“The Electrical Life of Louis Wain,” the new film from Amazon Prime, tells the true story of Louis Wain, an artist known for his striking paintings of cats in the late 19th century. Writer-director Will Sharpe did not want to give Wain’s life the standard biopic treatment, opting instead to represent his life and the inner workings of his mind with vibrant colors and abstract sequences. “The biggest influence on the world of the film is Louis Wain himself,” says Sharpe in an exclusive new interview for Gold Derby. “I felt an immediate connection with his pictures.” Watch the full video chat above.
The film has a radiant, kinetic feel that is in keeping with Wain’s artistry and how he expressed himself in the world. “We really wanted to capture and enjoy the way that he delighted in colors and patterns, to lean into his tone,” explains Sharpe. There is a certain electricity in the score and the sound design, which the director observes is suggestive of Wain’s hunger to “understand the world and try to work out what it ran on.”
In the middle of it all is Benedict Cumberbatch, who portrays Wain from young adult to old man over the course of two hours. While Cumberbatch was already attached to the film before Sharpe got involved, the director was taken by the actor’s dedication to the role. “He’s a technically extraordinary actor,” states Sharpe. “The commitment and attention to detail he puts in at the front end to try and master a way of moving, a way of talking, a way of sitting, dancing even, and how rigorously he wanted to perfect the technique of drawing with two hands that Louis was famous for, all of that care and commitment in the prep phase means that he’s able to be very instinctive on set.”
Cumberbatch lent a certain gravitas to the role that matched Sharpe’s own intention to not be too silly with the material. “I didn’t want it to be, ‘Here’s this kooky, crazy man who was responsible for kooky, crazy pictures,'” explains Sharpe. “Louis Wain was someone who perhaps [was] not always fully understood in his life but he’s deserving of love.”
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