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Ned Benson’s The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby explores the story of Connor Ludlow (James McAvoy) and Eleanor Rigby (Jessica Chastain) as they try to navigate a life together. The film is an unapologetic look at the highs and lows that come with sharing a life with someone else, and at its core, it’s an emotional love story—one that McAvoy believes people should have the chance to experience.
“I hope it will find its audience in the way it sort of didn’t in the cinema, unfortunately,” the actor shares. “Because when people watch it, they’re quite often sort of floored by the double bill of it. And even then, without the double-bill aspect, it’s really valid interest of 90 minutes of your life at the cinema.”
Shot as two separate films with differing perspectives of both protagonists (Him and Her, respectively), The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby was released in theaters as a hybrid version called Them, which offered viewers a more streamlined look at Connor and Eleanor’s stories. Next week, the film comes to DVD in the original way that Benson intended, with the additions of Him and Her.
EW spoke with McAvoy about the challenges of filming two different versions of the same story, his experience working with Chastain, and more.
The following conversation discusses significant plot details of
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby.
EW: This is the type of film I wish would get made more. I was blown away by how affected I was after watching it. Did you have responses like that, from people in your own life?JAMES MCAVOY: The only people in my life who have actually probably seen the movie are my agent and my wife. I first got offered that script five years ago, maybe even longer ago, and I said no to it because I’d just had a little baby boy. I didn’t want to touch something that had that kind of subject matter. We both went through this whole thing of whether or not I should do it, or whether or not I would be able to do it, and whether it would just be too much like self-harm to have just welcomed this little baby and tell this story about somebody’s baby dying. It was quite an emotional thing for my wife and I to watch it together. So we were touched by it.
To be honest, I haven’t got the first actual clue what most people would think of this film, because it’s is so open to interpretation. You’ve got the Them one, you’ve got the Him one, you’ve got the Her one, you’ve got the combination of all three, if you want. It’s such an empowering set of movies for people. I mean, any movie allows you to have a variety of reactions, but this one purposely and willfully inspires an even greater diverse reaction from people. You know what I mean?
Absolutely. And although most people have seen the Them iteration, the film is obviously the richest when you can see Him and Her because of the elements it adds to the storytelling. The Him and Her is what we designed, those two are the films we actually made. Them is a movie that we never planned to make. That’s just a kind of extra. But what’s weird is it’s become the front set of the thing. And so hopefully, that will help bring people to the Him and the Her ones as well.
Since these were essentially two different movies, you had to learn two different scripts, right? Yeah, we had two separate scripts that contained entirely different narratives. So a lot of the times, I wasn’t in her script and likewise, a lot of the times she wasn’t in my script. But even when we were in each other’s scripts, those things that were similar were actually completely contradictory in a lot of ways. You have me saying one thing in my film, and me saying an entirely different thing in her film. So that was quite good fun to do, actually. It’s quite discombobulating and quite a challenge, because you find yourself playing not just your character as you see them, but your character as she sees him. That’s not something that we usually do as actors—play somebody as perceived in the mind of another. So it was a first, I think, for both Jess and I. And while it was kind of weird and strange to begin with, I think we ended up enjoying it, because it meant we got to play with our characters quite a bit.
After watching the film, I’m imagining that the production was a little intense, both in what you go through as a character and also with shooting different versions and learning different lines. And also, you’re trying to play the truth of your character. You’re trying to do the right thing by your character, to make sure his experience comes across, and that he’s understood. And then that becomes completely secondary when you’re in her movie and likewise when she’s in his movie, because you’re there to help her be interested. And even though you’re playing one of the two leads, you’re playing a supporting character as well.You mentioned you had the script for quite some time before you actually started shooting it. Is there something specific that drew you to the project and kept you interested enough to stick with it? I think it was Ned’s ability to write like an adult, which you don’t get a lot. And to write about the adult experience of love and how subjective that is, and how difficult that is, and yet how beautiful that is. Because regardless of all the brilliantly defined characterization in the adult-like way about how hard it is, he still manages to make it magical somehow. He still manages to inject it with something that transcends the tragedy of childbirth and modern love. He still manages to transcend it with something magical and poetical and just sort of beautiful. And I just thought, “this guy was amazing.” And he wrote it. And he wants to direct it. And whenever you get a writer who writes something that you respond to that much, it gives you such a key into the head and the mind of the person who put the film together, in a way that sort of sitting down with him on set and “talking the talk” could never do.
I know you’ve talked a lot about working with Jessica, but given your onscreen relationship, it’s clear you guys really found a groove together. We had to come up with a whole tragic backstory and fill in all those gaps and agree on a lot of stuff and kind of create a shared history and shared experience. And that experience is so moving and so touching that you can’t kind of help but be vulnerable around that person you’re working with. And that’s a great thing, because it stops you from being afraid around them, and it helps you get that feeling of intimacy on screen that you need to have between two people who have made a child together. That intimacy doesn’t just become about kissing and cuddling and sex, it goes beyond that, and that was something that we really tried to do. And it helps that she’s just a really generous actress. She’s a great actress as well as a nice person. I saw her the other night, we reminisced about our time on set playing each other’s versions of ourselves.
I hope it wasn’t a depressing conversation! Whenever we get together, we just cry [laughs].
This film is an emotional rollercoaster of love and loss in relationships, and I’ve read interviews where actors say that they don’t want to bring their own emotional baggage to a film because chances are, the audience already has a perception of them. And you want them to see you as the character, not the actor. I don’t mind going to those places. I enjoy examining what it is to be alive and how f—ing hard it is to be alive and I get to do that for my job, and I have a great time every day in my life. I’m quite a happy person, so I don’t need to examine on film what it means to be happy all the time, you know? [Laughs] But yeah, as much as people go, “I just want a rom-com, I just want a feel-good movie” or whatever, we are obsessed with tragedy and we are obsessed with sadness. We are. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have all those Shakespearean tragedies, we wouldn’t have all that sad poetry, we certainly wouldn’t have all that maudlin horrible music that teenagers and students and even adults listen to nonstop. And drama just continues to be about tragedy, as much as people go, “It’s just feel-good comedies we want!” We do want those, but we are obsessed with tragedy. I am. I love it.
What other projects are in the works for you? I’ve got Frankenstein, which I think is October, and then after that there’ll be another X-Men movie. And then after that, who knows? The world is completely empty of James McAvoy movies after that for a little awhile. [Laughs]
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby is available on DVD, Blu-Ray and On Demand on Feb. 3.http://www.ew.com/article/2015/01/29/james-mcavoy-disappearance-eleanor-rigby
Feb 1 15 11:28 PM
Feb 4 15 9:42 PM
James McAvoy went through quite a lot as an actor in order to service his newest film. He plays Conor in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, a man who becomes utterly unmoored after his wife Eleanor (played by Jessica Chastain) mysteriously leaves him. The movie was originally conceived as two standalone pieces, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her, before being combined into The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them for theatrical release. All three versions of the film are available in the Blu-ray bundle that just hit this week (the iTunes purchase version has all three versions as well, with Him & Her in the extras section).
I recently hopped on the phone with McAvoy to talk about the role, what it was like working with writer/director Ned Benson, and his desire not to read the script for Her so he could fully immerse himself. We also touch a bit on the progress of X-Men: Apocalypse. Check it out below.How did this come together? Were there two separate scripts that Ned gave to you?
MCAVOY: The first time I had heard anything about this was Ned, years ago, about five or six years ago…and I had just had a little baby boy, and he sent me this script. All there was was The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby. There was no Him, Her, or Them. It was basically the Him movie. I really liked it, I thought it was fantastic. But I did have this little boy, and I really didn’t want to tell a story about a couple losing a little boy. You know what I’m saying?
So a couple of years later, Joel Edgerton was going to do the movie. He fell out at the last minute, I don’t know why. I think it was a scheduling conflict or something like that. And then he came back to me. Two years down the line it wasn’t such a sensitive issue for me, and I jumped at the chance. But by that point, there was also a Her script. So there were two movies to sell, which was sort of weird and I didn’t quite understand, to be honest with you. Then he said “look, it won’t be the movie.” And then I went back to my email, got the original thing that he sent. I said yes. And then right from the first day of rehearsals, they were like “So, for the Him movie and then the Her movie…” And I was like “What Her movie? What the #@$* are you guys talking about?” So to be utterly honest, I didn’t sign on knowing we were going to do two movies. It is an amazing idea though. But I just signed on because his writing is great. And he writes so truthfully about the adult experience, and modern living, and modern love. And it seems like he’s harmonizing his views with a kind of transcendent, magical poetic quality as well, and not being afraid to be a little bit decadent with his word choices. Which I quite like, and I thought that was quite brave.
Watching Him first, it’s incredibly easy to empathize with your character. You have no idea why she left him. And he sort of has no idea. How was it playing that?
MCAVOY: You know, it was one of the easier parts I’ve had to play. I think you don’t have to have the loss of the child really to have the imagination to understand what that might feel like. It’s epic – that grief, that tragedy. But it was quite easy to understand what he was going through. Doing it as it is was very upsetting. Doing it as it is, you know what I mean? So it was more of a kind of workout. It’s easy to get there, but getting there was not very nice.You mentioned the modern take on relationships. One of the things I enjoyed about the movie was the confusion of gender roles. In a movie in the 50′s or 60′s, this character would probably be doggedly going after her. But now he doesn’t know what to do.
MCAVOY: Well, and I think it’s indicative and it’s sort of representative of…I don’t think it’s a crisis, but it’s a little bit of a quandary that you find yourself in. If you’re the kind of guy who lives in the kind of country that expects you to be sensitive, and expects you to be all strong and manly one minute, that’s the exact image that’s portrayed as desirable by all the other media. But on the other hand you’re expected to be completely emotionally available and compassionate at all times and understanding and self-aware and able to help others heal, and ++$# like that. Like, wait a minute…this sounds like #$%#+#* Gandalf, man. It sounds like he’s the perfect #$%#+#* human being. And don’t get me wrong, again, it’s not a crisis. It’s nothing that massive that’s going on in the modern male experience. But it is a slightly confusing thing about what it is to be a guy these days. Because, you know, you kind of have to be all of them. You can’t just be a couple of them, you’re expected to be all of them. And that’s certainly where he finds himself in this movie, you know? And I’m not saying reflection is a good thing – that sort of not dealing with things is the way to go either – but there is a sort of blame for not being emotionally mature. And the amount of people that are emotionally mature in my life I could count on one hand. You know what I mean? It’s a difficult thing to do.
Working with Jessica Chastain, did you read the Her script while you were filming so you would know where she was coming from?
MCAVOY: No. When I finally realized that there was a Her movie, finally, late in the day, I asked to be excused from the read-through for my own thing. Because I thought that my movie was kind of a mystery. And her movie is called The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, it’s sort of about her disappearing and all of that. But my movie is literal. She’s disappeared, and I don’t know where the #@$* she’s gone. Do you know what I mean? And I wanted to be ignorant to her location. I didn’t want to know what was going on with her and I didn’t want to know what she was going through because, to be honest with you, that was the whole point of my movie. I thought I was in the dark with what the hell was going on with my wife, and then I totally stopped and realized that there was a hell of a lot going on in myself as well. You know what I mean?Absolutely. And I have to ask about X-Men: Apocalypse. Have you read the script for that yet?
MCAVOY: No, it doesn’t exist yet. But I’ve had a chat with Simon [Kinberg] and with lots of producers and writers. So it’s exciting, man. But I can’t give you anything about it, that’s the truth.
Back to Eleanor Rigby. When you’re working with Ned as a writer, you said you responded to the material immediately. But as a director how was he at guiding you through all that stuff? Was he able to wear both hats well?
MCAVOY: He was brilliant. That’s one of the nice things about working with a director who’s written the script is that you get a key into the way they think. In a way that sitting down with them, and them talking to you, and telling you about their vision, and “look at my storyboards” and all that ++$#. Anybody can do that. Anybody can talk the talk. But if they’ve actually written the script, and it speaks to you in such a way that you know how they want to make the movie, and you know that he knows how to make that movie. Think about reading the script, that does everything. I knew what kind of movie he wanted to make. And I knew that he had a really good idea about how to make it as well, and that he could do that stuff. It was nice to be on set with him because he was just so in command of it. Really nice, chill guy. In a poetic way, he was one of the most assured and self-assured directors I’ve ever worked with, actually.
For our readers who may be new to this project, what would you say is your preferred way to watch this? In what order?
MCAVOY: Any order of Him and Her, or Her and Him. Totally. Watch Him and Her before you watch Them.http://collider.com/james-mcavoy-disappearance-of-eleanor-rigby-interview/?utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitterfeed
Mar 6 15 12:31 PM
”Eleanor Rigby: That man that woman
‘(director Ned Benson, import Dream West Pictures) had a final re
Release Date April 09, the day comes.
’Eleanor Rigby’ is one reconstruct the men and women who work in the
different green eyes and remember”that guy” side and”her” side for a
loved one. Was actor James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain is just …
breathe, the official invitation to the 67th Cannes International Film
Festival and the 38th Toronto International Film Festival and proved the
popularity and quality are needed.
6 open day is the first scene from the main trailer Rigby (Jessica
Stein car) and the corner comes in different memory alternately (James
McAvoy), gathers attention. Then they fell in love the moment unfolding
panoramic hot,”I have just one heart. The ambassador of not gotta say
leave me”corner tells you their affectionate love. But their love begins
to diverge with ’all fades when it’s hard to believe love would last
start, and narration that. And the separation and the appearance of
Rigby and find her long lost wandering the corner of the cross, and for
some reason they have to stimulate their curiosity to see that you have
to break up with him but with different storage inside a copy of ’the
same time, another memory’ that The appearance of a woman captivates the
’Eleanor Rigby: That man that woman.”The opening is coming April 09,
I think this is theatrical release. Checking it out.
ETA [email protected]
Mar 18 15 2:14 PM
Island29 wrote:Your welcome lovejames.When you do get to see it watch it Him/Her that is the best way to see it for the first time or anything you view it. I've seen the films twice and in that order, you get the mystery first in Him then the answers in Her.
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