By Adam Ray Palmer
I interviewed the director of On The Road, Michael Winterbottom at Berlinale, but I also interviewed the leading actor, James McArdle.
I caught up with James on the festival circuit in preparation for this DVD release. He had flown into Germany two hours’ prior our chat so he was full of ‘Red Bull energy’.
We talk deceiving Wolf Alice, sleeping above Michael on a bus and what next for him?
ABOUT ON THE ROAD:
Director Michael Winterbottom accompanies Wolf Alice on their UK tour and observes the tour life from the perspective of a new crew member: the energetic transmissions between the band and their young audience, the ecstatic moments on the stage and the exhaustion behind them.
ARP: How’s Berlin? Is it your first time here?
MCARDLE: I’ve been here for two hours and I leave in less than 24 hours. I’ve always wanted to come to Berlin so this was my chance.
ARP: What made you want to get involved with On The Road?
MCARDLE: I’ve always loved Michael’s (Winterbottom) work and when we met to talk about it, it was very exciting for me. You know, when I was younger, this is exactly what projects I wanted to do. The level of naturalism and details is great. Also, the documentary side of this film was interesting, and it was a big test as an actor to fit in. Michael is very into giving this immersive experience of being like ‘on the road’.
ARP: Did Michael make you say that?
MCARDLE: (laughs) yes exactly
ARP: What was Michael’s style like with you? He seemed to take a step back and follow Wolf Alice, was it the same for you?
MCARDLE: We kind of had their crew and our crew, but the film is through Estelle’s eyes really because she is the new member coming into this world, where I am playing a crew member who is embedded into this world so it was quite difficult to try and bond. Wolf Alice’s crew turned out to be a lot older than what we expected…
ARP: So was that quite blind too, you didn’t really know anything about them?
MCARDLE: I met as many as I could before we shot the film, but the ones I was really interested in wouldn’t meet me.
ARP: And there’s always that, ‘you won’t know what it’s like until you do it’ kind of thing?
MCARDLE: Exactly, you can meet in a café and everything is nice and then you’re shitting together on a bus (laughs) but you’re strangers. Actually, you’re not allowed to shit on the bus but you fart and snore, you know, and so you get to know these strangers so quickly.
ARP: Is it a strange experience? Is it something you’d like to do again?
MCARDLE: It is unique. I couldn’t wait to get off the bus.
ARP: Michael said the same thing.
MCARDLE: I think people want us to say, “I’d do it again in a heartbeat” – I would need a lot of money (laughs). Like, we all got sick. We all had chest infections because of the air-con, it was brutal. We slept in triple bunks, usually as an actor you stay in hotels and then you get a call to say your car is downstairs ready to take you to set. Michael was sleeping underneath me, crazy.
ARP: Was there a moment when filming would stop at all?
MCARDLE: Well, we would come in on the bus at certain points and you kind of know when the filming ends for the day. You are also aware that filming will start when something is about go off. There would be times at night where I would think “right, that’s a wrap”. It’s like, I have been in character all day, although not a huge physical transformation but just knackering.
ARP: So, you knew when you wanted to stop?
MCARDLE: Oh definitely, we used to grind to a halt. And at times, when the doors closed and it was just the film crew, we were like “aaahhhh” – like a release. There was one night though, where there was no more footage to film that day, something happened with Theo from the band and then all of a sudden, we back on the cameras were rolling. It’s strange because these are just people.
ARP: You’re just like reacting, aren’t you?
MCARDLE: Exactly, by the end of this process, everyone had got to know this character Joe and I felt so deceptive at the end. I was like, “Bye… oh I’m actually James” (laughs) – that’s not true (laughs)
ARP: What was that like?
MCARDLE: It was weird because I just left, there’s this little pocket that exists.
ARP: So you haven’t kept in contact?
MCARDLE: No, no, no, no (laughs)
ARP: Was that because it wasn’t allowed?
MCARDLE: No not that, it’s just strange because I got to know these people as someone else. And then to kind of say that “by the way, you have let me in your life but I’m not really Joe” is starting on an uneven keel.
ARP: It’s like that, I know you way more than you know me…
MCARDLE: Exactly, I just like that fact that Joe exists somewhere and that’s who knows them.
ARP: Anyway, off-piste, do you have any favourite films? This is to James not Joe (laughs)…
MCARDLE: (laughs) Not really, I always want to say Jaws but I don’t know why. It changes I guess.
ARP: What’s next for you? Project-wise?
MCARDLE: I’ve got another film coming out called The Chamber which is an underwater thriller with people trapped in a submarine – that’s coming out this year. And I’m in a BBC1 drama with Vanessa Redgrave called Man in an Orange Shirt which comes out this year also. Also, I’m currently rehearsing Angels In America at the National Theatre with Andrew Garfield and Russell Tovey.
ARP: Thank you very much for your time James.
MCARDLE: Thank you, pleasure to meet you Adam.