CM – A-list besties « took Mickey apart »


Supernova is writer and director Harry Macqueen’s second feature, and a deeply personal one.

The story of Sam and Tusker, an elderly couple played by Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci, struggling through the effects of early-onset dementia, is emotionally moving thanks to the strength of the two main shows and Macqueen’s thoughtful script and directing.

Macqueen, 37, is an actor who sometimes made screen debuts in Richard Linklater’s Me and Orson Welles before directing and starring in the backcountry in 2014.

Supernova is his most ambitious project to date and has received stellar reviews, particularly for Firth and Tucci’s on-screen bond.

He speaks to about the personal origins of Supernova, the cast of best friends Firth and Tucci, and what changed and what didn’t change when the couple switched from straight to gay at the center of history.

That’s true. It started because I was working with a woman who had young dementia and when I was working with her, she didn’t know that diagnosis. So I saw someone change quite a bit over the course of the year, and then, tragically, about a year and a half later, she died.

It came into my life in quite a strange way, and I think that moved me deeply, as anybody would be. Then I just tried to learn as much as I could about it. I volunteered for local charities and worked a lot in London, in the world of dementia.

After about a year or two, I thought this was a really important and interesting subject for a movie. This whole experience inspired me.

When this happens to you as a filmmaker in your own life, is your instinct to ditch it for a story? Do you find the process confronting or difficult to start?

I think it should be difficult to deal with at first. With something like that, it’s such a real human story, it helps when it comes to you in a very organic way, and it really did with this film. Hopefully you can see that from the way it’s written and put together.

Hopefully it isn’t pushing the melodrama of the situation or any of it. A really big part of it for me was constantly thinking about condensing and synthesizing it into that lovely little complex relationship, and all the other themes of the film depend on it in the end.

For a while in the movie, it’s not even explicit about Sam and Tusker. What was the intention of withholding this information a little from the audience?

If you have been in this relationship in this situation, you are unlikely to refer to it every five minutes, you just live with it. So it establishes the relationship in its context and then lets that context play out for the audience in its own time.

I think it’s important to see how the characters hang out with each other before you understand that the relationship is cracked. And it’s a movie, so there will always be.

What I think the film is so successful is that it presents this relationship that you really feel lived in. They firmly believe that Sam and Tusker have been together for 20 years. Part of it, I suppose, is that you cast two actors who are friends who know each other well and probably share a secret language that they don’t even know they have.

You can’t deny that 20 years of being best friends really helps. A lot can be broken down from this, but I also think it’s important to say that sometimes it’s not helpful either, because then you have to separate what is useful and what is applicable to the character and the situation and the film from the relationship one has forged with this person.

It’s actually very difficult. We worked very hard on trying to get out of their own lives and Colin and Stanley’s love for each other that was relevant to us and left a lot of things behind that weren’t. It was quite a task.

Were there moments on set when you had to make this clear to both of you?

No, no, definitely not. Colin and Stanley are way too good at what they do. The amazing thing about watching people so brilliant at acting is how seamlessly they can switch from Stanley and Colin to Tusker and Sam.

It is very nice to see. But what it means when you work with these two guys is that it’s great fun because they are great fun and spend a lot of time taking each other’s Mickey out and laughing around. That’s just who they are as boys.

So it’s a nice experience to be a part of it, a privilege to have access to their relationship as a filmmaker.

They are the most famous actors that you have worked with in your career. How did you get them involved?

In the end it was very, very easy, which is very happy. We went to Stanley first and he just fell in love with the script. I didn’t know he was friends with Colin at the time, and he suggested we talk to Colin about the other role. It turned out that Colin had already read the script and loved it.

This was the kind of script that Stanley and Colin may not get that often as actors, and it’s nice and brave of them to actually have been involved in a movie like this because it’s a small movie by comparison, certainly for that what they do.

I’m really not a very experienced director or writer, and it shows how to play those roles, and you don’t really have to do that at this point in your career, let’s face it. Hats off to you for trusting this project.

Originally the characters were written as a straight couple, when that changed, did anything change in the characterization or the script?

It happened because the characters have a different lived experience. Stanley and Colin have both just turned 60. So if you’re in your late 50s, like the characters when we shot it, a strange person has a very different life experience than someone straight a duty to make sure it’s part of the character.

But the situation hasn’t changed in the least, and I think that’s crucial. It didn’t suddenly turn out to be a gay movie as it could have been. I think that was an important thing to keep in mind because it’s about universal experience – love and loss, trust and betrayal, it’s universal experiences and you have to treat them that way.


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