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, actress Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones) spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about how she got involved with the film, what it was like to collaborate with co-star Harry Treadaway, that she loved working in such a stripped down way, doing an American accent, why she liked the ambiguity of what happens to her character, and the experience of working in the cottage. She also talked about her experience playing Ygritte on Game of Thrones, and her current project, The Last Witch Hunter, in which she’s playing a witch opposite Vin Diesel. Check out what she had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
ROSE LESLIE: Leigh [Janiak] approached me with her script, letting me know that she was going to direct it. This was her directorial debut. So, I read the script, and I had never come across a script where there’s such a transformation, not just for one character, but also for Harry’s character, Paul. These two entities completely change, from when we first see them to how their relationship is, at the very end of the film. It was a huge draw to be able to see that arc, and to see a very loving relationship. To see a loving relationship dissipate and dissolve, in that way, was something that drew me to the project.
Because Leigh Janiak was a first-time director with this, did you have questions that you needed to be reassured about, in order to feel safe in her hands?
LESLIE: From the off, I knew that Leigh is a highly intelligent woman. And with the end result of this movie, she’s obviously incredibly talented. Also, whilst we were shooting it, Harry and I both felt that her approach was so great and so bang-on that she didn’t want any floozy, loved-up relationship. She wanted it to be authentic. She wanted the audience to feel that these two people were genuinely in love, and we needed that foundation to root for them. As a director, and especially as a first-time director, she was an absolute blessing to the project.
LESLIE: Harry and I luckily get on in real life, and he’s a wonderful man. He’s not only an incredibly talented actor, but a true friend. So, it was wonderful to be able to have such a good dialogue off screen, as well as on. We very much chatted about the relationship that Bea and Paul have, at the beginning, just so that we could build the background and history and foundation. That was a solid throughline for them. We were always chatting and we were always delving into every single scene, and were talking about it and dissecting it. And Leigh was always up for that, as well. It was a great way to approach the script. Harry and I were on the same page, so it was a real collaboration. If you are to feel for these two people, not only with what happens to Bea, but also what happens to Paul, you need to invest in what they were at the beginning, before it all went tits up. So, we wanted to find out about their hipster life in New York and we wanted to go back to the Indian restaurant where they had their first date, and really fill in those gaps and give them a history and a background. It was not only more fulfilling for us, but it helped us approach each character with more confidence. Bea wouldn’t be the character that she is without Paul, and without Harry’s help. It was a lovely thing.
This movie really relies on the characters, the performances and the plotting, more than shocking reveals. Was that also something that appealed to you?
LESLIE: Yes! It’s a drip feed, I felt. It’s like pepper sprays throughout the script. With it being an independent, you don’t have full-on financial backing, so it was incredibly raw. We didn’t have costumes. We were very much in present time with very little to hide behind. It was a wonderful thing to be able to approach it almost in the way that you do for a play, and rehearse it in the way that you do for a play. Because it is such an intimate, close, intense two-people piece, it had to work.
LESLIE: Yes! We shot those particular scenes, with other actors coming on, at the end of the shoot, so it felt even more bizarre because we’d already been in our little bubble for three and a half weeks. We were like, “What?! Who are you?!” We were isolated, but the crew was also fantastic. They very much made the ambience on set. It was a lovely thing.
Did it ever feel confining to work in such a stripped down way, or was that enjoyable?
LESLIE: Do you know what? I absolutely loved it! It was very, very thrilling to be able to do that, simply because I’d never really done a project where it had felt so much like theater. We never really moved from that cottage. We were in there, day in and day out, for six-day weeks and very long hours. And we had a whole week of night shoots. So, it was unrelenting, in that sense. It was brilliant because it didn’t carry on for months and months. We knew the end game was only four or five weeks away. It gave me the mentality of, “Okay, I’m going to jump in the deep end and give it my all, and then I’m going to come up for air.”
LESLIE: Yes! It was great because Harry would tell me if I got a word wrong, or I wasn’t saying it in the right American accent. Also, being surrounded by an American crew and Leigh, who was absolutely on it, really helped. She could hear when we were dipping back into our natural accents. But for me, it was a nice thing to be able to break away from Bea and the American accent, just so that I had time to reset, and then re-emerge and tackle it again with such ferocity. I felt that was important.
Because what exactly happened to Bea is left a little vague, did you ask for a more specific explanation, or were you okay with not having all of the answers?
LESLIE: I certainly don’t know how Leigh felt, but I feel that the imagination is an incredibly powerful tool. If you drip feed the audience with certain elements, hopefully they can concoct a more terrifying scene in their head than what they are going to see on screen. That is certainly something that we leant more towards, just because it is more powerful. If we tried to explain it and eek it out for the audience, then it maybe wouldn’t have such a harrowing vision that people have in their minds when they watch it. The fact that she is found naked, alone and covered in mud, and freaked out of her head leads to all sorts of different routes that you can go down in your mind. Without having it so obviously explained to us, then it allowed for a little bit of freedom with what is happening to this woman.
LESLIE: Yeah, it really, really did. It was very much a lived-in house, even before we arrived. There were the authentic sofas, cushions, rugs, TV set, beds and all of that, but luckily not the sheets because they wouldn’t be happy with that, with all of the blood at the end of the movie. It had a real aura and a real feel of being an old, abandoned cottage. It is rickety. Nothing is perfect. It had a real character to it and a sense of purpose, which was great.
What does the time you spent on Game of Thrones mean to you?
LESLIE: Oh, god! It was nothing short of a complete phenomenon for me. I absolutely loved it, and my life has changed since being a part of Game of Thrones. It has been a wonderful springboard. It is a wonderful springboard for any actor fortunate enough to be on the show. For me, it was genuinely a fabulous thing. I feel so lucky and privileged to be a part of something that is so loved around the world. It manages to engage people, and make them so passionate and loyal. They really invest in the plotlines, the different characters and the family feuds. It’s a lovely thing to be a part of something whereby the fans have always been very loyal and so engaging. It’s a lovely thing to be able to stand back and feel incredibly fortunate and have so much gratitude towards it.
Does it make it easier to know, going in, what your character’s fate would be, or do you live in denial?
LESLIE: You never live in denial! I was aware of the fate of my character. I read the books before I even started shooting Season 2. With the storyline of Jon Snow, and with his progression and being this torn character, you couldn’t have Ygritte still in his life. The man needs to soar and do his own thing. He is Jon Snow. So, it was obviously a wonderful thing to be a part of. It was the three best years. It was a fabulous production, in the sense that Iceland was very magical. I had never been to that country before, in my life, and it was sensational.
LESLIE: Yes! I’m currently living in Pittsburgh. I flew in from Pittsburgh on Sunday (August 24th), and it’s very lovely and hot, at the moment. I know it gets cold in the winter. We’ve had one day of shooting so far, and I leave tomorrow (August 27th) to go back. I’m incredibly excited about the project.
It must be intimidating to go up against Vin Diesel, so what drew you to that project?
LESLIE: He is the most charming man. What a lovely man! He’s incredibly welcoming, and he’s been incredibly welcoming to me. I play a young witch in modern day New York City. I feel so fortunate to have been able to come across a role like this, and to be lucky enough to play that. I’ve never tackled playing a witch before. It’s great!
Honeymoon is in theaters and on VOD on September 12th.