Rupert Friend on ‘Asteroid City’ and Playing James Bond

When you consider Rupert Friend, likelihood is you keep in mind his 5 seasons as CIA operative Peter Quinn on “Homeland” or his flip because the Grand Inquisitor on “Obi-Wan Kenobi.” But just lately he’s turn out to be the most recent member of Wes Anderson’s performing troupe, following up his position in 2021’s “The French Dispatch” with the Cannes Palme d’Or contender “Asteroid City” and the Roald Dahl anthology “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar,” now in post-production at Netflix. Variety spoke with the U.Okay.-born actor about his eclectic profession, his upcoming function writing/directing debut and why he had a “revelation” that he ought to be the following James Bond.

What’s your position in “Asteroid City,” and what can we count on from the movie?

It’s set in a fictional American city in the midst of a desert panorama, centered round a conference of junior stargazers and their barely eccentric dad and mom who’ve come collectively to have a good time juvenile geniuses. The complete factor is interrupted by a really surreal collection of occasions. Suffice to say it has all of the whimsy, playfulness and inventiveness that you just’d count on from a Wes Anderson image, and possibly essentially the most star-studded forged that I’ve ever seen. I’m taking part in the chief of a troupe of singing cowboys who go by means of this small city and, for sure causes, can’t depart. My group [is acted by] skilled musicians, besides me. So I had some work to do! I performed guitar in bands as a young person, however I needed to study the lap metal [guitar] for this position. It has two necks mendacity in your lap, there’s extra strings and it’s a finger selecting nightmare, however the sound of it’s utterly stunning. I really like working with Wes, as a result of he’ll simply casually say, “Oh, you could play the song live, right?” [laughs] Of course, I stated sure, after which I get to Spain the place we filmed it and the opposite band members embrace Jarvis Cocker, who I grew up listening to in Pulp! 

Tell me a bit about “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar.”

It may change, however once we made it, there have been 4 tales drawn from a Roald Dahl [short story collection], that are his barely darker, twisted ones that he wrote for adults. Wes took 4 of them and put collectively a smaller troupe of actors: myself, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dev Patel, and Richard Ayoade. We every play in round two of the tales and form of change roles. I feel Ralph could be in all of them. My two are “The Ratcatcher” and “The Swan.” I grew up utterly obsessive about Dahl. I truly had his obituary on my bed room door. I used to be so saddened when he died [in 1990]. This movie was a dream come true.

How did you begin working with Wes Anderson?

My spouse [athlete-turned-actress/speaker Aimee Mullins] is mates with him and his spouse, so I knew him socially, however I later found that he had watched all of “Homeland.” I stated it could be actually attention-grabbing to collaborate on one thing, and he invited me to do that half in “The French Dispatch.” It was extraordinary, as a result of I used to be filming in Los Angeles and after I obtained to France after two flights, a practice journey and what felt like a ship, an airplane and a bike to get to the center of nowhere, they’d completed filming some two weeks earlier than and have been simply ready for me to be out there! [Laughs.] Our relationship developed by means of our mutual love of literature and flicks and artwork and storytelling. And after I’m on set with him, I really feel like I can do something.

What’s extraordinary concerning the staff Wes has put collectively is, between my administration staff and his, they appear to have the ability to make miracles occur. I used to be doing [“Obi-Wan Kenobi”] two years in the past in Los Angeles and Wes wanted me for in the future’s rehearsal with Ralph in London. As a U.S. resident, I don’t journey with my passport. Someone needed to break into our condo in New York, get the passport and meet me on the L.A. airport. I then flew on the pink eye and spent a magical afternoon climbing over sofas in a resort room with Ralph, then obtained again on airplane, placed on prosthetic make-up for 4 hours and obtained again into “Star Wars.” Mountains moved for him as a result of everyone adored him.

Is there an opportunity we’ll see you in one other season of “Obi-Wan Kenobi?”

The complete present hasn’t been mentioned, however I’d like to. I liked working with Ewan [McGregor]. We turned good mates after that. Our households love one another, and I actually liked getting into that galaxy far, far-off. That character was such a visit to get to inhabit, and to stride right down to that well-known tavern within the first episode. So let’s hope they do one other one and contain the Grand Inquisitor, as a result of there’s a hell of a whole lot of storyline in my analysis on that man that might be very attention-grabbing to maneuver from animation into dwell motion.

After what occurred to your “Homeland” character, it’s unlikely you’ll return if it will get a reboot, however followers maintain out hope for that or a prequel you may be a part of. Have you heard something about one?

You may do the bits of the story we didn’t essentially see as a result of we have been targeted on a special character. That might be attention-grabbing, however no, nobody’s talked about it to me.

I used to be very grateful to have gotten to discover a personality for that lengthy. And up to now, I haven’t seen anybody get such a fortunate alternative, in as a lot as you noticed this vaguely heroic form of anti-hero, after which have anyone who has been so bodily and mentally broken by the actions of different folks for his ultimate season. We all, myself included, just about thought we knew who this man was. And then, I’ll always remember, the primary script of my ultimate season stated, “Peter Quinn is utterly unrecognizable, but still hit very much himself.” I needed to name the showrunner and say, “Sorry, I don’t understand. What does that mean?” And they stated, “Go with your gut.” So I actually obtained to talk to medical doctors and chemical warfare consultants and scientists and hostages and veterans and construct what felt to me like a practical consequence of what he’d been by means of: aphasia, PTSD and hemiplegia and drop foot. I used to be saying, “Am I going to have to take hostages and be a badass?” And they stated, “We don’t know, because we haven’t written it yet.” Whatever we got here up with in that first episode was gonna should journey for the remainder of them.

Wes Anderson’s “Asteroid City”; picture courtesy of Pop. 87 Productions/Focus Features
Courtesy of Pop. 87 Productions/Focus Features

Before “Asteroid City” hits theaters on June 16 and your spy thriller “Canary Black” with Kate Beckinsale comes out this fall, your new Apple TV+ collection “High Desert” premiered May 17.

It’s a totally singular form of darkish comedy within the vein of the Coen brothers, directed fully by the marvelous Jay Roach. It stars Patricia Arquette as a barely messed-up drug addict who determined to turn out to be a non-public detective and is mourning the lack of her mom. My character, Guru Bob, is a small-town information anchor who had an existential meltdown dwell on air, dropped acid and dropped out. Because of the way in which that the web works today, he gathered an enormous following of people that determined that he was a prophet of some variety. He’s an enjoyably silly narcissist, however all of them are satisfied that he’s obtained profound issues to say. It was an absolute delight spend six months pretending to journey balls within the desert with Patricia.

You talked about your spouse, Aimee. How do you stability a house life along with her and so many initiatives?

My spouse and I’ve at all times tried to do the do-si-do [dance] of who’s working and who’s accompanying and supporting. We’ve been collectively ten years and have a two-week rule, so we don’t go greater than two weeks with out one in every of us becoming a member of the opposite. And we’ve managed to make that work with out ever having to disrupt anybody else’s schedule.

You’ve talked about making your first function as a author and director. One that was introduced was “Cornerman,” a biopic about Mike Tyson’s boxing coach, Cus D’Amato. Any updates on that?

I’ve written an authentic thriller that I’ll undoubtedly direct, however in all probability not [act] in. We’re about to exit to actors, which could be very thrilling, however we’re in that right-before-you-make-an-announcement stage the place we’ve got a script and the producers and the financing. I’d in all probability wish to do “Cornerman” as a second image.

At the beginning of your profession, you have been greatest recognized to U.S. audiences for interval dramas like “The Libertine,” “Pride and Prejudice” and “The Young Victoria,” and appeared to keep away from extra industrial initiatives. Do you remorse it?

I wouldn’t say I’ve an affinity for any style over one other. I see tales as both about compelling characters to whom unimaginable issues occur, or they’re not. The nice pleasure is within the vary of issues. The eclecticism has form of taken care of itself after a good quantity of stubbornness on my half in my early twenties.

When I used to be 22, and simply out of performing faculty, I did three footage again to again: “The Libertine,” “Pride & Prejudice” and “Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont.” And I used to be instructed, “We’d love to talk to you about playing James Bond, but rebooting the series. We want to do him basically straight out of college.” And I met Barbara Broccoli and her brother Michael and Debbie McWilliams, the casting director for Bond. Obviously I’ve watched them rising up and simply love all of the actors and all the flicks. Basically they stated: you’ll do a display screen check, and if it goes effectively, you’re signed up for 3 footage which you gained’t learn and also you gained’t know who the director is. You’re principally handcuffed to it. And I immediately was like, “I simply really feel at this level in my life and profession, I’m too younger, I don’t have the expertise, I don’t have the performing chops and I don’t have any of the onerous knocks — emotionally, psychologically, bodily — that an incredible Bond ought to have. So I’m gonna politely decline. That was in all probability a little bit of an eyebrow elevate for them.

To be sincere, I’m grateful that I did. Because again then, not solely may the half have form of eclipsed me, I felt just like the half was larger than me as an actor and even as an individual. That it could form of swallow me up and I’d sink the franchise, or at the least be the worst Bond that ever lived. And that was simply not an possibility, as a result of I really like the franchise. But very, very just lately, final week [in mid-April], it began to come back again into my consciousness that, let’s put it this fashion, perhaps I’ve obtained the scars and the bruises now. [laughs] From having actually been across the block or within the faculty of onerous knocks, but additionally having navigated movie units and administrators and tough conditions. You form of notice you’re at a degree the place you possibly can take issues on that maybe you couldn’t earlier than.

Have you contacted them once more about taking part in the position? You’re only a few years older than Daniel Craig was when he began, and across the age Pierce Brosnan and Timothy Dalton have been.

Well, I had this revelation final week, so this interview could be very prescient. And I wrote to my supervisor, saying, “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. . .” and instructed them what I form of instructed you. My supervisor remembered coming to stick with me and my spouse in our home a pair years in the past and requested me, after perhaps one or two bottles of wine too many, what I assumed concerning the prospect of taking part in the character. I stated again then that I felt daunted by it, or that I’d by some means not serve it. And final week, I actually determined that I used to be prepared. Now they might or will not be , and that’s completely fantastic, however it’s a kind of issues the place everybody I used to be working with. . . Patricia Arquette texted me final week to say, “I love the show, you’re so funny, and why the hell are you not Bond? Talk to your agent about it!” So I assumed, OK, the universe is form of saying one thing right here, even when it’s solely to say, sure, you weren’t prepared and now you might be. It doesn’t matter should you do it or not, however it’s essential to take heed to the cycles of life and perceive the universe is at all times on time, simply typically you and I are a bit early or a bit late.

What are your final targets to your profession?

I’m making an attempt to give attention to the method fairly than outcomes, as a result of should you’re not cautious, you place all of your eggs within the basket of a specific venture after which it needs to be an enormous success. Whatever that factor is that you just wished it to do will even fade, and also you’re again to the current second. I’m very excited to maneuver behind the digital camera, to be within the trenches with actors, to carry what I’ve realized and loved exploring to a different facet of storytelling and collaborate with folks from each single self-discipline. I’m an enormous fan of manufacturing design and cinematography and composition. And then, by way of performing, it’s actually a continuance of exploring the unknown and dealing with administrators who I’m keen about.

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