Interview with Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth | The actors talk about their new movie, “A memorable love”

Dozens and dozens of “terminal illness movies” have accustomed us to dramas full of platitudes, beyond the best of intentions. Almost every ailment known to medicine has captured the attention of screenwriters and filmmakers, with a special predilection for cancer and, back in the 1980s and 1990s, the fatally novel HIV. In the platoon there are good, bad and all kinds of intermediate films, and some even get out of the most recognizable and busy boxes. A memorable love, generic local title for the original Supernova, belongs in more than one sense to the latter group. The film written and directed by British actor-turned-director Harry Macqueen, who made his behind-the-scenes debut in 2014 with Hinterland, largely eschews sugary recipes and tear-jerk reinforcements to tell the story of Sam, a classical pianist who has put his musical career on hold to take care of his partner, and Tusker, a soaring novelist who begins to navigate the tough early stages of a frontotemporal dementia. Beyond a calibrated script, which escapes fanfare and largely prefers subtlety, the contribution of actors Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth is nothing less than the success of the creative equation. They are the ones who manage to give the characters credibility and power supported not only by those dialogues that advance the action, but also by the looks, gestures and small daily conversations, those that are often described as trivial but end up shaping the world of human emotions. Premiered last year in the official section of the San Sebastian Festival, almost at the histrionic antipodes of the Oscar winner The father –The film in which Anthony Hopkins plays a man affected by Alzheimer’s disease–, A memorable love hits local streaming on Cinemark-Hoyts’ Cining platform, following a frustrated in-person launch attempt over the past few months.

Sam (Firth) drives and Tusker (Tucci) acts as co-pilot, reading the traditional paper map in search of the best way to reach his destination (fond of writing in handwriting, the possibility of using GPS technology is hateful to him, intrusive). The steering wheel to the right of the motor home leaves no room for doubt: the beautiful wooded area that the duo runs through belongs to the United Kingdom, the musician’s country of birth, abandoned many years ago to start a new life in New York with Tusker. The trip, which brings them together again in those places visited during the first meeting, has something of a well-understood romanticism and a lot of farewell. Tusker and Sam have been together for so long that they know each other perfectly, in their strengths and weaknesses, but little by little Tusker has begun to be someone else – a new being made of partial and occasional forgetfulness, increasingly essential. and the certainty that in the future it will no longer be possible to recognize each other takes on distressing forms. “We have been friends with Colin for twenty years, but despite knowing each other and having participated in a couple of movies together, we had never starred in a tandem movie.” The speaker, in exclusive communication with Página / 12, is Stanley Tucci, the New York actor of Italian descent who debuted on the big screen more than three decades ago in The honor of the Prizzi (1985), by John Huston, and who has contributed his talents in more than a hundred feature films and series, usually in secondary character roles. “I liked the script from the first moment, and I passed it on to Colin in the hope that he would also want to participate.” Firth, who is also part of the interview via Zoom, confirms that his interest in the story was immediate. “Besides, Stanley was already in it. And seeing Harry Macqueen’s first feature film, the picture was complete. The interesting thing is that originally my role was different. Stanley was going to play Sam, the pianist, and I started preparing for the role of Tusker. ” For the English actor, famous for his participation in Pride and prejudice, The king’s speech And of course, The diaryof Bridget Jones, “There was a moment during the first readings of the script as a whole where I started to think that maybe things would work out better if we reversed the roles. Stanley agreed and, very fearfully, we brought the idea to Mcqueen. I suppose he must have had his reluctance, but after some rehearsals the idea took shape ”.

As well as a novel writer, Tusker is a fan of astronomy, and the trip allows for a few stops to observe the stars, planets, and the Milky Way. It is precisely a nocturnal and slightly philosophical dialogue that gives the film its original title: the essential matter of supernovae is, after all, the same that shapes the human body and mind. But for every name of a star or a constellation that Tusker remembers perfectly, the disease lurks with its primordial forgetfulness. At one point, Sam discovers that his partner has disappeared and the search for the labyrinthine path promises to be desperate. However, the film is not seduced by the possibility of suspense and the sequence does not allow it to explode into unnecessary intrigues. What is important is the relationship between them, the decisions they must make, the prospect of a complex future, and not the appearance of external dangers. For Tucci, the fact that the lead couple is gay possibly covers the story in particular aspects, although “deep down, the film would be quite similar if it were a heterosexual marriage. I think that is part of the beauty of the script: it is a story about love and loss, beyond any other question. The characters don’t spend their time talking about being gay. ” Firth adds that “as soon as the film starts, it’s about Sam and Tusker. Of the things they have shared over the years. At the acting level, it is important to know where the limitations themselves are located, but it is not something that has happened to me in this case. The interesting thing is that it is very common to be asked to play characters similar to others that you did in the past. Nobody does it on purpose, I imagine, because they tend to hire you for those things that you do well, but at the same time that keeps you in a comfort zone. It is the famous typecasting. Now, Stanley’s is a different case, because it is rightly recognized for its versatility. Anyway, I was never called to perform with dyed blue hair, although that perspective is exciting to me ”.

Suddenly, the interview becomes a dialogue between Tucci and Firth about aspects of the profession that are not usually addressed in interviews with the press. A sincere dialogue not without humor. “I guess the most attractive part of being an actor is wanting to play different characters. To be another, ”continues Tucci. “And one of the good things about getting older is that they don’t call you that much anymore to compose derivative characters. There are more options, I think. What I have noticed in my case, for example, is that losing my hair has helped me a lot. When people lose their hair, they no longer know how old you are. And there is also something linked to ethnicity. They always called me to play Italian, which in part I am, or characters with dark complexions. And in Hollywood they have always thought that those characters are evil, the bad guy. But that began to disappear over the years. I guess as we get older we all start to look alike. ” The smiles in the conversation turn to laughter as Firth finishes with a classic phlegmatic comment, in perfect British English: “Physical deterioration is a very interesting quality on screen. When I was twenty they used to tell me that I looked very insipid. And I remember seeing veteran actor Paul Scofield, with that old face and lines, and thinking he needed some of that. Now I got it. More than I would have wanted. Seriously, I’m not overly concerned about being pigeonholed. I think that if the story is good and authentic there is a lot of room to maneuver ”. “Many times I see that some actors create an accent or walk in a particular way in certain roles,” says Tucci, “because they want to be different from how they were in the two or three previous films. But you really have to do what’s right for the movie as a whole, not just for your character. Sometimes you don’t even need to create a character, just do what the script says. If the story contains a certain truth, the challenge is to get the performance to reveal it. “

The reunion in the country house of Sam’s sister allows the reunion with old friends, but also the discovery of a secret that Tusker keeps suspiciously in the presence of his partner. Nothing explosive, nothing dark, no corpse in the closet, just a certainty and a wish that, until that moment, the patient had not been able or wanted to share. Later, pushed by the writer, the musician will give his first recital in a long time, in a small theater in his native country. The one who plays the piano keys and performs the melody of Edward Elgar’s “Salut d’Amour” live is Colin Firth himself, who despite not considering himself a good pianist, accepted the challenge. “It was something that took my sleep away: I wanted to master that piece, which I imagine must be very simple for a professional pianist. So I did a lot of work on it, terrified that I would have to play in front of other people. I think it was essential to try to be honest in general. And that is a huge challenge, as well as a paradox, because fiction cinema is a simulation. I remember a tutor in acting school who told us one day that the important thing was to seek the truth, and in the next class he asked us to never forget that everything was false, a simulation. It is a paradox that has no solution. The important thing is that, to try to reach a certain truth, you have to get out of yourself. That can be somewhat disturbing, but it is necessary to try to maintain sensitivity, curiosity and empathy ”. The last question surrounds the concept of the personal as political fact, and for Stanley Tucci, “that is something that people have to decide. I do not think that A memorable love it is a political film in a strict sense, but I suppose that by normalizing a homosexual relationship, by saying that it is simply two characters who love each other, that transforms it into a human and political statement. Firth, meanwhile, quotes Brecht. “I think it was he who said that everything is a political act. The power of this film is given by its specificity, because it sees things that could be defined as political in very personal terms. And the political has its roots in the personal, in personal experiences and perceptions. I think we should try to see everything through that prism, if it tends towards understanding, humanity and acceptance of the other. Prejudice is only possible thanks to ignorance. The film also talks about how we deal with death, and that also has its political implications. ” Something of reason is. In the end, A memorable love it is not only the story of a great love, but also a story about the inexorable quality of mortality, and how human beings face it and, eventually, end up accepting it.