IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Lucas Hedges Talks 'The Zero Theorem' and 'Kill the Messenger'

Sunday, 21 September 2014 21:39 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Lucas Hedges Talks 'The Zero Theorem' and 'Kill the Messenger'

At a very young age, actor Lucas Hedges has already worked with some of the best directors in Hollywood including Wes Anderson, Jason Reitman, and now Terry Gilliam

The son of director Peter Hedges (Pieces of April, The Odd Life of Timothy Green), Lucas first appeared in Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, and later The Grand Budapest Hotel. He also appeared in Arthur Newman, before working with Reitman on Labor Day. He will soon be seen opposite Academy Award-nominee Jeremy Renner (The Avengers) in the Oscar-buzz worthy Kill the Messenger, which opens in theaters on October 10th. But first you can catch him in legendary filmmaker Terry Gilliam’s new movie The Zero Theorem, which also stars two-time Academy Award-winner Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained) and opens in theaters on October 19th. 

The Zero Theorem follows a computer hacker named Qohen (Waltz) whose goal is to discover the reason for human existence. However, he continually finds his work interrupted by the Management (Matt Damon), who send a teenager (Hedges) and a lusty love interest (Melanie Thierry) to distract him. In addition to Waltz, Damon, Hedges, and Thierry, the film also stars David Thewlis (War Horse), Peter Stormare (Fargo), Ben Whishaw (Skyfall), and Academy Award-winner Tilda Swinton (Only Lovers Left Alive, Snowpiercer). 

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Lucas Hedges about his work on The Zero Theorem and Kill the Messenger. The talented young actor discussed The Zero Theorem, his familiarity with Terry Gilliam’s previous films, how his father strongly suggested he except the role, if working with Wes Anderson prepared him for the Terry Gilliam experience, what it’s like as an actor on a Gilliam set, how Gilliam directs actors, what he learned from working with Christoph Waltz, Kill the Messenger, and acting opposite Jeremy Renner

Here is what Lucas Hedges had to say about The Zero Theorem and Kill the Messenger:

IAR: To begin with, I’ve heard director Terry Gilliam say that The Zero Theorem is the final part of his dystopian satire trilogy that began with Brazil and continued with 12 Monkeys. Had you seen those films when you were cast in this project, or did you watch them before you began shooting?

Lucas Hedges: When I got the role I started watching all of Terry Gilliam‘s movies. Before I had auditioned I had only seen the Monty Python films. I wasn’t as familiar with Terry Gilliam, but when my dad saw that he was attached he told me who he was and that I should do the film.

Obviously your dad is director Peter Hedges, did he express to you the importance of who Terry Gilliam is as a filmmaker?

Hedges: I’ve been blessed as a child to have parents who want me to do whatever I want, not in an obnoxious way, but they want me to do what I love. All my dad did was tell me who Terry Gilliam was and let me make the decision on my own. After seeing Brazil and Time Bandits, I realized that Terry is an individual director, and an artist. Any time you get to work with an artist like that on a crazy script and in a crazy part you take.

Wes Anderson is a similar filmmaker to Gillian in the sense that they are both very specific, detail-oriented directors. Did you feel that your experience working with Anderson on Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel prepared you for working with Terry Gillian?

Hedges: It’s interesting because Wes and Terry are very similar in that they’re both Americans who have done as much as they possibly can to escape America. They both went to Europe to make weird European films, which is lovely. But they’re two entirely different filmmakers. Terry is a mad man. Terry runs around the set with no shirt on half the time and Wes doesn’t do that. Wes tells me what he wants and he’s a genius. He’s hilarious and he’s not insane. Terry is insane. There’s absolutely nothing that could have prepared me for this experience and I was completely blindsided. It was lovely to be able to work with Wes, but I still got hit with a brick the second I started working with Terry Gilliam

Can you describe what it’s like as an actor on a Terry Gilliam set?

Hedges: The thing about this particular film was that I was primarily on the church set, which is where Qohen lives. They had smoke bellowing in from smoke machines pretty much half the time and the smoke filled up the church. When we left the set after eight hours of working there and we blew our noses, just black came out. I know that didn’t have to do with Terry, but it’s like a concentrated manifestation of his mind. He has a specific vision, but it’s entirely his vision. It’s disgusting, it’s dirty, it’s crazy and it’s brilliant. It’s almost impossible to describe. It’s absolute craziness especially when half the crew doesn’t speak any English, it only adds to the tension. It’s wonderful because you sort of step into the world. The crew almost created the world for us. 

Can you please elaborate on that?

Hedges: I live in Brooklyn and it’s relatively normal here. Typically a set takes you out of the world and you have to create the world for yourself. People don’t walk around you with cameras in real life, but it was almost like that was part of the world because we were in Romania and none of them spoke English. It was like we’ve been to the future and it’s a fucking crazy place in a church in London. 

What’s Terry Gilliam like as a director? Does he leave you alone and let you make your own choices or does he give you specific direction during a scene?

Hedges: Terry loves more than anything for you to get lost in the world that he creates. He just wants to build a world around the actors and he wants for them to get lost in that world. I think sometimes he could get frustrated especially with me because I was very afraid. I often chose the least risky decision to make as an actor and that’s not how he wants it. That’s completely understandable. When I didn’t make the he wanted, he spent time running around the set and creating a crazier environment for me to live in so that I could make the crazy choice. I think I was getting around to it, but he wants you to get carried away with all this crazy shit that’s in front of you. It’s awesome to have that freedom as an actor. I’m so ridiculously blessed.

You said that Gilliam wants an actor to get lost in the world that he is creating. In that case, it seems to me that Christoph Waltz is the perfect actor to star in a Terry Gilliam movie because he can really get lost in a role as an actor. Can you talk about your experience working with Christoph Waltz?

Hedges: Christoph was so helpful for me because it’s very overwhelming as a child actor to leave your country and go to Romania to start acting with Christoph Waltz. Christoph knows who he is and how big a deal he is. He was so helpful in bringing me down to the ground of that world. He was lovely. 

What did you learn from working with Waltz that you can apply to your craft in the future as you grow as an actor?

Hedges: Christoph is really funny because he kept trying to get me to play the piano. I think for him that was the most important message to impart on to me because acting is just music. If you really study some of Christoph’s most beautiful performances, they’re very musical. The words, the way in which he delivers them, and his timing is like a violin. He noticed that right off the bat the words weren’t floating out of my mouth. He was trying to make it musical. That is such a beautiful method and I don’t think I really understood it until I started reading Shakespeare, which was recently. But that’s the most important method an actor can have.

Finally, I recently saw your next film Kill The Messenger, and I thought it was fantastic! What was it like working with Jeremy Renner? 

Hedges: Jeremy is another ridiculously talented actor and I wish that I could say I spent more time with. Jeremy had his wife and daughter on set and spent a lot time with them. But in every scene I did with Jeremy he gave me everything I needed. Even when the camera wasn’t on him he gave me just as much as he would when the camera was on him. I didn’t need to use my imagination. He was there every moment for me. He was great!

The Zero Theorem opens in theaters on September 19th. 

Kill the Messenger opens in theaters on October 10th. 

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