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Slapstick is one of the oldest forms of performance in entertainment, and it's also one of the most physically demanding. Domhnall Gleeson discovered that first-hand while shooting Will Gluck's Peter Rabbit, in which he plays the mean and crotchety Thomas McGregor opposite James Corden's eponymous, heroic rabbit. CinemaBlend recently sat down with Gleeson to discuss the challenges of shooting all of that physical comedy, and the Star Wars: The Last Jedi star explained that it had to hurt because it needed to look real to sell the jokes. Gleeson explained:
They were all pretty hard, yeah, I did take a bit of a beating on the movie. My body took a battering. But it needs to look real for it to be funny, I think. Like you really need to kind of hurt yourself sometimes for it to be funny.
It's not just a matter of showing a character getting hurt on film. According to Domhnall Gleeson's take on Peter Rabbit's slapstick bits, the pain and exhaustion actually needed to seem authentic for the jokes to land. This commitment to hurting himself resulted in sequences that weren't particularly comfortable for Gleeson, but they allowed him to get better laughs by throwing himself into walls, stepping on rakes, or sticking his hands in (what we hope were fake) rodent traps.
It also sounds like this beating wasn't just restricted to the beginning of the shoot when Domhnall Gleeson was fresh and ready for action. The actor talked later in his conversation with CinemaBlend about one of the most physically taxing days towards the end of the Peter Rabbit shoot when he had to go down a flight of stairs in a wheelbarrow. Gleeson explained:
So, we got through a lot of it, and then the worst one in a way was right at the end. I was really beaten up. My ankle had gone, and my back had gone my ribs were gone, and my head was just wrecked. Then I had to go downstairs in a wheelbarrow. Like many times a day. And at that point, yeah that was probably the worst one.
This commitment to physical comedy is something that Domhnall Gleeson has been showing off quite a bit lately. Even before the release of Peter Rabbit, his work in the Star Wars franchise as General Hux has similarly afforded him chances to play up his great slapstick chops. Now we're just partially hoping that Gleeson has some time off to recuperate after taking all of these beatings.
If you are looking for a closer look at CinemaBlend's chat with Domhnall Gleeson about Peter Rabbit, then check out a brief clip from the interview below.