This piece originally appeared in print in
So It Goes, Issue 9, Fall 2018.

It took Derek Cianfrance twelve years in the directorial wilderness making documentaries before he made Blue Valentine (2011), the high watermark of recent domestic drama. It unflinchingly examines the place where love and life’s daily grind meet, through the mesmeric pairing of Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. Cianfrance’s subtle hand coaxes depth and integrity from his leads, allows space and time to brood without boring. The Place Beyond the Pines (2013) again keeps character at the forefront of an experimental and complex narrative with epic themes. Now filming his latest feature, The Light Between Oceans with Michael Fassbender, Cianfrance has become the rising director today’s best acting talent wants to work with. Interviewed and photographed by Mudbound costar Jason Clarke, she gives us a glimpse into why she's fast becoming one of Britain's most in-demand actresses.

JASON CLARKE: How many films have we done together, now? It's all starting to blend together, I think - is that just me?

BEA FITZALLAN: [laughs] Mudbound was our, what, third? Then we've got a fourth and fifth that just finished wrapping. I feel as if I've been working with you nonstop for over a year, and I have to say, I'm not upset about it.

JC: Public Enemies was the first, I think, if memory serves me correctly.

BF: God, back in the day! We were just babies, back then.

JC: You were just a baby back then. I was pushing forty already, and you know it - awfully rude of you to shove it in my face like that, Bea.

BF: Oh, but you don't look a day over thirty, sweetheart!

JC: Come now; I already like you, there's no need to lie to me. Now, talk to me about how you pick your roles. Do you find there's a process to it?

BF: What, do you mean other than, 'has Jason signed on'? Because that's always the first question out of my mouth.

JC: It's funny you mention that, actually, because I actually have you written into my contracts now. 'Will not perform if Bea Fitzallan is not involved in some capacity.'

BF: The thing is, I completely believe you! But, I mean, getting back to the question, in all seriousness - it's such a cliche, and I know that, but I always feel like I need to really connect to the material. For me, I just can't, ah - like, I can't put myself into the headspace you need for a character if it's a script I don't feel personally invested in. That's not to say I'm method, necessarily, because I certainly don't completely immerse myself in a character's world the way that method requires you to, but I'd say I toe the line in a way that, hopefully, works for me.

JC: You knew I was going to ask, because I need to know: what prompted the role in Han Solo? It seems rather out of left field for you, when you consider previous projects - you know, your very strictly period niche. Not that that's a bad thing!

BF: No, you're right, it's a complete 180 from what I'm used to. It's the sort of project I wouldn't look twice at if my agent didn't really push it on me - not because the material isn't good, it's just not a project I typically gravitate towards. I've been making a conscious effort to try and step out of that comfort zone, though; I've done voiceover work, worked with Francis [Lyon, director] on a modern noir, all in the last year or so. I'd gotten incredibly comfortable where I was, very entrenched in the same sorts of roles, the same sorts of projects. And that's not a bad thing, knowing where your strong suits are. I would've been happy to stay there forever. But Clay, my agent, he's been getting more and more ambitious with me, and he wouldn't take no for an answer when Han Solo came across his desk! [laughs] So he prompted it, really. He was the driving force.



JC: Is there a certain role that you felt a particularly strong connection to, one that moved you more than the others?

BF: I've said it for years, but it's always going to be The Theory of Everything. I mean, for one, getting to work with Declan [McAlarney] was such a treat, he's just such a lamb. But more than that, I felt like this was a story that needed to be told. Everyone knows who Stephen Hawking is - the man's a bloody genius, he's shaped modern science. The idea of getting a peek into his background was fascinating, of course, but what attracted me to the project was how strong Jane is, how capable. I think, as actresses, we jump at the chance to play a character like that; too often we play just the wife, just the girlfriend. I've been lucky, for the most part, to work on projects where the character's a bit more complex than that. But Jane - she was the top of the line, in that regard.

JC: Here

BF: Here

JC: Do you find there's a stark difference between the takeaway you get from performing in theatre versus being on screen?

BF: Have you ever done it? Theatre, I mean. You haven't, correct?

JC: Not yet, no. I'd like to think I'm waiting for the right project, but truth be told, I'm not sure I'm cut out for it.

BF: It's a completely different feeling, actually.