The Promise is an epic saga that’s set in 1914, and Michael Boghosian (Oscar Isaac) is a medical student determined to bring modern medicine back to his ancestral village in Southern Turkey, where Turkish Muslims and Armenian Christians have lived side by side for centuries. Michael meets Ana (Charlotte le Bon), with whom he shares Armenian heritage, and their immediate attraction leads to a rivalry with photo-journalist Chris Myers (Christian Bale), who is in the area to cover the growing genocide of the Armenian people, but they quickly realize that they must work together, if any of them are to survive.
At the film’s press day, Collider sat down with actor James Cromwell, who plays a small supporting role, to talk about how The Promise came his way, why the story appealed to him, his experience working in Malta with director Terry George, and getting to attend a screening of the film at The Vatican. He also talked about being a part of something with as big of a budget as the Jurassic World sequel and how much he enjoyed working with director J.A. Bayona, his incredible experience on Star Trek, and why it’s important to him to tackle King Lear.
Collider: How did The Promise come your way?
JAMES CROMWELL: Oh, it was the same way [as usual]. I suppose it’s different, if you’re Christian [Bale] or Oscar [Isaac], but your agent says you have an offer and you read the script. The script was a little bit of a surprise. I never thought this issue would come to a film because it’s been suppressed for so long by Turkey. The fact that it did cover the Armenian genocide is really important, especially in the circumstances of today, with so many genocides going on. Maybe they don’t call them genocides, but they certainly are. It’s important to get this issue out. Not only should Turkey make amends, but we should also look at some of our own issues with Native Americans and black people. The whole world has got to shift. This is a film made consciously with the idea of trying to appeal to the greatest number of people to get them into the theaters to see a love story and be entertained by it, in the same way that Hollywood things are, but this backdrop presents something to them that they might never have thought about. If people go home and look this up on the internet after they see the film, that would be really important.
Were you surprised that this film found such a balance between something as horrible as the Armenian genocide with this beautiful love story?
CROMWELL: No, that’s the balance that they were going for. That’s the difficulty. It’s a balancing act because you realize how many facts and incidents you have to leave out, in order to make space for the love story. And then, you have to intertwine your love story in with those facts, so that the facts don’t just stick out like a polemic where somebody is preaching at you, but are integral to what happens in the story. It’s really tough. Epics are really hard to do.