'Wild Rose' Star Jessie Buckley And Director Tom Harper On Why Country Music Matters In Scotland [Interview]

Following last fall's world premiere at Toronto, Wild Rose made its US premiere this March during SXSW.  The US premiere came on the heels of actress Jessie Buckley being among the five finalists for the BAFTA Rising Star Award.  While she did not win, that's a name you need to remember.I sat down to chat with Buckley and director Tom Harper during SXSW to talk about their movie. Now, several months later, Wild Rose has hit theaters. Enjoy our conversation about making this gem of a movie how country music has gotten so popular in Scotland.Wild Rose made its US premiere at SXSW after having made the world premiere during TIFF.  How much of a thrill is it to hold the US premiere at a festival known for both film and music?Tom Harper:  Massive.Jessie Buckley:  It's such an awesome city.  It just feels like you've got you know amazing culture, music, and love of film.Tom Harper:  It's so bound up in so many ways because this music is such a part of it because that's linked to the festival because the distributor who owns the cinema lives here.  I love Austin as well because I worked here for three months a couple of years ago so I had a relationship with the city as well. We just feel really lucky and proud to be here.Tom, how soon after reading Nicole Taylor's script did you know that you wanted to direct this film?Tom Harper:  Well before I finished it.  After that, two pages if I'm honest.  I've heard that it was good before I read it actually because Nicole and I have crossed paths over the years.  It was just again it was one of those moments when I had just come back from Austin actually. I liked country music before being here but because of hearing on the radio and seeing a lot of live music, it just sort of usurped it into my waters or something.  At the time, the film was called Country Music and I was like, "Huh, that's fate."  The other kind of key part of it for me was that almost immediately reading the script and reading this character, Rose-Lynn Harlan.  I just knew that that Jessie was the person to play that played that role. Fortunately, she thought so too.Jessie, what was it about Nicole Taylor's script that appealed to you?Jessie Buckley:  The irreverence of it and the honesty of it.  I suppose with Rose-Lynn is her unyielding courage.  She's kind of an electric bolt of lightning. You just don't really see stories about women like that very often in a script.  To kind of see somebody who has a passion and who struggles with that passion and struggles with trying to manage her life alongside this passion, I just thought it's just brilliantly written, really truthful, and bold at getting into the edges of the complexities of this person's dreams.Tom Harper:  Even when that's kind of unpalatable as well.  That's one of the things that we both find interesting.  She doesn't always make decisions about her life and about her children that the people find easy.  I always think of films as the most interesting part and in some ways, I guess it's fine that this film is—we've seen a number of times over the year but as with most good stories, they've existed in some form for thousands of years probably. But the intricacies of I guess being a woman today trying to bring up kids having dreams yourself and balancing that with your responsibilities feels to me that's very relevant now and that's why I always love about the ability of film is to tap into—you don't need to be from Glasgow or have those very specific things.  For me actually, I just think being from London and not being a woman but it's the human qualities because we all struggle with balancing our hopes with our realities and how those two come together so in some ways it's very specific. But there's also universal things to it that we can hopefully everybody no matter where you're from can find some way in.In general, what do you typically look for in characters when you reading a screenplay?Jessie Buckley:  I look for something that I haven't seen before or something that I'm not.  I suppose I'm looking for something that I don't feel sure about—that I don't know.  I want to be out of my depths and challenged to look at the world in a different way and through some other woman's eyes.Did it help having worked with each other before on War and Peace?Tom Harper:  Yeah.Jessie Buckley:  Yeah, massively. (Laughs)Tom Harper:  So much of it is less trust.  I always find when I'm working with actors that the hardest thing in it is building up a relationship because it's so exposing.  Acting is such a exposing job where you're having to give so much of yourself and I think that having a relationship where you know what the other person is is looking for and being willing to reveal parts of their self is a really hard thing to do.  So to have that relationship with Jessie up front made it so much easier. On top of that having been so inspired by each other beforehand like knowing that we pushed each other to places of danger or the excitement of a really exciting prospect and it just gave us a head start.Jessie Buckley:  What he also means is that he could have tested our limitations while also knowing that there's a safety net underneath people.There's quite the relationship between Rose-Lynn and Julie Walters' Marion.  Just from watching the film in Toronto, I found that motherhood came across very strongly.  Can you expand on this theme and their relationship in the film?Jessie Buckley:  Mother and daughter relationships are complex.  I think there's a lot of—it's a very honest portrayal, I think, of what that relationship is.  I think that's the thing about when you become a mother or when you belong to somebody in whatever form that relationship is, you are split down the middle.  Half of them belongs to you and you belong to them and that brings up a lot of feelings and uncomfortable feelings like fear, worry and jealousy. You see yourself in the in them in all the different shapes and sizes.  The call was so honest and having those cracks and those open wounds of kind of the love of those kind of relationships we see. Getting to work with somebody like Julie is just such a generous a real person, it was—Tom Harper:  Julie gave an interview that I read recently and it reminds me of what she said when we first met.  She said that she doesn't really want to do many of these type of films anymore because she finds it such an emotional—a hard thing—journey to go on.  It reminds me of how challenging it is if you really get into the emotional depths of those places and how powerful it can be.As an American, one of the things that I found really interesting was that someone from Scotland would want to be a country singer.  Is country music popular across the pond?Jessie Buckley:  Yeah, it's massive.Tom Harper:  It's growing as well.Jessie Buckley:  Yeah it's huge.  It definitely feels at the moment like there is a real rumble of country being really cool.Tom Harper:  I think Nicole would say she's always been a die hard fan right from the very beginning.  She's now ridden the crest of the wave and country in the UK has become really popular again.  Going above and beyond that though, I think that kind of Celtic music and country music are really connected.  There's always been a real strong connection.What was the most challenging thing as far as getting the country sound right?Jessie Buckley:  I don't really feel like it was something we were necessarily massively conscious about doing.  We were lucky to work with the incredible musicians who supported what they said that sound was and made with their own.  I just tried to listen to it as much as I could.Tom Harper:  Honestly, I think you realized pretty early on that actually the best thing that you could do was just—Jessie Buckley:  Let yourself—Tom Harper:  Not try and be too much like anybody else. It would just be as honest from Rose-Lynn's point of view as possible and if you could achieve that then the rest would fall into place.