Rickman, Diaz and Firth ready for opening GambitBy Rebecca Younger
November 22, 2012
SHOT on location mainly in and around London, Gambit tells the story of private art curator Harry Deane, who devises a finely-crafted scheme to con his boss, England’s richest man and avid collector, Lionel Shabandar, into buying a fake Monet painting.
To bait his buyer, he recruits a Texas rodeo queen, PJ, to cross the pond and pose as a woman whose grandfather liberated the painting at the end of the Second World War. Features editor Rebecca Younger went to The Savoy Hotel, which features heavily in the Michael Hoffman film, to meet its leading stars, Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz and Alan Rickman.
Q: Given the theme of this film is a con, have you ever conned your way into a job by perhaps claiming a skill you haven’t had?
Alan Rickman: “I am on film – I’m not going to tell you what it is – having claimed to be able to drive a car. There is one take of a sports car, where the crew was down the other end of the road because I had to make a hill start, which I had no idea how to do. There was this owner of this car looking like it was either going to kill me or him first because it was his prized possession. There was this one take and this car is screaming down this road in first gear, with the windscreen wipers going and it wasn’t raining. I can drive now though.”
Cameron Diaz: “I have no problem in saying I have no idea how to do that, can you please show me. But then once I’ve been shown then the world changes for me and I become an expert.”
Colin Firth: “I had something very similar to Alan with the driving but I wasn’t on a hill start, I was just in a car on flat ground and I couldn’t make it go.”
Q: Colin, we don’t tend to see you in such a physical comedy role. Have you gained a new found respect for the craft?
CF: “It didn’t have to be a new-found respect for the craft, I knew that it’s notoriously difficult and it frightens a lot of people off. I had a great deal of respect for the craft, I don’t know how much it has for me. It’s a precision process. Doing it on stage would be, I think, terrifying. Doing it on film has it’s own difficulties because film is not conducive to spontaneity. You might have a run through and get a few chuckles at 8am in the morning but you don’t keep laughing at the same thing all day long so you don’t have laughs as a reference point anymore, it becomes a bit of a science after that. Hours of waiting and then hours of repetition are not conducive to spontaneity so those are your obstacles. On the other hand it’s a lot of fun. In plunging into a bit of physical comedy and abandoning all dignity, no one can really hurt you after that.”
Q: Talking of comical scenes, you have to spend a relatively long period dashing around The Savoy without your trousers. How was that?
CF: “It was appalling. I felt that Cameron Diaz, being the kind and sweet, supportive colleague that she was, would assure my legs that I had nothing to worry about and that they were fine specimens but she burst into a spontaneous belly laugh.”
CD: “I think I pointed at you while I was laughing, at your knees particularly.”
CF: “I had to wait on standby to make an entrance at the lift doors and, you know, the Savoy understandably had not taken it upon themselves to advise every single one of their guests that there was a film taking place and a man without his trousers in the lobby. So guests would be on their way out for the evening and the doors would open and they would see a somewhat over familiar English actor standing there with his trousers off for no apparent reason.”
Q: How did you deal with the people staring at you?
CF: “A bit like Harry Dean does in the film really, ‘Evening’. One lady, a little bit drunk, we actually met in the revolving doors and she didn’t know anything about a film going on either and I just had a whole intimate moment of, ‘where are your trousers and why are you here?’. You have no choice but to brazen it out and hope it’s over soon. It wasn’t just a short time though, there were days of filming it so I think people got a bit numb.”
Q: Colin is getting all this kudos for showing his legs but Alan, you actually get completely naked in the film.
AR: “I was frozen with alarm that this was happening at this point in my life and that actually people were going to see this and I looked to my right and there was a film full of extras in the next office.”
CF: “And glass in between.”
AR: “Yes it was completely transparent. I’ve no sympathy with Colin’s problem is all I can say.”
Q: Cameron, PJ is perceived to show off some mean lassoing skills at the beginning of the film. Did you get into that rodeo world at all?
CD: “I did go down to Texas and I did do a little research into small towns down there just because I hadn’t been really in any real small towns in Texas. So I went down, I looked around and I found a bunch of the wardrobe, found the hat, found my boots found my buckle and jeans and brought them back here and did some training with the rope being thrown for the cast. Of course I didn’t get to film it but nonetheless I know how to throw a rope. It was a lot of fun.”
Q: Colin, you also have to work with animals in the film – in particular a lion. How did you react to that?
CF: “I was beside myself with terror and under entirely safe circumstances but protected measures don’t include things like guns or metal doors, it’s a little, rather unconvincing filament of wire about two feet above the ground, which is apparently enough to deter the lion. But it's all that's is between you and this enormous beast, which is a gorgeous thing to watch in motion, as long as it’s only interested in the little bits of flesh that are being deposited around to guide it from A to B. There was a particular moment when it seemed to lose interest in those little bits of flesh and began to take interest in me. It was the eye contact moment when I nearly lost control of some essential muscles. It was pretty startling actually to suddenly be focused on for that moment because I don’t think it’s supposed to look at you really. It must have lasted a nanosecond but he did go back in his house for an hour after that.”
CD: “The ranger told me that he actually thought he might have lost control of the lion at that point but asked me not to say anything.”
Q: How do you think this film compares to the 1966 original starring Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine?
CF: “I think it’s so completely different. Any idea of it being a remake seems to be so so strange. I don’t flinch at the idea of that but I don’t think it connects much. I think once you’re past the initial conceit, that there’s a heist in the first act and then we realise that’s not what happens, we’ve used that and we’ve used the name of, I think, two characters and one line of dialogue, which I stole and gave to Cameron. Apart from that there’s nothing. It’s not only different, I think the style and the genre are completely different.”
Gambit is in cinemas now, certificate 15.