Last week, “A Late Quartet” star Imogen Poots accepted the “Rising Star” award at the Napa Valley Film Festival – and for good reason. Making a name for herself in hit films like “V for Vendetta” and “28 Weeks Later,” Poots has tackled everything from horror flicks to period pieces to high-profile indies in her short but illustrious career.
In “A Late Quartet,” now playing at Harkins Camelview 5 in Scottsdale, Poots can be seen playing the violin and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener and Christopher Walken. The East Valley Tribune recently sat down with Poots to discuss the film, her experiences on set and what music she’s been digging lately.
So to begin with, how did you initially get involved with this project and what drew you most to the character of Alexandra?
Well I first got involved a couple months – I think it was the summer before shooting; we didn’t actually make the film until the wintertime. I just got the script, read the script through, spoke with the director about it and then met with him and the producers and read it through. Really, what was extraordinary about it was the idea that there was such harmony and precision that was sought after with the music and then simultaneously, all this manic tension and damage that was happening with the people themselves. I just thought that was such a masterpiece in writing, to sort of combine those two factors.
Also, music just intrigues me. I know a lot of people that love music and it’s just something that you can really rely on to help you through things and use as a catharsis and all this stuff. It was really those elements that drew me to the project and the people involved. Catherine Keener was already attached and she’s just been a hero of mine since day one, so that was a massive, humungous draw.
What was your experience like working with film legends like Phillip, Christopher and Catherine, and what was the atmosphere like on set?
I just had a blast; I just had such a good time. At the same time, I felt I was listening the whole time. During the rehearsal period, I would just sit there and just try to soak in everything. There’s this astonishing calm that Phillip Seymour Hoffman has, this sort of stillness to him. You just sort of observe and he’s just such a gentleman, at the bottom of it. There was such frustration with his character, with Robert himself, and I just loved watching the bits that I could, the processes of Phil finding that character and Catherine, too.
It was just so extraordinary to work with because there was this sort of play with Catherine where you could go as far as you wanted to go because the respect I have for her as an actress anyway then transforms into this trust, you know? The majority of my scenes were with them, and then Chris, he plays my violin teacher and he’s just the funniest guy, I was just laughing the whole time. It was just bizarre, extraordinary company. I was very lucky to be there.
Did you have to learn to play the violin for this role? If so, can you tell me a bit about that process?
I did. I was aware that I’d have to do that, and it’s funny with these independent films, especially with this one, we didn’t really know when we’d be shooting it, so it was like, “When shall I start rehearsing to play an instrument?” It was really a couple weeks beforehand so I think that everybody simultaneously put on their musical caps and started to work hard. I enjoyed it, I loved the process and it was amazing. We had this one-on-one tutor from Julliard and she was 24 and she was absolutely genius.
It was quite a steep learning curve, as well, the violin. It was just a really, really wonderful thing to be able to do and come away with at the end of the shoot. It was very important to get all the physicality of the instrument because it really becomes an extension of the character and an actual limb to her. You really don’t want to over think it. It’s just there; it’s an innate quality.
Since this movie centers around music, who would you say are some of your favorite bands and artists to listen to right now and why?
I love The National big time. I just think his writing is brilliant and I just really love all their songs so much and their albums and I’ve seen them live, so I just adore The National. They’re brilliant. Leonard Cohen is a big, ‘ol hero of mine. I must sound really depressed and melancholy! I love Beach House – they’re really amazing. I saw Radiohead live in London the other week and they’re just unreal. Thom Yorke’s hips! I can’t get over Thom Yorke’s hips. I loved him; I love him so much.
What do you hope audiences walk away with after seeing “A Late Quartet”?
I supposed you want audiences to feel something, whichever way that will go. I think the film really knits together the academic and the creative and on top of that, you got the whole dilemma of people and their varying dynamics. I hope they come away with understanding the lives of musicians and what they sacrifice for that. Also, just again, another study of human nature and how we can create something beautiful, but simultaneously there’s always room for mistakes.