Read our roundtable interview with newcomer Luke Evans, who plays Andy Cobb in the upcoming British romantic ensemble comedy ‘Tamara Drewe.’ The movie is scheduled to begin a limited theatrical release on October 8, 2010, in New York and Los Angeles. The film tells the story of London journalist Tamara Drewe as she goes back to her family farm in the countryside of Ewedown, and follows the infatuations, love and sexual affairs and career ambitions of the people living in the small rural town. Luke previously acted with his ‘Tamara Drewe’ co-star Gemma Arterton in last spring’s ‘Clash of the Titans.’
Question (Q): What was your casting story like for ‘Tamara Drewe?”
Luke Evans (LE): The casting directors, Lissy Holm and Leah Davis, had seen me in a play I had done at the Donmar Warehouse a year before. I had never met them, they had just come to see this play. They were looking for Andy, and I think they were having trouble. Stephen (Frears, the movie’s director) was having a bit of an issue with Andy, he found it difficult to find somebody. I remember meeting Leah Davis, and she said “You’re going to meet Stephen Frears tomorrow. He might fall asleep while you’re talking to him. He might walk out of the room. He might be in here for one minute, he might be in here for an hour. So I’ll see you tomorrow.” I was like, “Oh, my God.” I was terrified. They didn’t give me a script, I didn’t know anything about the film, really. I knew the general plot, but I didn’t know a huge amount. So I went in like a fox in headlights, and it just worked. He didn’t fall asleep, and he didn’t walk out of the room. We sat on the window sill of Leah’s office and talked about Richard Burton, Michael Sheen, and not once about the film. We had a cigarette. Leah came in, and said “Can he act?” He said yes, and that was it. A few days later, I got the job. You don’t say no to a job with Stephen Frears. It was a very special job, and I loved every single minute of it. It was a very big deal for me, because I had only done about three or four films before that. It was the biggest thing I had done to that point. A lot of my mates knew of the cast, so it was a massive deal, and I’m very grateful I got it. I enjoyed every minute of it.
Q: Did you expect to audition?
LE: Yeah, I did at some point. But I knew it wasn’t going to be a straight-forward audition, because there wasn’t a script, so I knew it was just going to be a meeting. Once you meet Stephen though and see how he works, you see that he works on instinct. He’s quite impulsive and instinctual about his decisions with casting. I don’t think he likes reads, he doesn’t like people to read. I know that, he’s told me that. He just gets the feeling, and if it feels right, that’s basically enough for him.
Q: Dominic Cooper (who played drummer Ben Sergeant) has talked about the freedom Stephen had given you guys. Was that sometimes challenging?
LE: No. It was very nice to be on set with Stephen. The whole thing worked very well, because his crew has worked with him for a very long time. The producers have produced almost all of his stuff over the past 20 years. So you’re working with a family, who would all know each others dynamic on set. You walk on set, and you feel like you’re with your mates. He allows you to feel very comfortable. He often whispers things in your ear, he does that a lot. It sometimes it makes sense, and sometimes it doesn’t. I think it’s very clever, because you get very stressed, since you don’t know what he just said. You go for a take, and you say, “Just let it sit, and it’ll work itself out.” Oftentimes, after a scene, you go, “Oh, that makes sense.” But that’s how he works.
Q: Was there ever an issue playing Andy?
LE: No, there was never an issue, I quite got it. I kind of understood him, and I related to him quite easily. I think that’s what Stephen saw in me when he met me. I think he saw a solid human being who was quite earthy and working class. Andy’s working class, which is what I am. So I really didn’t have any issues with the character.
Q: Why did he break up with Tamara years before?
LE: Well, he was in his late teens, early 20’s, going to college. She was still a teen, three or four years younger than him. I think men of that age, they always think there’s much better things than what they got. I remember being that age, and always thinking what I’ve got isn’t as good as what I could have. They’re always striving for more. He was going to college, he’s got new friends. She was kind of young, I guess, and he thought, I can’t be seen with you anymore. She was like 16, still in school uniforms, and I was wearing casual clothes, normal clothes to college.
Q: Did he care about her nose?
LE: I don’t think he ever cared about that. He doesn’t wear the latest fashions. He wears what’s practical, what he needs to wear to go to work. I don’t think he ever dresses up. I don’t think he’s ever got clean hands, I think his nails are always dirty. I don’t think that really played in his attraction to her. I think when they were younger, he really didn’t care. He still can’t understand why she got it done, which is quite a lovely thing. Most people would look at her, and would say, “Look at that nose.” But he never saw it. She’s got a line in the film, “Don’t say a word,” and he says, “I always liked the old one.” He’s a sweet man, and there should be plenty more Andy Cobbs in the world, not worried about the aesthetic.
Q: Stephen has said part of his struggle in casting Andy is that he couldn’t find any Curlys from ‘Oklahoma!’ He said that’s what he was looking for. Did you talk about that?
LE: Yeah. We all know what it means, it’s quite clear. I guess it’s always good to find what you’re good at. I guess I can play that role, and I like playing that role. I can play it honestly and very truthfully, because I’m very much like Curly from ‘Oklahoma!’ I’m Luke from South Wales. It’s a little village mentality. There aren’t a lot of those roles, but I can play those roles.
Q: Your life has become a lot busier, playing these roles, traveling. Is there anyone from your teenage years that you haven’t seen in a long time that you would like to re-connect with?
LE: Loads of people. Lots of people, when moving to London, you sort of lost touch with. I often think of people, it’s very weird when you lose connections to people you knew as a child. But that’s life, you move away. Life is fast, and you have to struggle to keep people in your life, I find. Keep the real important people friends, and you have to make an effort to stay friends. Otherwise, you can lose people.
Q: You have an interesting relationship with the barmaid in the film, she’s kind of like your therapist with benefits. Can you talk about the dynamic in that relationship?
LE: I think we both helped each other out in lots of different ways. If you live in a village like that, then there’s not going to be a huge amount of choice to start with. She was traveling, and stopped to be this bar woman to raise money to keep going. I guess they were just there for each other. I don’t think before that Andy really had anybody. I think he was quite a loner. He had way too much time on his hands, and messed up his life. So she’s come along, and given a reason to his mundane existence, not sad, but failed life. He’s lost his confidence, he doesn’t have a support system or family. I don’t think he has many friends, I think he’s a loner. He likes working in the fields. She comes along, is a release from village life. I think she does that for him, and he does that for her. They’re there for each other. There was a scene that never got to the film, which was cut. He was lying with his head in her lap, and she was saying she was going to move on. I was thinking, “Oh, what’s going to happen to Andy now? He’s got nobody else.” Obviously Tamara doesn’t love him, and she’s going to move on. There’s no one left. I quite liked their relationship. It could have been developed a little bit more.
Q: What does Andy think of all the writers?
LE: To be honest, I don’t think he even notices them most of the time. They don’t really notice him either. I think the only person he cares about in the house is Beth (Hardiment, who runs Stonefields Farm, the writer’s retreat where they live). She’s like his mother. He hasn’t had a mother since he was a young boy. She’s sort of filled that gap in his life, and he cares about her. He’s protective of her. He has really strongly protective towards her, and he hates to see her upset. The writers, I don’t think he cares.
Q: Your two characters, Andy and Beth, are the two characters that aren’t pretentious.
LE: Basically, yes. She’s a good woman, and Andy’s a good guy. Deep down, they’re not arrogant. But they’re surrounded by people who are.
Q: Who in the cast had a sense of humor that kept everyone going?
LE: Tamsin (Greig, who plays Beth), made me laugh so much. She’s one of the funniest ones.
Q: Which is ironic, because she plays one of the most tragic characters.
LE: She was always talking about her fat behind, but it was fake. But she’s beautiful in real life. She’s a very funny woman, and she made me giggle many, many times. In the scene when Beth’s talking about the drummer’s (Ben) new car, and I’m leaning about the chicken coup, up to the point when they yelled action, we were laughing. She’s very, very funny. Roger Allam (who plays Beth’s husband Nicolas) was funny too. Very funny, especially after a few glasses of wine.
Q: What about Gemma?
LE: She’s wonderful and is a lovely, intelligent, bright thing, and is a pleasure to be around, on and off the screen.
Q: What about Stephen? Does he have fun while making his films?
LE: Yes. I think he only has fun when he’s happy. I think he was very happy on this film, I could tell. He really enjoyed it, there was a lovely atmosphere. He worked very hard, and he was very tired by the end of it. He always had fun, and I think that the fact that he knows the crew so well, each one of them had a story. He relates to each one of them differently. It was very funny. If there was ever a continuity error, everyone would shout his name, and he would come running over and sort it out. He had a lot of fun. We always had fun coming to work with him.
Q: Did the locale provide a lot of that?
LE: Yeah! Working in Dorset, Thomas Hardy country (the movie is based on the graphic novel ‘Tamara Drewe,’ which itself is based on Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd), is quite unique. There’s no where else in the United Kingdom that the land looks like Dorset. I immediately felt at home. It was also nice coming from living in London, in the city, to go back to living in the country, where I was actually brought up-not in Dorset, but in the countryside. So I thoroughly enjoyed it. The fence that I’m building in the opening sequence, I actually built that fence. I went down two weeks before we started shooting. The art department taught me how to build an old fashioned hazel fence. I was exhausted, because I built the whole thing.
Q: How many of Posy Simmond’s (the author of the ‘Tamara Drewe’ graphic novel) novels did you read before shooting the movie?
LE: Well, Stephen was the one directing us, so we went on the script. We got the book as a present quite early on, and it was quite nice to refer to during filming. It was nice to be able to see your character, and how similar you look to that character.
Written by: Karen Benardello