Domhnall Gleeson has had a pretty good 12 months, all told. He started 2015 in rude health with brooding sci-fi thriller Ex Machina; followed that up with much-admired immigrant romance Brooklyn; finished the year with a wee film called Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and begins 2016 with the Oscar-nominated survival drama The Revenant. We sat down to chat with him recently about his various and many endeavours - here’s what we learnt.
1. The Revenant was not, in fact, the hardest thing he ever worked on
"People have been describing The Revenant as the hardest thing they did. For me, it was the diet on Unbroken. I found that intensely difficult because energy was so low. At least you could feed yourself on The Revenant. I would remind myself that at least I can eat while I was doing it."
2. ...although The Revenant’s opening battle sequence was tough
"We shot it over about two weeks. It’s all a blur now, it was such an intense process. There were so many moving parts, literally and metaphorically; there was so much going on and also much to figure out emotionally. There were stunts involved, horses galloping along the ridge, a naked man with an arrow in his back, a guy falling in the fire... There were so many different things going on, it was very very complicated.
The Revenant was a sprint for seven months. It was crazy.
They were the first two weeks of the film because we shot in sequence. Everybody ups their game immediately, because there’s no time to warm up here. It was a sprint from the start. And that’s what it was it was like – a sprint for seven months. It was crazy."
3. The cast of The Revenant was a bit of a sausage fest
"You know, there were too many men on that film. You miss the fact that the normal population is made up of half women. Fur trappers at that time were basically exclusively men – that’s just the way it was. So, in the cast hotel, it was just a bunch of guys.
I was walking through the hotel lobby one day, a bit depressed, and I saw Cristin Milioti, who I knew from years before. She was shooting season two of Fargo at the time. She was like this beacon of light and femininity. It was the most amazing thing in the world. I was just so happy to be in the presence of a female in the hotel. Once we were on set, of course, there were plenty of crew who were female, but the cast was very much male."
4. Jack O’Connell once presented Domhnall with a naked lunch
"[After the Unbroken diet], I had been talking about pizza for months and Angelina Jolie organised a really nice pizza from an amazing pizza place which opened early, just for me. It was waiting for me in my trailer. But when I got back to my trailer Jack O’Connell was there, totally naked, holding the pizza over his cock and balls. He just said: “with cheese, sir?”. I was so appetised by the pizza and then so disturbed by the setting that it did make me feel a little bit strange when I ate it. I should point out that I waited for him to go before I ate it..."
5. He’s on a WhatsApp group with his Revenant co-stars entitled ‘The Trappers’
"Will Poulter tells me that trappers means something else in modern lingo apparently. It means, I don’t know, it might be even something to do with drugs or something. He mentioned a trap house. I don’t know these things, but we just mean it in the old fashioned fur trapper sense of the word."
6. His Star Wars action figure looks a bit like someone else
"I believe the action figure looks pretty good. From certain angles it looks more like Benedict Cumberbatch than myself... But I was really surprised how much it looked like me, and kind of thrilled. The LEGO one is not as much of a likeness, of course, but they captured something of his mean spiritedness."
7. General Hux has a special hairdresser, probably
"He’s got people who do it for him. A Stormtrooper. A special Stormtrooper. A scissors Trooper."
8. He was allowed to read the Star Wars script in its entirety beforehand
"I was reticent about signing on for something where I couldn’t read the script. Obviously the director was enough of a reason to want to do it, and the fact that Lawrence Kasdan had also something to do with it writing the script. But I did really want to read it. And when I met with J.J. and Lawrence they said: "look, it’s in the other room, you can go in and read it and then come back and we’ll have a chat". It was very generous and actually made me want to do it anyway. Then I read the script and it was brilliant."
9. People always praise the scenes he’s not in
"Everybody asks me about [the dancing scene in Ex Machina] and it’s the bit that I’m not in really, I’m just reacting. It’s the same in About Time – everybody says “that scene on the beach just breaks my heart!”. And I’m like, “that’s the only scene from the film that I’m not in”. So obviously, when I leave the screen, special things happen! In a film I’ve just finished shooting, I’ve done some dancing – hopefully that’ll make the cut."
I've done some dancing in my next film.
10. His new film Mena (with Tom Cruise and director Doug Liman) is semi-improvisational
"What’s amazing about the way both of those guys work is they’re willing to change everything at the drop of a hat if they feel something may be more interesting. When I say everything, they’re willing to change everything. So that was part of what made that shoot special – the sense of nothing being set in stone. When you turn up in the morning, knowing your lines is, in a way, a waste of time, because the only thing you’re almost guaranteed not to say is the lines. Then some days it’ll be the scene exactly as shot.
So it was brilliantly improvisational in some ways. But also a structured kind of a process. As a result, I don’t really know what the thing is. It could be anything. I loved it. Doug really made me re-evaluate the way I thought about a day’s shooting."