Rupert Friend on The Young Victoria, Emily Blunt, and British Accents


Rupert Friend knows a thing or two about being treated like royalty. Since he first began dating Keira Knightley when they met on the set of the 2005 film Pride & Prejudice, the British press has covered the two as though they were a glamorous king and queen -- with all the scrutiny that entails.

He's one half of a different British supercouple in Jean-Marc Vallee's The Young Victoria, where he plays the young Prince Albert of Belgium, who married Queen Victoria (Emily Blunt) in the mid-1800's. In a chat with Movieline, the 28-year-old actor talked about the time travel aspects of moviemaking, the tyranny of British regionalism, and the Rolling Stones.

I enjoyed you in The Young Victoria and in Cheri earlier this year, but I wonder: Do you ever get frustrated with the fact that directors always want to put you in a waistcoat and stick you in a period piece?

[Laughs] I think there probably have been some modern-day films I've been in that didn't come over to the States. I actually just got back from shooting a movie in the country of Georgia in which I play a U.S. war correspondent. I suppose that's moving towards something!

Renny Harlin's directing that. Is it an action film, a war movie, a drama...?

I hope it's going to be a bit of everything. There are going to be elements of war in it, but it's not following one side fighting the other side. It's following this journalists and his cameraman who get caught up in this war, captured by militia, and accused of being spies. It focuses on the damage that's done to civilians by war -- there are hundreds of thousands of refugees from that fight. It's less of a political film and more of a humanitarian one.

The Young Victoria is very focused on the beginning of Victoria and Albert's romance, even though a lot of juicy stuff comes later. What do you think is gained by that very specific timeline?

I think the story really is about this young girl who's being handed the biggest responsibility in the world at the age of 18. It really is the transition from girlhood to womanhood, from princess to empress, and it's that changeover that this picture is focusing on. You're completely right, there's another movie to be had out of their twenty years of marriage, but I think that would have been rather squeezed to get that all into one picture.

I was happy that your character had a German accent, because so often in these movies, everyone speaks with a British accent whether they're British or not.

It definitely had to be there from my point of view because one of the key things about Albert was that he was a foreigner in a country that didn't accept him. He was married to a woman whose family and politicians didn't trust him, and a lot of that had to do with xenophobia, and it was very important to me to make him so that he didn't quite fit in. Especially in England, that has a lot to do with accents, whether they're foreign or just regional. They key for me, though, was that instead of playing him as German and "not from here," I played, "I want to sound English. I want to fit in." In a way, I had to learn German and then try to speak English after.

That really is something I notice whenever I go to London. I mean, they can cut each other down to size on those accents. They know what street you grew up on and everything.

There's that famous quote by Bernard Shaw: "An Englishman betrays himself when he opens his mouth." I think that's true of England specifically more than France or certainly the States, because it's so large. The accent in England can change literally from street to street, and people have this sort of feudal tribalism whereby you an identify somebody's provenance by their voice. Although it's never been like this for me, it does seem to play a huge part in how people interact in England.

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