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Interview with Jamie Blackley

The star of Woody Allen's "Irrational Man" sits down for a chit-chat

Interview with Jamie Blackley

Jamie Blackley

James Gilmore

W!ZARD News Author

Philosophy professor Abe Lucas (played by Joaquin Phoenix) is at rock bottom emotionally, unable to find any meaning or joy in life. Abe feels that everything he’s tried to do, from political activism to teaching, hasn’t made any difference.

Soon after arriving to teach at a small town college, Abe gets involved with two women: Rita Richards (played by Parker Posey), a lonely professor who wants him to rescue her from her unhappy marriage; and Jill Pollard (played by Emma Stone), his best student, who becomes his closest friend. While Jill loves her boyfriend Roy (played by Jamie Blackley), she finds Abe’s tortured, artistic personality and exotic past irresistible. Even as Abe displays signs of mental imbalance, Jill’s fascination with him only grows. Still, when she tries to make their relationship a romantic one, he rebuffs her.

Pure chance changes everything when Abe and Jill overhear a stranger’s conversation and become drawn in.

Once Abe makes a profound choice, he is able to embrace life to the fullest again. But his decision sets off a chain of events that will affect him, Jill and Rita forever.

James Gilmore sat down with Jamie Blackley to find out more.

James Gilmore: Have you always been a fan of Woody Allen’s work?

Jamie Blackley: I’d always enjoyed his movies, I kind of remember watching Annie Hall and thinking that it was timeless and brilliant. When I initially went to the meeting, the thought of working with someone like him felt so far away and unrealistic. When I got the job it was unbelievable.

James Gilmore: You play ‘Roy’, the college boyfriend of Emma Stone’s character ‘Jill’. What did you enjoy about creating that on-screen relationship with her?

Jamie Blackley: It was overwhelming to just work with someone like her, Jaoquin and Parker – these people that have such great careers. Emma was so easy to work with. Emma and Jaoquin got to see the whole script but the rest of us didn’t, so I think, for me that worked out great because Roy is really paranoid about what is going on anyway.

James Gilmore: Emma Stone described your character, compared to Jaoquin’s Abe, as ‘Greek yoghurt’: good for you but not necessarily exciting. How would you assess him?

Jamie Blackley: Haha, I think that’s how a lot of people would assess me! He is, he’s just Greek yoghurt! Jaoquin, perhaps he’s a bit of tzatziki or something. There’s definitely something interesting going on there. I think that with Roy, it’s a predictable relationship and maybe you’d be able to predict the way it’d turn out a few years from now: They’ve got their routine going and there’s nothing really adventurous or exciting about Roy I don’t think. He’s just a nice guy who really loves her and cares about her and genuinely wants to spend the rest of his life with her. He’s settled for that and then this thing comes out of nowhere and blindsides him.

James Gilmore: What do you particularly admire about Emma Stone as an actor?

Jamie Blackley: I don’t know, she’s just done it right! She’s been clever with the way she’s picked what she’s done and, on top of that, she’s just a really nice girl and super welcoming. For someone like her, who maybe everyone on the planet recognises, there’s a lot of pressure which comes with that and to be so kind and welcoming… I think that’s something I learnt from her.

James Gilmore: Obviously, this isn’t the first time she’s worked with Woody Allen (he first was ‘Magic in the Moonlight’), did she give you any advice about being directed by him?

Jamie Blackley: I don’t think she gave me any insight. She put me at ease, though, because she was constantly joking around and laughing and Woody would be on his iPhone typing on the screening, looking really closely at the screen, and she would make fun of him, etc… She didn’t give me much insight into what it was going to be like, but she certainly put me at ease, just messing around and having a laugh.

James Gilmore: How would you describe your own experience of being directed by Woody?

Jamie Blackley: It kind of felt like a bit of a dream, it felt really quick and, although I was there for just over a month, I kind of wanted it to last a bit longer really. It was just a really special thing and to be on a set with people who have clearly worked together for such a long time… it’s really fast paced and it’s really exciting. I remember at a press conference that we did a few months ago, someone said to him, “People say you’re reserved about directing actors” and he said, “Well, I just don’t want to bother them, I just want to let them get on with it”. That was a really cool thing for me to experience.

James Gilmore: What do you think about Jaoquin’s performance in the film? What do you think he brings to the screen as an actor?

Jamie Blackley: I just think that he’s amazing. Especially as a young guy, he’s someone I’ve watched for as long as I can remember really. He brings this unpredictability, this mystery… I don’t know what it is about him but you just want to watch him really! I worked with him for one day and we were around each other a lot, but we’re only in 2 or 3 scenes together, and that’s the scene when we’re around the table and he grabs the gun and starts playing Russian roulette with himself – I thought it was brilliant; I had the best seat in the house!

James Gilmore: Back to you – you’ve started in several British television shows, including Misfits, Casualty, Doctors, and so on. How much opportunity do you think there is for young actors starting out, to get established screen work in the UK?

Jamie Blackley: It’s difficult. Anyone who says it isn’t difficult is lying. People tend to employ the same people, I think. That makes it difficult for actors because there are just so many amazing actors. What I’ve realised, recently, is that you just need to keep cracking away and there’s going to be times, all the time, no matter what you’re doing where you’ll be thinking, “Oh my god, what am I doing with my life?” but you just need to keep going and sticking with it. It WILL become good eventually.

James Gilmore: Last year you were named by Screen International as one of the ‘Stars of Tomorrow’ – how do you decide which projects to devote your time to? What is it about a project which really needs to stand out to you for you to grab it?

Jamie Blackley: I’d like to think that, more recently anyway, I’d like to do things that I’d enjoy watching – and if that means me sitting around waiting for a little bit then that’s something that I’ve got to try and do. I want this to go on for as long as possible and I really want to enjoy it, but at the same time I want to work right and I want to enjoy myself and really test myself. I think that the only way to do that is to hold out for things that really engage you and really interest you and then hope that someone wants to put you in it!

James Gilmore: You’re starring in this new film ‘Kids in Love’ with Will Poulter and Cara Delevigne. What can you tell us about that?

Jamie Blackley: Well, it’s got a bunch of really cool people in it! I haven’t seen it yet, actually, and it’s written by two friends of mine who are my age [24] but they’re really talented. It follows Will Poulter’s character, it’s a coming-of-age story and I play his horrendous best friend. I had loads of fun on it! I don’t know what’s going on with it right now, but I’m sure that with Will it will be amazing and we’ll see it at some point.

Irrational Man is in cinema's nationwide now.

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