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Interview: Waiting For Forever's Rachel Bilson And Tom Sturridge

What would you do if you found out that a dear friend from your childhood that you haven’t seen in years has been silently following you all around the country, desperate to reconnect with his childhood? It’s a heavy conflict to say the least, and one tackled between Rachel Bilson and Tom Sturridge in Waiting for Forever.

Talking with the two actors as a part of a roundtable interview, they discussed how they came to their characters, what it was like working under director James Keach, and Sturridge’s new found hatred for the art of juggling. Check out the interview below.

Tom, did you do all of the juggling yourself in the film?

Tom Sturridge: It’s only because I had an extraordinarily good teacher, who took me from being a complete idiot into being able to do it. It was cool.

Rachel Bilson: I witnessed it. He actually did it.

So are you adept enough at juggling now that you can pick it up again whenever you want?

TS: No, I literally haven’t touched anything since the moment we wrapped. I hated it. It’s the most frustrating, annoying, painful thing. I will genuinely never juggle again. So fuck juggling.

Rachel, your character in the film has a very strange relationship with Will. If you were in the same situation in real life and being followed by someone like Will, how would you react?

RB: That’s a kind of a hard question if I had that happen to me personally, but in this case it’s very innocent. It’s a childhood love and friendship, and I don’t think he means anything harmful by it. Once she realizes that it is innocent, it’s a nice thing, in a way, and not stalkerish at all.

Your character is a young actress who does seem a bit detached from reality in a way. Have you ever met any actresses who are like that?

RB: I think people definitely can get caught up. I don’t know how that pertains to their personal life and whether they can deal with things or not, but there’s definitely people that get caught up in Hollywood and maybe can get a bit jaded. I’m sure that happens.

What was it that attracted each of you to the project? There’s a story, Tom, that you picked the script up off of Robert Pattinson’s floor.

TS: I don’t know how people are still holding onto this story. It’s not true. I said I was staying with a friend and I read the script, and people just go, “Well, he’s obviously only got one friend. [laughs] So it must be Rob.”

Now would be the chance to set the record straight.

TS:I was just staying with a girl and she happened to have a bunch of scripts, and I read it. I think it was pretty clear that he was a unique character. It was interesting to approach what is potentially a pretty clichéd romantic concept – boy, girl, love, film – from this perspective of two relatively damaged people, and potentially mentally complex, with my character. Doing something relatively straight-forward from a relatively un-straight-forward point of view was very interesting.

Tom, do you feel that your character really did have a mental problem?

TS: Mental health is such a complex thing and a difficult to diagnose world. What is a mental problem? Who does have mental problems? What’s the difference between mental problems and depression and sadness? He’s definitely different, but I think that’s okay.

Was there anyone that you modeled this character after in your own life?

TS: To be honest, that’s very similar to the way I talk to women. I was actually trying to talk to Rachel and they just filmed it. [laughs] No, the thing I was thinking about was that he’s a guy who had an incredibly traumatic experience, when he was a child, and potentially didn’t emotionally develop after that. So, I just wanted to play him as a child.

Do either one of you had childhood friends who stuck with you through some tough times like your characters in this film? If so, do you still know them? Do you keep in touch with them?

RB: All of my friends I consider childhood friends because we met when I was probably 13, and I’m still friends with them today. It’s really nice that I have that core group. I’m from here, and we’re all still here and what not.

TS: All my friends fucking abandoned me with the tough stuff. [laughs] When the shit hit the fan, people were gone. If they’re a friend, they stick with you through the tough stuff. My core group of friends are all from when I was a kid.

Rachel, what was the bond like with your on screen parents?

RB: I was so lucky and happy to work with Blythe Danner and Richard Jenkins. They’re such kind and amazing people and also amazing actors. I was really fortunate just to be in their company. They really made me feel close with them. They took on these roles as parents. It was a really nice feeling and connection.

Tom, we know how your character has an attraction to her character, but where does he get the attraction to wearing pajamas?

TS: I think he’s quite a sensuous and sensual person. I think he’s someone who finds beauty in things, but more specifically in his tactile interaction with the world which is why he moves and why he wants to be on top of things and touch them. I think pajamas are just an accentuation of that feeling. It’s the feeling of something soft on the skin.

Tom, do you think that Will is really in love with Emma, or is he just in love with his childhood and what his life was like before his parents died?

TS: I think there’s a feeling he gets when he’s close to her, and it’s a feeling that he wants to keep and replicate. I think it’s more about sustaining that sense of safety and pleasure, maybe, as opposed to remembering when they threw stones at the road, whatever they did.

This film is really about the healing power of love for everybody’s character. Rachel, how do you think Emma was healed in the course of this film?

RB: Well, I think it’s a process, and she definitely wasn’t healed, by any means, by the end of the film. But, things happen and sometimes it takes something to happen, for you to wake up, I guess. And it’s not necessarily a romantic love, you never know. It could be something they find. It’s a pure, genuine love, of sorts. For her it was just reconnecting with something real and true.

How was James Keach as a director? Was there a lot of freedom for you to explore your roles? Was there a lot of rehersal?

RB: There wasn’t much rehearsal. Tom rehearsed juggling. It was nice because he was an actor.

TS: Because he was an actor, it meant that he was empathetic. It’s weird, making a film. You’ve got a difficult scene that you have to do this Tuesday, and you wake up on Tuesday and you know you’ve got to do that scene. And somehow, when you go to bed that night, that scene has got to be done. It’s almost unfathomable, imagining how it could ever be done. Understanding that feeling, as an actor, he was very good at bringing us to a place where it could be done.

What was the most difficult scene for each of you to do?

RB: There were so many challenging things. The scene with my father was difficult. I don’t know if I should say or give things away. It was really emotional, to go through that and really feel that, because I had a connection with Richard Jenkins.

Did it help to have Blythe Danner there with you?

RB: Absolutely, yeah. She’s definitely a maternal figure.

What about for you, Tom?

TS: The emotional stuff with my brother. But, at the same time, in a weird way, it’s much clearer when it says in the script, “He breaks down.” You either break down, or you don’t break down. At the end of it, you know whether you’ve done it or not. What’s harder is actually just honestly interacting with another person in a scene where you’re having a relatively banal conversation, which can very easily end up as [acting stiffly], “Hello! Do you want to go to the kitchen?” Actually, that’s some of my best acting. That was relaxed cool guy.

Your character was pretty even throughout the whole movie, pretty much always on a down note. Did that tone stay with you even when you were off camera?

TS: It’s totally different at different times. I don’t have a set way of preparing for something. You just have to take it seriously.

What about you, Rachel? Because your characters really didn’t laugh a lot.

RB: We laughed a lot when we weren’t filming. I can get into a character, but it’s easier for me to transition quickly. I like to step away from it, so that when you go to it it’s still new and you can explore it more.

What’s next for you guys?

TS: I just finished doing On the Road. And then, I’m going to go back to London, where I’m doing a play at the Royal Court, called Wastwater. You’re all going to come and see? [laughs]

How was the experience of making On the Road?

TS: It was extraordinary, just taking on that seminal book and doing it with Walter Salles, who, in my mind, is one of the best 50 directors alive. I’ll give you the full list, if you want [laughs]. It was incredibly intense and long. We shot for six months. It’s quite unusual for a film that doesn’t have car explosions and stunt set pieces to shoot for such a long time. We genuinely spent six months doing scenes every day. That sounds stupid, but in most films that take six months you’re actually spending four weeks getting to go [starts mock fighting]. It was amazing.

Rachel, what about you?

RB: I actually finished a film recently, called BFF & Baby, which is a female-driven comedy that was written by Krysten Ritter and Kat Coiro, who directed it. And Kate Bosworth is in it as well. It’s a really fun movie. It’s funny. It’s the female Judd Apatow.

What are you hoping audiences take away from this film?

TS: I don’t know. It’s always dangerous to prescribe an idea on other people. I think people’s interactions with art are their own, and will be far more interesting and sophisticated than anything that I could come up with. I hope they like it.

RB: The same. It’s hard to say what to take away from it. That’s your own interpretation, I guess.

Eric Eisenberg
Eric Eisenberg

NJ native who calls LA home; lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran; endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.