The last time I spoke to Claire Foyit was the night before her final day of shooting “The Crown.” She played Queen Elizabeth II for two seasons on Peter Morgan’s acclaimed Netflix series and earned Emmy, BAFTA, SAG Award and Golden Globe Award nominations for her performance. The second season debuts December 8, but in the meantime Foy is focused on her burgeoning movie career.
Foy plays Diana Cavendish, the wife of disabled persons advocate Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield) in Andy Serkis’ “Breathe.” It’s another impressive, if not period piece turn for the Brit even if the reviews are probably not as pleasant as U.S. distributor Bleecker Street was hoping for. She’ll soon begin filming Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land” follow up “First Man” opposite Ryan Gosling. On this day, however, it was almost all about “Breathe.”
READ MORE: Andrew Garfield & Claire Foy ‘Breathe’ Deep For History [Review]
Spoiler alert: There is a vague discussion of a major, final scene in the film.
Gregory Ellwood: So, the last time we spoke you were about to finish shooting “The Crown.”
Claire Foy: Oh my gosh. Was I mental?
No, you were very focused, you were like, “I’m sort of sad.” But anyway, let’s talk about this movie! I was so impressed with both your and Andrew’s performances. People think this is Andy Serkis’ first film, but it’s not.
Oh yeah, we’ve beaten them to the part, “The Jungle Book” is. We’re the first ones [out though].
I don’t know if you’ve worked with first time filmmakers before there’s always that, like…
Was that what it felt like with Andy?
No, I mean that man has a vast amount of experience in this industry. As an actor, as a director – you know he’s directed things before – he lives and breathes it. I think he really really understood that he, Andrew and I all had very different approaches to things. So, we were approaching it as actors and he was approaching as a director and it just became kind of like, three of us throwing everything into the pot together really to be honest. And also he left us alone a lot. He was very very trusting and I think a certain point during the film he suddenly realized that me and Andrew made something between ourselves, that I don’t even know what it is. But it has its own energy and we were communicating. In a short hand, and we were able to be really really close to each other and, you know, be physically really close to each other and it was never awkward or weird. We became really kind of each other really, in a weird way.
Was this a project you where you felt like you had to rehearse before hand? Or was this something, where because you had that short hand, you could just go on set, figure it out?
No, we had to just do it by doing it. We didn’t have much amount of rehearse. We only had six weeks before we started shooting and that was, to do everything, to do all the prep for it. And there was a lot of work in the sense there. You go through it, there were lots of periods of time. There was a lot of makeup. There was all sorts of different things that Andy had to sort out. Me and Andrew just did as much on our end that we could as possible. Andrew was on it all the time, all the time. He put everything into it. He was constantly researching or meeting people or going places. Or you know practicing or rehearsing. And I did as much as I possibly could. And you know we just had to dive in. But I don’t think that it wasn’t until we were actually doing it, that we were able to kind of get that bond in that place.
So you have, if I’m correct, you had two people who were still alive. Your character-
Did you meet her beforehand?
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.
Was there one thing that you took away from meeting here where you thought, “I need to remember this for my performance”?
It was more. I just was like, “My God, I need to be more like her in my life.” The main thing I took away was, “don’t you dare over-sentimentalize.” Don’t you dare kind of go, “If I was there be feeling this” Don’t you dare do that, cause I’d have to step out away. It’s not about me. Diana was there. And she didn’t pay for that. “She had a different set of values and she had a personality and you bloody observed that.” I just had to just constantly think “what would have Diana would have done? ” And you know that was there, but [screenwriter] Will Nicholson already understood her. You can’t act against the dollar and he understood her as well. I was very very lucky. I had, I mean, what more could I ask for really.
And her son was also one of the producers.
Was that weird at all?
It was weird because it wasn’t weird. That’s why this film, I cry my eyes out even thinking about it, because it was the most special, [because] to be allowed into someone’s life like that and to meet someone like Jonathan. And it wasn’t work being with him. And him allowing you to play his mother and father. And know how much they loved each other and be able to relinquish all control over it. And to be able to watch you perform, and not be judgemental over you and not own it. It should’ve been weird, it should’ve really been like, “Oh this uncomfortable oh this is strange.” The only time it was uncomfortable is when Andrew [was around for the] almost sex scene. He was like, “I’m going to see the production manager. And talk about some stuff.”
Wait was that the scene where like you just get in bed with him and it looks like you’re just giving him sort of hug?
Yeah, I mean it’s like tang. But that was too much for him he was like, “Gross gross get off. Stop it.” He couldn’t take it. Hilarious.
So, in context of the movie itself, obviously it’s a historical narrative, a lot of decades are being covered. Did you guys have to jump back and forth during filming?
We did it chronologically, they were really nice.
That’s very rare.
It was so important. We had to because the aging makeup took Andrew 5 hours [to put on]. Andrew was up at like 3 o’clock in the morning having his prosthetics put on. It really helped cause we were never ahead of the story and we were always in it and there and not going “What’s happening? What’s gonna happen?” But the final [few] weeks when we were in the house and I knew what was gonna happen I was absolutely aside myself. Like just ridiculous. I just I couldn’t give myself a stern talking to. There was no help for me. I was just gone.
How hard was that final scene?
It was just hard cause I was. I couldn’t act it out on screen so therefore off screen I was just a mess.
Because she didn’t then?
Yeah. Jonathan seen his mother cry once.
[Mm-hmm] and it wasn’t about anything to do with that. It was about Christmas presents.
Well, let’s circle back to your career. You’re done with “The Crown.” This movie is coming out. Do you know what you’re doing next?
Yeah, check this out I gonna go have dinner with Damien Chazelle and Ryan Gosling. And then I’m going to break both my legs and have some bad fortune. Because otherwise it’s ridiculous. That’s what I’m gonna do, I’m gonna be in “First Man,” it’s about Neil Armstrong.
So, who are you playing in it?
Unless I just made that up, I just feel like maybe that’s just too ridiculous.
[Publicist]: You know nothing.
You know nothing.
I know nothing, yeah.
“Breathe” is now playing in limited release.