woods in the middle of the night, her behavior becomes increasingly peculiar and distant, and Paul begins to suspect that something sinister happened.
At the film’s press day, actor Harry Treadaway (Penny Dreadful) spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about how he got involved with the film, what he saw as the strength of the script, why it was vitally important that he and Rose Leslie were on the same page, the most challenging scenes to shoot, why he enjoys working in different scale productions, and what he looks for in a project. He also talked about how much fun he had making Season 1 of Penny Dreadful, why he loves being a part of the show, the brilliant writing of creator John Logan, and that he’s already read eight Penny Dreadful Season 2 scripts. Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
HARRY TREADAWAY: I read the script. I was filming another movie that was completely different from this. I read this and it was two people in one location, pretty much, shot in four weeks for $1 million. The story revolved around this universal identifiable fear that we must all have, at some point, when you commit yourself to being with another person, to have and to hold until death do us part. It’s a huge thing. I just felt like it was a brilliant examination of what would happen, if the person that you trusted implicitly and thought you knew every follicle and pour of, inside and out, started to not be that person anymore, inside. Physically, they’re still there, but they’re not there mentally. A lot of the scenes could be totally relatable, in terms of mental health and someone losing touch with reality, in that way.
The strength of the script, for me, was that you’re really left, right till the end, to know what’s happening. This seemingly perfect, happy, kooky real relationship slowly turns into something horrifying, but you get there through a filter of reality with all of it. There are scenes which would be similar to someone who lost their memory in an accident, or is losing their touch with reality, or has had a strong, or that has amnesia. There are elements to it where you don’t know and you’re constantly guessing. It’s rare to have a script like that. And it’s rare to get something which is so contained and concentrated with just you and one other actor, apart from one scene with a couple more people in it.
Also, knowing that that other person was going to be the rather ridiculously brilliant Rose Leslie made it a no-brainer. I really wanted to be a part of it. And she is so fantastic, as a person and as an actress. Lee [Janiak], the director who wrote it, was, as well. Between us three, we had a really strong triangle of trust and an intimate working relationship. We had a fantastic crew, as well. There were only about 25 of us, in a cabin by the lake for four weeks, and that was it. It was very quick. It was just about the people. That’s quite a rare challenge to get. There’s normally a lot more people in a story, so that was cool.
TREADAWAY: Yeah, vitally important, which you can’t predict. The different variables involved in anything creative, really, are massive. When it comes together, it just clicks, I suppose, and me and Rose just clicked, as people and as actors. We were lucky that that was the case. Otherwise, maybe this wouldn’t have been the joy that it was. Even though it was pretty horrifying, it was a pleasure to go to work, every day. We had a load of scenes to get through, and they were all pretty challenging in different ways. It was just this pressure cooker of two people, going from such a strong place of love and understanding and clarity to something that’s so extremely and graphically harrowing and disturbing. People can relate to the actions that they both take. We just talked a lot about their history and their backstory, how they met and who they were, what jobs they had, their dates and arguments and holidays, and fleshed it all out, as much as possible. What came across so strongly in the script was that it gave time and space to the development of the relationship. It’s a drama that then gets shafted by something really harrowing and horrifying. For me, that’s far more chilling than something which, from the get-go, is a horror film with all of the music. When I read it, I had the rug pulled out from under my feet because I just didn’t see it coming. I thought, “If we can get close to that, than that will be good.” I think the film goes far beyond the happiness of it, and also the sadness of it, than when I read it.
The audience meets this couple on their honeymoon, so we don’t see their relationship history, but still need to feel for what they’re going through.
TREADAWAY: Yeah. There were a lot of personal things within the script where you felt like it was not just a clichéd screen version of a relationship. The fact that they reference things from her childhood that he just knows about, it instantly becomes a private world that we don’t have to explain. Hopefully, it creates a sense that you’re looking at a real relationship. Because there are only two of us in most of it, you’re able to explore all of those smaller moments. If there’s other people around, there’s not as much time to do that. It was quite a unique project to be a part of, really.
TREADAWAY: Yeah, totally! It was very much our cottage, by the end of it. Because it was just us two, we were in a bubble when we were filming it. And Leigh was allowed into that bubble. A lot of the time, you were aware that there were people around filming or recording it or holding microphones above you, but because it was a small production, you’re able to lose yourself in the world of it quite a lot.
Were there any scenes that were particular challenging to shoot?
TREADAWAY: Yeah, and for different reasons. Weirdly, some of the middle stuff of the descent into something going wrong were the hardest, tonally. You don’t want to jump the gun and be instantly paranoid about the fact that she has made coffee wrong because that would be weird. It’s the slow build and letting it sink in. If they say everything is okay, you believe your partner. You don’t want to rattle the boat too much on your honeymoon. So, there are elements of that, which was fun and challenging to get right. We had scenes on the boat where there was various paddling, and Rose was supposed to be the one who’s done it all before while I’m the city boy who’s never done it before. In reality, it’s completely the reverse, so that was quite funny. I’m sure there was a lot of challenging stuff, technically. There were a lot of lines. There were scenes that were 7 and 10 pages. You’re in there talking for 10 minutes to someone, and that’s quite rare. Normally, a scene is a minute or two. But, I loved it. We both come from a theater background, as well, so at times, it felt like there was a little mini play going on in the house.
TREADAWAY: Yeah, exactly! That’s why I love it. That’s why I think it’s so wonderful to be able to work in different scale productions. I hope I’m always lucky enough to be able to work in theater, TV, and big films and small films. I think there’s advantages and disadvantages to all of them. The fact that this was a small film without much money and without much time made it rich in energy and momentum and drive when we were actually making it ‘cause that’s all you’ve got. You’ve just got the story and the people.
What an awesome season of Penny Dreadful!
TREADAWAY: Yeah, it was so much fun. Honestly, I had the best time working on it. It’s such a great bunch of people, in all departments, and such a fascinating character. I really couldn’t ask for more. It was very good fun.
Congrats on the second season!
TREADAWAY: Although, we do have some more. Even though I can’t ask for more, we are getting more, which is great.
TREADAWAY: To be honest, yeah. It’s a real testament to the amount of skill and talent involved, across the board, whether it’s the production design, the construction, the costume design, the other actors, the way it’s shot, the directors we had on it, or obviously John’s writing. When things do go well, it sometimes seems easy, in a weird way, but it’s actually down to a lot of cogs working in a big machine. But, I’m certainly happy to be going back. I’m excited to carry on.
Have you thought about what you’d want to see in Season 2, now that you can delve into the characters much more deeply?
TREADAWAY: I’ve just read the first eight episodes of the second season. All I can say is that it’s incredibly exciting, and it carries on and develops. All of the characters go on fascinating journeys, individually and together. We start filming in a couple of weeks, so we’re getting into the mind-set of that. I’ve had some time off, so it will be good to get back to it.
The season found such an interesting balance between the intense and the subtle, and even added some humor.
TREADAWAY: Yeah. It’s John’s brilliant writing. I love it, and I’m glad you like it. It’s a fascinating world, in that period. It’s such a rich time period, interlaced with all of this literature, with these literary roots that run through it.
TREADAWAY: Something that’s good, man. I look for something that grabs me and that’s heartfelt, and that’s coming from a good place. I want to work with good actors and with directors that I can learn from. You just want to find a story that grabs you and that you’ve never seen before, but somehow you can’t imagine it not existing. It’s like a good book. What makes a good book is hard to say. I don’t know. I just look for something that grabs me. I don’t have a way of looking for a project, and I don’t know many people that do. It’s just year to year, and what’s going around and what’s there. Personally, I just want to work on stuff that challenges me, that excites me, and that I think is original. You want to do something that does to other people what films do to you. It’s the most wonderful thing in the world when you can lose yourself from reality and go into a story, and believe it and go on that journey with people, and you have to work that will somehow do that. It won’t always, but hopefully sometimes.
After doing Honeymoon and Penny Dreadful, are you secretly hoping for a comedy?
TREADAWAY: There’s comedy in tragedy, and tragedy in comedy. There’s always light and dark in most jobs. Whether it’s framed as a comedy, drama or tragedy, you try to mix it up within that. You can work on a comedy and it’s not laugh-a-minute off set. You can work on a tragedy that’s absolutely hilarious. I’m just very excited to be going onto Season 2 of Penny Dreadful, and we’ll see what comes. So far, I’ve worked with some wonderful people, so may long that continue.
Honeymoon is out in theaters and on VOD on September 12th.