Domhnall Gleeson – Interview with the star of About Time, Frank & Unbroken

Watch our video interview with the star of Richard Curtis time-travelling rom com

Richard Curtis, the man who gave us hits like ‘Black Adder’, ‘Mr Bean’, ‘Four Weddings’, ‘Bridget Jones’ and ‘Notting Hill’ has recently been experimenting with the complicated subject of time travel. His recent writing stint on Doctor Who went down a storm with fans and he’s now adding his sci-fi knowledge into the world of romantic comedy. His new film, ‘About Time’, starring Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy and Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson tells of a hopeless romantic who can travel back through his past to correct all sorts of embarrassing mishaps in his love life. The film is tipped to make a household name of young Domhnall Gleeson, who we’ve previously seen in movies like ‘True Grit’, ‘Dredd’, ‘Anna Karenina’ and the ‘Harry Potter’ franchise.

What grabbed you here? The chance to work with king of rom-coms Richard Curtis? Or was it a script that cleverly mixes sci-fi and time travel into a rom-com genre? Or was it just the chance to hook up with Rachel McAdams?
All of those things were very very tempting, Rachel wasn’t attached when I got involved, otherwise I might have been too nervous to audition. It was a great script and a great writer/director. Richard Curtis is a great man and knocked it out of the park on this one. Also it was the most personal of his films, it really spoke to me, the relationship with Rachel and the father and in particular his sister. So there were many reasons for me to audition as hard as I could for it.

Time travel is important to the movie, but it never gets too wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey and never concerns itself with time-travelling paradoxes that can sometimes weigh down sci-fi. How did it work in the script? Did it require you to flick back a few pages to figure out how it all pieced together?
There were a couple of moments where you had to make sure that (the time travel) made sense, particularly about going back the first time to Rachel, to make sure that you haven’t made a mess of it. Like, why would he do *this* instead of *that* and once I could understand it I knew the audience could understand it. We really stuck close to the script, nothing had to change as a result. It was just knowing his motivation for doing it and not doing other things. The time travel scenes were shot out of sequence, but that’s what rehearsal was for and what my time with Richard was for.

Just two years ago you were awarded a prestigious Shooting Star award, now after supporting roles in ‘Shadow Dancer’, ‘Dredd’ & ‘Anna Karenina’ you’re the lead actor in what’s tipped to be the biggest rom com of the year. Are you surprised by how fast its all happened?
The leap up to doing Anna Kerenna felt pretty huge, just in terms of responsibility and size of the project and the risks that Joe Wright was taking with me. That felt like a bit jump and this certainly feels like a big jump but you have to take those chances and grab them and just work as hard as you can and hope it goes ok.

How does one prepare to become a suave romantic lead in a Richard Curtis movie? Did you watch any of his back catalogue to channel your inner Hugh Grant?
No, this is the thing… I had to try really hard not to do Hugh Grants voice, so I took Richard Curtis’ voice and Bill Nighy’s voice and mixed those up a bit. So I wouldn’t just be doing a really bad imitation of a Hugh Grant performance. I had loved ‘Notting Hill’ before, but I didn’t watch any of Richard’s other films because I knew I’d just do a Hugh Grant. I’m not a massive romantic comedy fan. For this movie I watched ‘When Harry met Sally’ a lot, to watch real relationships that can still be funny, that’s the key to it I think, keeping it all very real but understanding that you have to be funny too. If people compare me to Hugh Grant then hopefully they’ll be doing it because I managed to successfully be the lead in a Richard Curtis film.

There is a particularly brave scene in the movie, shot completely in the dark for maybe five minutes. Did you actually shoot the scene in complete darkness or was it filmed in a sound booth?
We did a bunch of different versions of it, we shot completely in the dark, then we ate in the restaurant for real during prep time then we had the lights on for some stuff too but most of it was in the dark.

ABOUT TIME is now showing at Irish cinemas