Emilia Clarke: ‘Fame, fortune and high achievement stakes just aren’t the end of the rainbow’

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  • Emilia Clarke is one of the most talked-about women in the world, returning to our screens this week in the festive flick of 2019, Last Christmas.

    With an all-star cast (we’re talking Emma Thompson, Henry Golding and Michelle Yeoh) and a George Michael soundtrack, this is set to be the Christmas film of the year, but there’s more to it than festive fluff – this film has a much deeper message.

    Following a heart transplant, protagonist Kate is stuck in a downward spiral, lost and disillusioned with life. That is until she meets Tom, a (very) handsome stranger who encourages her to look up and realise how lucky she is to be alive.

    Emilia Clarke talked us through the project this week, with the 33-year-old suffering two brain aneurysms at the same age as her character’s heart transplant.

    Digital Features Editor Jenny Proudfoot sat down with Emilia to talk Last Christmas, the horrors of filming the ice skating scene and what we should all take away from the Christmas film of the year…

    Last Christmas. Credit: Universal Pictures

    Did your life-threatening aneurysms give you a deeper connection to your character Kate?

    Yeah definitely, because we had it at the same time. It’s all well and good having a character you’re playing that’s had something wrong with them and so have you, but getting an illness when you’re four or when you’re 40 is very different from getting an illness when you’re 22. And it was that singular fact that made it even more relatable for me. You’re at such a crossroads in your life at that point, especially as a woman, and the world can seem unbearably confusing anyway. Throw your own mortality in the mix and it starts to get really sticky and confusing and so that was absolutely something I could relate to and feel on behalf of her.

    Most millennials probably need a Kate transformation right now…

    If you’re looking at a millennial audience which I think this film should speak to, what Kate does to transform her life for the better is so small. She does not want fame. She does not want fortune. She is not getting those things in this script. Nobody is going to Hollywood. Nobody has won the lottery. It’s really small things that require consideration and space and self-care and all that means is just taking a step back and taking a breath and it’s not even about [puts on American accent] ‘appreciating what you have and being super grateful’ – it’s just breathing. Look up means breathe – that’s all it means. You take a deep breath in and you put your phone down and you take a deep breath out and you keep doing that day after day and you keep making those moments in a day to breathe.

    Last Christmas. Credit: Universal Pictures

    What message do you hope people will take from the film?

    The fame, fortune, high achievement stakes that everyone strives after – that’s not the end of the rainbow. That’s not it. That’s so not it, it’s unreal. I’ve lost my anonymity, but people who haven’t can chat to someone who’s homeless on the street, you can chat to someone who works in the pub, to your cabby, to your bus driver, whoever it is. You can have those human interactions every day and as soon as you do – by saying ‘you alright mate?’ and making eye contact with someone, you realise that there’s someone else in the world aside from you and your phone and whatever twittersphere is going on. I think for certain generations, that would be my takeaway message.

    Talk me through filming…

    We shot this at Christmas time so it was perfect. We couldn’t put the lights up in Regent Street in July so we had no choice – we literally shot Last Christmas, last Christmas. This is a love letter to London and a lot of it is about acceptance – acceptance of those around us in society. London is cosmopolitan and it’s rich and it’s multicultural and that’s what makes it beautiful. That’s what makes it magical. Accepting yourself and others within it – that is what’s really important.

    Last Christmas. Credit: Universal Pictures

    Can we talk about your insanely good singing?

    I really like singing – I have always sung. When I was 13 there was a moment when I thought I should try and pursue singing over acting but then acting won. Now, as I’ve got older the fear of singing in public is blinding. You could stick me in front of a thousand people speaking Dothraki and it would be nothing but getting me to sing in front of that many people – I genuinely couldn’t handle how nervous I got.

    Was singing in public the scariest part of filming?

    No, the scariest part of filming was me doing ice skating. I’m not built to go on ice. It’s horrific. Why would anyone choose to do that? It’s 100% the worst thing about Christmas. Date on an ice rink? You’re already dumped.

    Last Christmas. Credit: Universal Pictures

    What made the Last Christmas project jump out at you?

    Well, Emma Thompson wrote the script. As soon as I heard that Emma had written a script, I was like ‘I have to read that script because I love her beyond all reason’. So I did, and then I heard that Paul was attached to direct it and he is a genius comedian and pioneers female leads. The things that draw me to a project are creators and then the character itself and that’s it – anything else is just a cherry on top. So it was Emma and Paul, those two as a combination was pretty winning.

    What was it like filming with Emma Thompson?

    It was just amazing. We’re sort of pals for life now which is kind of the greatest Christmas gift I could have asked for. We all got on so well. That was Emma and Paul – they’re just really good people at bringing everyone together. They just cast well and we all just got on – there was no reason not to. There were no divas, there was no ego, it was just nice people working together.

    Last Christmas. Credit: Universal Pictures

    What was your most memorable scene to film?

    Emma and I did this scene where she is singing me to sleep – I think it’s called scene 47 – and I looked at the blooper reel and I think we did like 80 takes because we could not stop laughing. She asked to replace me with a pillow because we could not stop laughing. I mean, I was in pain, she was crying, we were like messes – we could not get it done. Corpsing is a massive thing! And there’s lots of people in the room watching you and then the crew get annoyed obviously because they’re like ‘fuck you guys we’ve got lunch – you’re eating into our time’. Basically any scene that Emma and I have together are my most memorable. We would just keep riffing and Paul would be like ‘OK I called cut 10 minutes ago’.

    What have you got planned for this Christmas?

    In the run up to Christmas you can run but you can’t hide, I’m going to find you and we’re going to have a fucking glass of mulled wine and a mince pie. Your friends and family are around you and everyone gets time off together so that’s why I like Christmas. I’m really looking forward to this Christmas because I won’t be working like I was last Christmas. This Christmas starts December 1st baby!

    Last Christmas comes to UK cinemas 0n November 15.

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