Jessie Buckley was way up on the 43rd floor of an apartment tower in Chicago, talking to me about her new film, director Charlie Kaufman’s I’m Thinking Of Ending Things. Her character’s name is unknown… though it could be Lucy.
‘She’s somebody who shape-shifts in different environments,’ Buckley told me. ‘I guess she’s searching for something truthful in each moment that she exists.’
Then our phone call was interrupted by the sound of Buckley cracking up. ‘OK,’ she said, collecting herself. ‘If this makes any sense at all, I will give you an Oscar!’
That’s kind of the point of the movie, which is streaming on Netflix from today.
It doesn’t make sense — but that’s part of the fun. Some will find it exasperating.
But if you keep your eye on Buckley, her beguiling performance will help you untangle the strange tale of the woman driving with her boyfriend (played by Jesse Plemons) to meet his parents (Toni Collette and David Thewlis).
Jessie Buckley, pictured in character as an unnamed young woman in the new Netflix film ‘I’m Thinking Of Ending Things’, which also stars Jesse Plemons, Toni Collette and David Thewlis
Shooting the picture in Upstate New York had its wacky moments. Buckley told me Kaufman brought kids’ scooters to the set: ‘We’d have scooter races in between takes.’
Which helped get the circulation going, after standing about in the bitter cold. There are many references in the film to the musical Oklahoma!, particularly the show’s hero Curly, who represents ‘the light’ while his nemesis Jud Fry ushers in ‘darkness’.
‘I think there’s darkness in everybody, right?’ Buckley said. ‘Even me.’ More laughter down the line.
Kaufman’s adaptation of Iain Reid’s novel has some moments of richness. Towards the end, Plemons’s character, now aged, muses to an audience about ‘the mysterious equations of love’.
Buckley adores that line. ‘It’s a beautiful and complex feeling, but it’s not a pretty thing tied up in a bow.’
Left: Jessie Buckley at the 73rd British Academy Film Awards. Right: Jessie Buckley performs in ‘Wild Rose’ – 2019 Tribeca Film Festival
The actress’s career has developed rapidly in the past few years, from stage plays opposite Judi Dench to parts in films such as the Oscar-winning Judy (alongside Renee Zellweger) and the Miss World comedy Misbehaviour. There have been leading roles, too, in Wild Rose and Beast.
Before the pandemic struck, she had been filming the TV series Fargo with Ewan McGregor and Ben Whishaw.
She has been back in Chicago for nearly a month now, and said her scenes should be completed by this weekend.
Her character in the quirky crime drama is called Oraetta Mayflower. ‘She’s a nurse,’ she said, ‘and beyond that I’d probably have to kill you… in the best Fargo way.’
Instead, she revealed that she will soon be heading to Greece to star with Olivia Colman in The Lost Daughter, based on Elena Ferrante’s novel and directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal.
Pictured: Actress Jessie Buckley in character as Rose-Lynn Harlan from the forthcoming film ‘Wild Rose’
The dreamer and the Duke…
Watching Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent portray a married couple living in Newcastle in the early 1960s made director Roger Michell laugh.
‘In many ways they’re painfully unsuited to each other, but they’re glued together,’ he said.
He was referring to Dorothy and Kempton Bunton, the roles they play in Michell’s stirring comedy The Duke.
Pictured: Still from film The Duke starring Jim Broadbent about a married couple in the 1960s
Broadbent’s Bunton (pictured right) — ‘an ordinary man who’s an eccentric’ — is a dreamer, an often-out-of-work idealist who campaigns for free television licences for pensioners — back in 1961.
‘Very prescient,’ said Michell, with a chuckle.
Michell, who directed Notting Hill, said his new film was ‘tonally, and politically, a bit like an Ealing comedy’. The Duke of the title, by the way, refers to a Goya painting of the Duke of Wellington, which is stolen from the National Gallery.
The case landed Bunton in the dock at the Old Bailey.
Helen Mirren (left) and Jim Broadbent (right) in The Duke. The Duke of the title refers to a Goya painting of the Duke of Wellington, which is stolen from the National Gallery
The story had been virtually forgotten until five years ago, when producer Nicky Bentham received a random email from Bunton’s grandson.
Intrigued, she researched the tale of the missing canvas and quickly went into partnership with Pathe films.
I was on set in late January and filming continued into February.
Michell, Bentham and their teams worked during lockdown to complete the film, which will premiere today at the Venice Film Festival.
Watch out for…
Reda Elazouar, Elliot Edusah and Jordan Peters (pictured right to left), who are preparing to resume work (safely!) on writer and director Reggie Yates’s picture Pirates for BBC Films and the BFI.
Pirates marks the feature film-making debut for Yates, a documentarian, television presenter and DJ.
The coming-of-age film follows three young men who are trying to get invited to a 1999 New Year’s Eve party, and features a garage music soundtrack.
Producers Kate Norrish and Polly Leys said cameras would roll again next week ‘on the same day we were originally due to deliver the completed film — which we are hoping is a good omen’. Work on the project was shut down in March, midway through filming, because of the pandemic.
But I’ve got a strong feeling about this one; perhaps because it’s set in a London I know a little bit about.
Pirates marks the feature film-making debut for Reggie Yates (pictured) a documentarian, television presenter and DJ
Four concert films will reveal British theatre talent at its best.
Sound designer Bobby Aitken approached choreographer Anthony Van Laast with the idea of showcasing industry stars, including performers, musicians and technicians.
The result is West End Unplugged, a series of free concerts streaming every Wednesday from September 9 to 30 at 7.30pm.
‘There’s Aisha Jawando singing Tina Turner’s Private Dancer, and Katie Brayben singing Both Sides Now, and it’s like you’re hearing it for the first time,’ Van Laast told me. And there are plenty of other highlights.
The shows are free but consider donating to charities Backup: The Technical Entertainment Charity, Help Musicians UK and the Theatre Artists Fund. Go to westendunplugged.com.
Left: Aisha Jawando performs during West End Unplugged on August 20 singing Tina Turner’s Private Dancer. Right: Hannah Waddingham performs during West End Unplugged, which showcases industry stars