Ben Schnetzer and Faye Marsay interview: Pride

Two of the stars of Pride chat to us about the film, Imelda Staunton, and asking Andrew Scott for a wee...

There’s a big cast at work in Matthew Warchus’ Pride, which finally makes its way into cinemas at the end of this week. Two of the younger stars of the film are Ben Schnetzer and Faye Marsay. Both are terrific in the movie, and both were full of beans when we sat down with them for a chat about it, on the eve of the film’s premiere.

After chatting, for reasons we don’t recall, about the town of Bury (“I know where I’m going this weekend”, grinned New Yorker Schnetzer. “Bury’s world famous market!”), we settled down for a natter about the film itself…

Let’s start with the predictable question, then. Can you talk about how it came to you both?

FM: I auditioned for it in July of last year. I was filming Fresh Meat at the time, and I remember being on set and someone asking if I’d like to be in a film. I screamed my head off and ruined filming, so they had to go again!

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Is that on the DVD outtakes?

FM: I don’t think it is, sadly!

I just got given the script to read for audition, and I remember reading the first two pages where Ben’s character gets the idea for LGSM (Lesbians & Gays Support The Miners). And I was right, ah. I’m from the north, so I’m anti-Thatcher. Not the film, but I am. My grandad was a miner, my father, brother and uncles all work in industry. So it was quite important to me and quite special to me. And I went yeah, I need to be in this film, and was lucky enough that after three auditions, they gave me the part.

BS: I got the script when I was doing a film in London called The Riot Club. I read it, thought it was great, and then I had to fly back to New York. I put myself on tape for it. I Skyped with [director] Matthew and [writer] Stephen, and put myself on tape for it a few more times. And then Skyped with them again. And got the part, then flew over for the table read.

Let’s get to the nub of it then. There’s clearly a generational divide in the cast, so I like to think that on day one, the two of you are sat having a cup of tea, when Imelda Staunton saunters over with some cake, in a nice cardigan. Andrew Scott then walks across with a few Sherlock spoilers. Am I in the ballpark here? Appreciating that you come from a theatre background where a generational blend is more pronounced, but even so, there’s a degree of acting royalty in this film. So can you take us through day one?

BS: I think day one for us, the first time you meet people, is the table read. And table reads are always a breed unto themselves. Everybody’s insecurities are going crazy, and you’re sitting there thinking I’m going to get fired here.

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Do you get the shakes?

BS: Joe Gilgun was a shaker!

FM: I’m a bit of a shaker, and I need to be doing something. So I’ve got a script, but I’m picking my leg under the table.

Glass table?

BS: If I ever direct a film, there’s definitely going to be a glass table at the table read.

FM: I remember I was sat near Andrew Scott, and I watched him on stage a bajillion times. He’s one of my favourite actors on stage – and on telly, but on stage I think he’s something else. I remember being sat near him, and I was so nervous. I didn’t know what to say to him, I needed something like ten wees. And he was lovely. And in the end, I whispered to him ‘I really need a wee, do you think I can go’. And he was ‘yeah, go, go go’. 

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So to be clear: on day one, you were nervous of Andrew Scott, so you asked him if you could go for a wee?

FM: Yeah! And he said yes!

BS: Andrew, for us younger folk, was a real advocate. If ever anyone felt uncomfortable with anything, Andrew was the first to say we’re going to sort this out. Even if it was just ‘I wish I had another take of that’. He’d be like ‘okay, we’re going to do one more’. And he’s a great example of a consummate professional. He brings it every time. He’s gracious. He’s kind. He’s the man! I love Andrew.

Was it important to the pair of you that you came from theatre to this? Because actors under the age of 30 now are increasingly finding that rep is in television, rather than theatre? Yet theatre groundings tend to lead to better ensemble casts?

BS: It’s interesting. I think Matthew’s approach – because he comes from this background – is very conducive to that sense of troupe and ensemble. For a film, we had a pretty hefty rehearsal period.

FM: Yeah we did.

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BS: Especially with a cast this large, the rehearsal we had and the way that Matthew works facilitates a sense of closeness in an ensemble. Also, Stephen [Beresford, writer] came from theatre too…

FM: Stephen trained at RADA! He knows actors.

BS: And Matthew knows how to speak to actors. And Stephen’s script, the way it’s written, is in a way theatrical in the sense that it’s mood propelled by dialogue. And so right off the bat, we found that theatrical shorthand, and Matthew knew we’ve got a lot of people to cover, we don’t have much time, we’re going to cover a lot of people in the same setup, so we all need to bring it every take. We don’t have the luxury of shooting one scene a day. We’re going to be doing four or five scenes a day.

FM: Yeah, we were shooting five to six, sometimes eight pages a day. It was like television. 

Time is generally regarded as the killer.

FM: Fuck, yeah!

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And also that you’re on a film set where the clock is ticking, and where you don’t have the level of rehearsal and preparation you’d get in theatre. Because film it still, ultimately, a very different beast.

FM: Complete different skills, yeah.

How long was the rehearsal period?

FM: We were going for a week, which is almost unheard of. Usually you’ll get a rehearsal for camera on set on the day.

Unless you’re making a Mike Leigh film!

BS: Exactly. Then you get a year.

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FM: Or the dude who did Boyhood! He got 12 years!

You’re also coming into acting at a time when scrutiny is ridiculous, particularly for screen acting though. Does honing your craft in theatre, then, allow you to hone your craft away from the glare of social media in particular? Are you frightened of that?

FM: I am. I’m frightened of it, because I’m not used to it. Not that anybody would be used to it unless they’d been in this game a long time, but I grew up in the most working class, humble, salt of the earth place on the planet, in the north east of England. So when people judge me, I can’t bear it. I find it quite weird. Even though I have Twitter, I only use it to say ‘oh, this is coming out’. I would never voice anything about me really.

With theatre, I’ve just done telly since I left drama school two years ago, but that’s my first love, and even though theatre is so different, it does give you a rooting.

BS: Imelda and I, I think a handful of us had a good chat…

Listen to you! ‘Imelda and I’!

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BS: Imelda and I! [laughs] She was telling me about when she left drama school, you would go and do rep for a few years, and you’d hone your craft, and you’d cut your teeth, make your mistakes. You want to bring it every day. But if you have a bad day in the theatre, a couple of hundred people see it. That sucked, we’ll get back to it. You have a bad day on film, it’s just on DVD for the rest of your life. But it’s a matter of people say what they say and that’s that. You can’t buy into it.

Just to give examples as to how careers are distilled already, IMDB has a function whereby it categorises your work by keywords. Then it tells you what the most popular keywords for your career are.

BS: Oh Jesus.

FM: Oh shit.

Faye, yours are ‘bare chested male’ and ‘execution’. You didn’t come out of that too badly!

FM: Oh wow! I can take that, I can take that! 

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Ben, amongst your most popular? Brother-sister relationship, which I think ties back to a Law & Order episode.

BS: Yes, yes!

And my favourite is ‘ampersand in title’.

BS: What?! That would be Law & Order! Wow!

FM: That’s interesting, dude.

BS: It’s weird!

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It is really weird! We have to end then by asking you what your favourite Jason Statham film is, anyway. The most Andrew Scott would admit to was that he’d watched Snatch.

FM: I’ve watched Snatch. I’ll go with that. Ben knows more about movies than anyone I’ve met in my life, though…

BS: [ponders] Jason Statham… Paddy did a movie with him… Blitz! I want to say that one, because I want to represent Paddy. Snatch is great as well though!

Ben and Faye, thank you very much.

Pride is released on September 12th.

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