Interview with "Head in the Clouds" Star Stuart Townsend
"Head in the Clouds" is a sweeping romantic tale set in between the two World Wars. Off-screen couple Stuart Townsend and Charlize Theron star in "Head in the Clouds" as lovers whose lives follow wildly different paths.
Writer/director John Duigan describes the film as emerging from his desire to somehow express the tension between two diverse points of view when it came to living one's life and the larger world picture. "The period between the wars is something I had studied extensively at university. In essence, you have the climate of the Roaring Ď20s as a response to the appalling carnage of World War I. Psychologically, a lot of people were trying to close their eyes to the possibility of another dreadful war, and this was especially true in Paris, where there was a very vibrant cultural scene."
Duigan speaks highly of his entire cast, in particular his "Head in the Clouds" leading man Stuart Townsend.
Duigan acknowledges it's Townsend's character who brings the audience into the story. "I think his performance offers a sense of great nobility," says Duigan.
What is your perspective of this whole couples-working-together thing?
Are love scenes easier or more difficult because you're a couple?
Is it easier to show intimacy and emotion when youíre involved with your co-star?
Did you grow tired of seeing each other at work and at home?
Why is the 'romance and war' genre still alive?Because romance and war are still alive (laughs). You know, you can find parallels in what's happening today. The first day of filming we were doing the Spanish Civil War sequence and I was in my military gear with my gun and they said, "Action," and I was shooting and killing people. I go back to my trailer and turn on CNN and it's the first day of the U.S. invading Iraq. There it was, it was different costumes, a different time, and desert, but the same old shit, you know?
I think it's an amazing period of time, too - WWI and WWII, the Spanish Civil War. My character was like a lot of other people and was very idealistic and went out to fight for the good cause. I think in that time of WWI, the sacrifice was there. It's not like we really have to fight for anything like that anymore. I personally don't believe that. Back then there were great evils, and now there's just great propaganda. I'm so anti-war. If it was back in the day I might have gone to war, but now no way. I'm not dying for some rich guy.
Youíre not an American citizen, are you?
Are you trying to become an American citizen?
What attracted you to this character?
They live in Paris in this idyllic life with Penelope [Cruz] and it's very bohemian. It's a piece of paradise and for a lot of people that would be it. And it's not enough for him because he's realized there's other stuff going on. He's in a bubble, but there's more.
What the biggest difference between you and this character?
I definitely have the capacity to fall in love like he does, but it's different. Probably, I would have fought for her a little more, I think. He's a little cooler than I am. When they have their discussions, he doesn't push things, he just lets things happen. I'd probably push things and rock the boat. He's a quieter character, more introverted. There's moments and scenes they have where the argument was done, it was over, and he kind of let that happen. I probably wouldn't. I would have fought it.
You've played a few bisexual characters in the past, do you think it's easier to explore that in film?
There are some good things about that, especially for kids nowadays. It's tough for them growing up and trying to be different! I think it's great. It shows that we're evolving, that we can get beyond the whole sexual thing. It's interesting that gay marriage is so controversial and religion still has such a stranglehold on our brains. Especially the Irish Catholic guilt. You must be born with it or something, but it still exists. It will gradually fade out. It's a good time.
There is innovation. It's like music, there are only so many musical notes, there are only so many computations of musical forms that exist. If you put that music into a computer, they'll probably give you some number but out of that number we have jazz, blues, so many different genres, and so many different innovators and genre. Most music these days, to me, is just crap, but occasionally there's stuff in there that's incredible. There are some innovations and my analogy is the same for film, it's such a young art form, a young language, and two or three times a year, I see a film and go, "Wow, that's different." And there are thousands of films being made now, but there's still room for more original film and more original music.
For me, if everyone was making great movies, that would be one thing. But the opportunity to do a good film is so small nowadays. It's like winning the lottery to be in a good film. So, when something when "League of Extraordinary Gentleman" comes up I do it because I need some money at the time and I want to work. I don't do it because I'm proud of it, and it didn't do anything for my soul. I need some cash and it's something to do.
This is the first film I've done in three years that I'm proud of that I've done. I like it and I don't care what anyone else thinks. It's a good story, and I know it will affect some people. Some people won't like it. And that might [not] happen for another three years, you never know. I might do another piece of s***, you never know.
This was shot in a lot of interesting locations.
I had to learn French. That was a bit scary. They all speak French, I don't. It was fun and challenging. I did not have to a perfect accent because I learned it. It was a low maintenance acting job.
Charlize said being in a relationship with you allowed her to manipulate you on the screen.
That's a good thing.
Were you on the set when she did "Monster?"
What about you and Charlize tying the knot?
Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell arenít married.
What about the paparazzi?
What's next for you?
"Best Man" is a romantic comedy. I don't like romantic comedies. This character I play is rather fun, but it's kind of formulaic. He's a best man at weddings, a couple of them.
If there was another "League" movie would you be up for it?
What about other parts that weren't right for you, other projects that team you and Charlize up on screen?
Was Charlize around for any of the scenes with you and Penelope?
I hope most people don't know we're together. I think some couples would do three movies together, and I wouldn't see she and I together again and again. I don't think real couples should do that so often. Maybe they did that in the studio system days.
What did you do to prepare for this role?
How was working with John Duigan?