If you fancy a trip to the movies on New Years Day, you can already tick off one of the best movies of 2022 if you’re going to watch Louis Wain’s electric life.
The new film stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Claire Foy as eccentric British artist Louis Wain and his wife Emily Richardson. You might not know the name, but you’ve seen Wain’s famous drawings of cats, with felines often displaying human features. It is a magical and moving biopic that mixes fantastic humor and real tragedy.
Before its release in the UK, Digital Spy spoke to the film’s brilliant lead duo who are both at their peak in the biopic. Unfortunately, no cats were present during our conversation, but we talked about them a lot.
Sorry to start with a hard-hitting question, but are you both cats?
Benedict Cumberbatch: [laughs] Here we are. We are in secret. We dress like them. We fetish them. I do not have a cat. I love cats, actually. I think they are amazing. I am not a cat or a dog person – they are so different to compare.
I think I would probably try to own a dog first, because I think there are more practical things. But being on set with cats is a different story, as you may have heard me mention in the past in previous interviews. It’s a nightmare. I mean, the kittens are awesome. They are gentle.
Claire Foy: They are really cute.
Cumberbatch: You can fall in love with them and treat them like a little baby, which we do. We had. It is an extremely important relationship to have with this cat. They lick the milk from the saucers and play with balls of wool. It’s all very pretty. And then once they’re a little older than that it’s a nightmare – he said swallowing a swear word.
They don’t necessarily want to do everything you need them to do. But will be [Sharpe] was right to choose that over animation or visual effects, that’s for sure. The advantage is that when they are there you are totally focused on them, like the fire or a child. It’s just like, that’s all you can see. It gives you a very present feeling of what you are doing.
Claire, did Benedict behave better than the cats, or did the cats behave better than Benedict on set?
Foy: Benedict is always very wise, I can tell, in life.
Cumberbatch: I go wherever I am told.
Foy: He has good manners. He is very well behaved.
Cumberbatch: If someone looks like [makes clicking noise] – like an animal click – I’m like ‘What? What do you want me to do?’
Foy: He is a very professional person. I think overall I would give him nine and three quarters out of 10 for his behavior.
Cumberbatch: What about cats? How would you rate cats?
Foy: Cats, for me, I loved cats …
Cumberbatch: null points.
Foy: [laughs] One of my favorite scenes in the movie, which was one of my favorite scenes to film, which was the saddest scene to film, was when Benedict had to do the voice of the cat. I liked it.
Cumberbatch: And then I felt for the cat. Putting the glasses on a cat is just not something a cat really wants to experience. It’s sensitive around their face. That’s it for them.
Foy: There was no cruelty to cats. The cats were treated incredibly well.
Cumberbatch: He intentionally put on the glasses at one point. We had to wait a long time.
Foy: And then you started to invent things and I was dead.
Cumberbatch: It’s also one of those extraordinary moments in the script. – Can we stop him, Louis? I don’t feel very well, ‘and I say,’ Why? What’s wrong?’ and she said, ‘I have cancer, Louis’.
You are reading this, it is at the same time dark, richly funny and touching, and painful. It’s the wonderful world of Will Sharpe, our amazing director, and I think he tapped into something very true to the lives of these two.
This film deceived us. We expected a whimsical biopic, and then it becomes something quite more human. You have both played real characters before, more famous than Louis Wain or Emily. Does that make it easier when it comes to someone whose life viewers won’t necessarily experience?
Cumberbatch: No, because you are always playing with someone’s reputation and their real life. You should always have a deep consideration for it. It’s a nice task to showcase someone who hasn’t necessarily had a lot lately, even though they were very famous in their day.
And the same with Alan Turing, I guess, for comparison. Both of me immediately felt, emotionally, very strongly connected to this in some ways. There is a lot of joy, love, laughter, lightness, achievement and happiness in both of their lives, but there are also some very lonely, secluded and depressing places to exist.
At those times, in both films, I started to mourn the real experience that these people had to go through, having just touched on it as an actor. You think, ‘Holy shit. You were chemically castrated after helping us win the war.
Louis was literally losing his mind in a world that did not understand him, with no other support than a poorhouse to be locked in.
So that’s beyond you. That doesn’t necessarily make for a good acting game. You have to recover the rudder a little, but also get lost in it. But I can’t deny that part of this loss of me was a testament to a lot of what I guess they must have gone through.
Claire, pPeople know the queen, so how does that compare to The crown?
Cumberbatch: They don’t know his queen, actually, and that’s what was great – sorry, I’m going to answer his question for her, I had a coffee that’s caffeinated.
But to me, it was like saying, “It’s humanizing someone we don’t know, because it’s like the origin story, in Marvel terms.” She hasn’t seen any Marvel movies. I have seen everything The crown. Let’s go.
Foy: I saw all your other work, honey.
Cumberbatch: I know, it’s very true. She’s very encouraging, I’m just teasing. But for me, it was a miracle. Without straying too far from what you might have imagined to be the constraints of this character or the freedoms of this character, you truly brought to the world a vision of a queen in her youth that few other than her can remember. .
Foy: I mean, I just feel a tremendous burden of responsibility if you describe an emotion that someone has felt, because the risk is that you portray that and some people just say, ‘This doesn’t touch me at all. It was not at all what it was.
But also, to feel an emotion and the experience of people – like portraying someone who has cancer; portray someone whose loved one has cancer – we don’t want to do that and just love to play, and we really love to pretend to be that.
I feel a tremendous weight of responsibility in every role I play to make the emotion and feeling behind it real and honest, and not just for me who enjoys feeling feelings.
Cumberbatch: Storytelling is representational in a very complex way, no matter what you do, fictional or otherwise. I think it’s anguished to do the best job possible, to do well by this person, by this beloved iconic character, by this fictional and undiscovered character – whatever it is.
Louis Wain’s electric life hits UK cinemas on January 1, 2022.
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