Stanley Tucci (‘Supernova’) on working intimately with Colin Firth [Complete Interview Transcript]

Stanley Tucci plays Tusker, a gay man coping with early onset dementia in the new film “Supernova.” The film was directed by Harry Macqueen and co-stars Colin Firth as Tusker’s partner, Sam.

Tucci and McQueen recently spoke with Gold Derby senior editor Daniel Montgomery about the film’s foundation, building the relationship between Tusker and Sam and what they hope audiences will take from “Supernova.” Watch the exclusive webchat above and read the complete transcript below.

Gold Derby: First off, what inspired you to write the story, Harry, and Stanley, what stood out to you about these characters and their relationship when you read it? 

Harry Macqueen: Well, I spent a long time with people who are living with this kind of young, onset dementia, and that was a life-changing and deeply profound experience. So I was inspired to write it through that, really. You try and tell their stories, hopefully in an original and profound manner. So yeah, it was that, really, started the ball rolling for me. 

Stanley Tucci: And for me, you read a lot of scripts over the years, but it’s very seldom that you read a script that’s as beautiful as this script. It was poetic, real, restrained. It was everything you want as an actor and it was about something important. So it was very easy to sort of just say, “Yes, it doesn’t matter what the budget is, we’ll do it, we’ll make it work.”

GD: This story tells a cross-section of these characters’ lives. What are the challenges both as a writer-director and as an actor to create these relationships that really feel like they’re lived-in, that they have these 20 years of history behind them? 

HM: Yeah, it’s a real challenge, especially if you’re choosing to make a film that deliberately doesn’t show them in their natural environment or show them at home or any of that stuff. It doesn’t flash back to their past lives or anything. You have to be really careful that what you’re writing has enough depth to it, really. It has enough history woven into the words on the page. It takes a long time to get that right, I think. And then, of course, you hopefully work with brilliant, beautiful actors that can bring that history to everything that they say and they do, which obviously Colin and Stanley do. So yeah, very much a team effort to get that right. But it is very important. I think the film lives and dies on that, really, on the audience buying into that shared history. 

ST: Yeah, like I said, the script had it all there. It was all there, even though it was hardly expositional. It was the opposite of expositional, but somehow in the absences and the silences, it was all there, so it was up to Colin and I to bring it to the screen truthfully. Having a friendship for over 20 years with each other makes that a little bit easier because you know each other so well. You know everything about each other, and that just helps inform without having to say anything or do anything, really. Harry’s beautiful script. 

GD: And Harry, you’re an actor as well as a writer-director. Stanley, you’ve directed as well as acted. How does having that experience on both sides of the camera for both of you inform your work and your communication and all that? 

HM:  think it’s a lot to do with trust and it’s incredibly helpful to have someone to work with, someone who also is such a brilliant director as Stanley is, so I think knowing quite a lot about what happens in front of and behind the camera is really useful all the time, I think, really. How did you feel, Stan? 

ST: I think I drove Harry crazy because Harry’s a very patient director. I’m not so patient, and Harry works at his own pace, and I work at a completely different pace. So I wanted to shoot more quickly and Harry would be like, “It’s fine, don’t worry about it.” “But we can shoot a whole other scene today!” And Harry would go, “No, I think we’re just going to do this scene today.” So I will always be apologizing to Harry for that for the rest of my life (laughs). 

GD: And so much of the story takes place in the very intimate confines of this camper van that Sam and Tusker are taking on this trip. What was it like shooting in that setting and also just capturing the beauty of the landscape of the Lake District as we see it during their trip? 

ST: It was amazing. I’d never been to the Lake District before, and I always heard about it and everyone said it’s so beautiful, and I thought, “Well, how beautiful can it really be?” And it was really beautiful. Just something really magical about it, landscapes that brought to mind when I was shooting in New Zealand many years ago. Just bizarre, like something out of a fairy tale. Absolutely stunning and very wet. It never stopped raining, but it didn’t matter because it was gorgeous and Harry’s decision to shoot there was absolutely the right one, because juxtaposing those gorgeous landscapes with the intimacy of the interior of the camper van, the intimacy of that relationship, just gave the film even more depth. 

HM: Yeah, absolutely, and I think that juxtaposition, as Stanley said, is really important to the film and also just the decision to shoot in the camper van and not change the camper van at all, not do it in a studio, do it really live with Colin really driving, unfortunately for all of us, on live roads. It helps, I think, the authenticity of the film and how natural the performances are helped by doing stuff for real. So yeah, it was a good thing to do, I think. 

GD: And there is a naturalness to the way these characters and this relationship progresses and it really peaks in its emotion towards the end of the film for reasons I won’t spoil. But how is it writing and then acting in those scenes in terms of really building this relationship to this kind of emotional crescendo? Did you shoot it more or less in order or did that come earlier or later in the process? 

HM: Yeah, we shot it more or less in order, about as in order as it’s possible to do when you’re making a film, which is really important because I think the film is building up and it’s quite clearly and consciously building up to this showdown, which is inevitable, really, right from the start. So I think for all of us, not just Colin and Stanley, obviously for performance, but for the whole team investing in this beautiful relationship for weeks and weeks and weeks and then having this, having them go through the really difficult, honest stuff was an amazing thing to be part of. I’ve been on a few film sets in my life, but I haven’t seen as many people crying around the camera as I did when we were shooting that stuff and I think that’s partly the reason. And also, obviously, because they performed it so beautifully. 

ST: Yeah, like I said, it was all there in the script, and then it was really just up to us to not overdramatize Harry’s subtle writing. It’s really just about building it slowly and connecting with each other, talking to each other. If the actors connect with one another, the audience will connect with them. If the actor is going out and showing his or her emotion or drama to the audience, it doesn’t ring true.

GD: What do you both hope that audiences, as they see this film, what they’ll take away from seeing this relationship and how it develops and the decisions they make? What do you hope is their takeaway coming out of, I was going to say out of the theater, but out of wherever they see it in our current context?

ST: Out of their living rooms. I hope that people see that no matter what the relationship, no matter who those two people are in a relationship, man-woman, man-man, woman-woman, whatever, that all sorrow is alike and all love is alike and I think that’s the most beautiful part of this film. 

HM: Yeah, and I think that exactly, just to echo that, really, and I think maybe right now it feels like the context of that is particularly important, how we spend time with the people that we love and how love can get you through some really difficult life experiences, I think is particularly important right now.

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