In the new independent thriller Honeymoon, Scottish actress Rose Leslie plays Bea, a young woman embarking with her new husband Paul (Harry Treadaway) on a romantic, secluded getaway at a remote cottage on a lake. But after Paul finds Rose in the woods one night, allegedly sleepwalking, he soon realizes that the woman he loves is somehow different – and that the changes taking place within her are of a malevolent and inexplicable nature.
Honeymoon was directed and co-written by first time feature filmmaker Leigh Janiak, who relies heavily on her two leads to carry this minimalist yet intensely creepy film. The two actors create an intimacy that immediately makes the situation unsettling and uncomfortable. For Leslie, it’s a far cry from her recently completely stint on Game of Thrones, where she played Ygritte, the fierce wildling woman who becomes the lover of Jon Snow and – spoiler warning – whose death was one of the more powerful moments in the latter stages of season 4.
Den of Geek got a chance to speak with Ms. Leslie in Los Angeles recently, where she was doing press for Honeymoon while on a break from her new film, The Last Witch Hunter.
Den of Geek: What was the draw for you in doing this? What appealed to you about it?
Rose Leslie: For me the intensity of the world that Bea and Paul would have to be in for this to be pulled off in the right way meant that obviously it was always going to be a two-hander. And never before have I really experienced something on screen where it is pretty much leaning on only two people to carry the film. So I thought that was a great draw because that appealed to the theatrical side of me.
Whilst we were shooting it, it felt very much like a play because we were in the cottage for the majority of the shoot without ever really leaving it. There were rehearsals and then boom we went straight back into it, back in the scene. And then we kind of came out and there was so much rehearsal and dedication. You’re always like on top of one another to get it right. It felt like a very intimate loving shoot, and certainly did feel that way whilst we were doing it. Also just the transformation that the character that I play goes through…it was great.
With a few little changes you could put this on a stage really.
Yes. Yes. Because it is so close and you are, from an actor’s perspective, leaning on each other. And Harry and I, we have a great dialogue off-screen as we do onscreen. So having such a wonderful person to work with and to collaborate with felt very different from other jobs.
You had not met Harry before this, right?
No. But years ago we went to the same drama school together. Harry was in his final year. We both did a three-year course. Harry was in his final year and I just arrived. Obviously being a newbie I put everyone in their final graduating year on a pedestal and Harry was one of those people. He was incredibly, hugely talented. And so I always knew of him but he never knew me.
Shame on him.
When we finally started kind of working together on this it was a lovely thing to be able to talk about our drama school and just realize that we had very similar approaches to the script and the same vision in our heads with the film. So that was great.
How did Leigh fit into this and what was it like working with her on her first feature?
We chatted a lot on Skype prior to actually going out to North Carolina to work. She was very, very keen on rehearsals, which is such a blessing. So the three of us really kind of like dissected the script and went through it and really worked out the motivations and backstory with everything and every single scenario and scene.
That really fed onto the days when we were on set having to work for long hours. It was intense. It was six day weeks for four weeks straight really. But Leigh was brilliant and had a wonderful communication with both of us and really, really knows, from my point of view, how to relate and how to speak to actors and really dig deep and get the best of what she can out of us. That was a true privilege, it really was.
You’ve done physical stuff before on Game of Thrones, but was this different and maybe more harrowing, especially because some of it is so intimate?
You’re absolutely right. Harrowing I think is completely the correct terminology because never before have I been pushed into such an extreme mindset whereby I could never really relate to the kind of confusion that is going on within Bea and her headspace. It was a completely new kind of area. I never had explored that before. That was grueling mentally, very, very draining, especially in the scene whereby she is tied to the bed and rather horrifically “gives birth.” That was something that I’d never really had any experience in. I had decided on the day to stay within that world, not really step out of the bedroom and really try and feel the full extent of just the horrificness that is going on, not only in her head but just in the situation.
I had never really put myself through something whereby I couldn’t tap in and out of it. And I felt that it would be detrimental if I had kind of stepped outside and made a telephone call to my parents or something like that. I kind of wanted to stay within the realms of that world. So that was a new thing for me.
What were some other especially challenging scenes to play?
There was a barfing scene that was pretty much top of the list as well. But it was also quite disturbing to play with these two characters, to play the kind of middle ground of the film whereby you can see the cracks beginning to show and you can see that they’re no longer being honest with one another and that lies and deceitfulness begins to peek through.
I never really appreciated that that would affect me in the way that it did of just feeling really icky, feeling really, really icky and loving this man but knowing that you can’t tell him the truth. That was rather disturbing as well because you are never at ease with yourself.
One thing that I discussed with Leigh was the subtext about getting into a relationship and coming to the realization that maybe I don’t know this person as well as I should. Did you factor that into your performance?
Yes. Yes. I thought that it was very interesting in the way that the writers completely tapped into that very kind of like humanistic fear of taking that leap into marriage and still being unaware whether you really truly know that person 100 percent. I think it’s an innate fear within all of us of never wanting the marriage to fail but it might and still not knowing what journey you’re going to take and whether you truly know someone or not. That’s really what it tapped into and why you feel slightly uneasy.
So when an actor leaves Game of Thrones, do they have some sort of ritual on set? Do they give you some sort of a sendoff?
I was so lucky. I was given a lovely sendoff. It was a wonderful thing that the production had scheduled the scene whereby Ygritte dies on my final day. That was my final scene. I didn’t have to shoot that and then come back and do something else. So that was a lovely thing knowing that once it happened I was then leaving.
The crew are very, very dear to me and there’s such a loving intense family unit vibe on set with everyone. So they kind of rallied around and presented me with my bow and arrow for me to take home with me. And they changed the handle so I hold the actual bow with my left hand and pull back with my right. They replaced the handle with a white leather strap and a silver placard saying “Kissed by Fire,” with an emblem of a rose on the other side, which made me cry even more. It was very emotional. Very emotional.
Yeah, it was.
When you had signed on for Ygritte did you know her fate or did you not know the stories?
I had read the books. I decided to be a massive geek, do my research and even prior to shooting season two, which is obviously my first season, I had to read up to book four and finished book four so I was well aware of her fate.
Have you read all the books now?
I haven’t read A Dance with Dragons. Not yet. But I most certainly will.
Have you ever tried to pry any information out of George R. R. Martin?
We all have. We all have. We all ply him with whiskey and any type of booze that we can get our hands on. But no the man is stone. He absolutely is and so are (showrunners) David (Benioff) and Dan (Weiss). But they are hugely intelligent men and they wouldn’t want to ruin it for anyone anyway. So that’s fine.
I read you spent your childhood in a castle…?
That is home. Yes. In Scotland.
I also read that your family is part of the Clan Leslie, which has great meaning in Scotland. So what’s it like growing up in a real castle?
Oh God. I have had the most wonderful childhood and I was raised in a very loving family. And it was nothing short of an amazing privilege because I was incredibly lucky to be able to play up in trees and make it like silly dens in a bush and stuff like that. But living in a house and being brought up in a house like that, my god it’s cold. And holy shit, is it drafty. There are stone floors that that are not cozy or comfy in the way that this lovely carpet is. You don’t walk down to the kitchen for breakfast in your pajamas because it’s too freezing. You have to get dressed.
So there are wonderful, wonderful points and less so wonderful ones. But I feel incredibly lucky to have been raised in such a lovely place.
So aside from the sex and murder and betrayal and treachery, the Game of Thrones esthetic is not completely alien to you in some ways.
Oh yes, yes. Exactly. Exactly. With all the clans in Scotland and with all the battles, dating back to 1066 or even before. I had a little insight from my dad.
What’s next for you?
I’m a lucky girl. I am currently working in Pittsburgh on a movie called The Last Witch Hunter. We’ve already had a couple of days of shooting already and I’m leaving tomorrow to go back to Pittsburgh and I’m there until December. It is directed by Breck Eisner, who is a wonderful, wonderful man, and the other cast members are Vin Diesel, Michael Caine, and Elijah Wood.
Who are you doing most of your work with?
I believe it will be Vin Diesel.
Anything beyond that you know of?
Not at the moment. For the time being I’m very happy that that takes me up till Christmas and then I’m looking forward to a holiday.
Honeymoon is out in theaters Friday (September 12).