The specter of darkness, the Woman in Black is back and this time she’s terrorizing a house full of World War II refugees. During The Blitz in London, Eve (Phoebe Fox) and Jean (Helen McCrory) must take a group of orphaned children out of the city and into the British countryside for safety. They make it out there safe and sound, but the only place for them to live once they get there is the old Eel Marsh House.
With The Woman in Black sequel, The Woman in Black 2 Angel of Death, making its way into theaters on January 2nd, I got the opportunity to hop on the phone with Jeremy Irvine to discuss how he approached playing Harry, an RAF pilot stationed in the countryside, the relationship between Harry and Eve, picking his own wardrobe, his role in Roland Emmerich’s Stonewall and more. Check it all out in the interview after the jump.
JEREMY IRVINE: It’s a funny one, it wasn’t like I was looking to do a horror movie, but I read the script and it kind of left me thinking about it for weeks afterward. It was so well written that I felt that if you took the horror elements out of it, the characters were three dimensional enough and the period that it was set in was so interesting that it could actually stand alone as a drama and it was just a really good film script. I guess I wasn’t really expecting how exhausting playing scared would be. I think it’s one of the most tiring emotions to play as an actor. [Laughs] How often are we really that scared? It’s an emotion we feel a lot as a kid, but not much as a grown-up, I guess.
Are you into the genre at all? Do you watch horror movies much?
IRVINE: [One] of my favorite films is The Sixth Sense, so I am in a way, but I wouldn’t say I’m an expert or anything. But I didn’t approach it any other way to how I would approach any other movie. You still look at the character and if you’re going to play it, play it for real.
Did you get much rehearsal time for this? I imagine when you’re working with so many kids that’s a vital part of the process.
IRVINE: I once rehearsed for a movie for two hours. American films, you don’t get to rehearse – very rarely. The casting directors do. No really, you kind of turn up and you do your job. It was a lot of fun working with eight kids. They kind of turned into my little gang. The actress, Phoebe Fox, who played Eve, is very easily scared, so me and the kids would spend ages coming up with pranks and ways to scare her, hide in cupboards and things on set and then once she got to set we would jump out of them.
Are there any good prank memories you can share?
IRVINE: Yeah, they’re much like that, I think. [Laughs] I remember the director once called a rehearsal just so he could hide behind the door and jump out at Phoebe. [Laughs]
How about working on the relationship between Eve and Harry? It’s sort of a love at first sight thing, so did the two of you have to figure out why your characters were so drawn together?
IRVINE: Yeah, I think it’s just the period of history that it’s set. There’s numerous, numerous accounts of people falling in love incredibly quickly during wartime because everyone’s under such high stress. You don’t know if the next day’s going to be your last, so people just form these very intense bonds very quickly. I did a lot of research, obviously, into the period of history. I spoke to my grandma for example who was in the Plymouth Blitz. Her house was destroyed in the bombing on Christmas Eve and then they woke up on Christmas Day and their house was gone and they didn’t have presents. Yeah, lots of people to talk to about that.
And how about Harry himself? Did you ever figure out how he was handling the situation and what he was busy doing prior to Eve’s arrival?
IRVINE: I actually wrote my own backstory. I wrote this kind of long story about what happened to him and then gave it to the director and the director talked with the writer and that was how the backstory of Harry was kind of created. It was nice. It was nice to be in a collaborative process with the writer and come up with something that feels very truthful to me. I do things like, I have props, I have a lighter that Harry had that I got inscribed with my brother’s name and things, so it genuinely means something to me, and that backstory is that it belonged to one of his old crewmates.
How much did the script change from when you first read it to what we see in the final film?
IRVINE: I think quite a bit. But all movie scripts do. Everyone comes to the table with their own ideas, and things work on set and things don’t work on set, and a lot changes in the edit of course. With a horror movie most of the actual jumps and scares are made in the edit. It’s often not very scary on set and then you watch the film and suddenly it’s very scary because the way the jump scares fit together building up the suspense in the audience because it’s making them jump when they’re least expecting it. Yeah, quite a bit actually.
IRVINE: Makeup often does look a bit funny in real life. [It’s like] they’ve done their own makeup. It looks like makeup for a Halloween costume and then the scene which that was from is now in the movie and every time I see it I think it’s one of the scariest moments. I guess the camera kind of made that all a little more subtle. [Laughs]
Did you get any say in your costume? That was a pretty great coat and it might have the biggest coat collar I’ve ever seen.
IRVINE: It’s a good one, yeah. That’s what they used to wear. They used to wear these big sheepskin coats. I did have say in my costume, but a lot of it came from comfort and the fact that I’ve done a movie in England in the winter before and I know how cold it gets. So I kind of went in to my costume fitting and went, ‘Yeah, I’ll have the world’s biggest sweater and the world’s largest sheepskin leather coat.’ [Laughs] I kind of picked out my costume on purely a comfort basis. And then you have Phoebe who’s in her summer dresses and things.
Before we have to wrap up I wanted to ask you about Stonewall. I think you talked to Steve a little bit about it back in Toronto, but I was hoping to get some more information on specifically who you play in the film.
IRVINE: Sure, I play a character called Danny Winters and he is based on a few people that really did exist and do exist, true stories. It was that kind of a combination. He grows up in middle America in a very religious family and gets caught [by] his mother at the time and is thrown out of his house and has to leave, and the one place that he knows he can be accepted from reading magazines and things is in the Village in New York. So he goes there and then unfortunately gay people are being prosecuted to such an extent that he experiences all the worst about being a homosexual during that time – the police brutality, being beaten up – and ends up having to trick on the street to get by and ends up living on the street. And then of course it all kind of comes to a head one night outside the Stonewall riots.