‘1917’ Stars George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman on the Immersion of Sam Mendes’ War Film and Their Bond as Actors [Interview]
Posted on Tuesday, December 31st, 2019 by Steven Prokopy
The World War I epic 1917 is so much more than the sum of its single-take gimmick. The film is the story of two brave Lance Corporals — Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman, from Blinded by the Light and Game of Thrones) and Schofield (George MacKay, of Captain Fantastic and Ophelia), who make an arduous and tense trek across what is supposed to be one active battlefield after another. The two young British soldiers are asked to deliver a message to the front line of a battle that is expected to launch the following morning. The message is meant to stop the 1,600 troops from charging into a trap that will result in the massacre of most of the men, one of whom is Blake’s brother. Along their journey, the pair stumble upon what is essentially the totality of the war experience at the time — when men with guns on horses were just beginning to be replaced by massively destructive tanks. As a result, the film gets more unbearably immediate with each passing minute.
This outstanding technical and heartfelt achievement comes courtesy of director/co-writer Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Skyfall, Revolutionary Road), who rehearsed both the geographic and emotional beats more like a stage play than a film where editing can be used to hide mistakes or combine the best parts of multiple takes. But by constructing 1917 to look like a single take, many of his directing tools were stripped away, leaving only the performances to carry the weight of this devastating story.
/Film spoke with stars Chapman and MacKay in Chicago recently to discuss how they made personal connections to a World War I story, the months-long rehearsal process that was required to pull off the single-take appearance of the film, and remembering the emotional heart of the story as well as their choreographed movement.
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