The Verge: Eddie Redmayne

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Few ginger-headed actors have a last name that sounds as apt as Eddie Redmayne's. The 28-year-old's red hair and exotic features made him a perfect fit for his first big role as Julianne Moore's son in Savage Grace, but at first blush, there's nothing about the slender Brit that would suggest his presence in the Southern-fried cast of The Yellow Handkerchief. Yet, as the geeky, grating Gordy opposite William Hurt and Kristen Stewart, Redmayne lends the quiet drama a jolt of welcome unpredictability.

Movieline sat down with the actor last week after a long day where Redmayne had to sit patiently beside Stewart as she answered question after question about Twilight and Robert Pattinson. Needless to say, he was eager to move on to other subjects.

William Hurt does a lot of research before he creates a character, while your costar Maria Bello likes to do as little as possible. Where do you fall on that spectrum?

Well, it's really interesting because I had a very similar experience to this on Savage Grace. Julianne Moore was very visceral and straight out while Stephen Dillane was more cerebral. It was interesting on that film to be in the middle of that film and be caught between these two ways of working. The answer is that you kind of try to pick it up by osmosis, almost, as you try to find your own way through it. What was great is that William insists on two weeks' rehearsal, which is incredibly rare on a film and was wonderful on this film. It's such a nuanced, gentle story that it needs to find its place to breathe and we need to trust in each other in order to be able to be bold. Really, that rehearsal period was great for learning to have faith in each other.

How many other films that you've done have given you a rehearsal period like that?

None. At least, none as long as that. A read-through, maybe, or an occasional week to rehearse.

You've done a lot of work in theater, though. It must be like going from one extreme to the other, as far as your ability to rehearse with the material.

It's interesting because there's a spontaneity that has to come from filmmaking, and that often comes from fear. People assume on film that you can do 800 takes. You can't. Secondly, it's very odd to think that you and I could be doing an important scene together and the first time we've met is now, and yet an hour later, the scene is caught on film forever. The first time you've ever said those words to each other is in the movie -- I don't think I've ever quite got my mind around it. Sometimes it works immediately if you're spontaneous and you don't rehearse and don't think about it, and sometimes I need to talk it through with the actor I'm working with. The answer you're looking for, then, is that I haven't quite worked out which party I'm a part of, but I come from a theater background and I always like a good rehearsal.

So what did you get out of it on The Yellow Handkerchief that was useful?

Gordy is quite an out-there character, and in rehearsal, I lost all fears of getting egg on my face. I thought, "I'm going to go for it," basically. I knew that by the time I got on set, I wouldn't be judged by the other actors around me going, "What is he doing? Oh, he's going that far, is he?" [Laughs] So, that was kind of interesting.

He is out there. He's simultaneously annoying and endearing.

Well, hopefully.

How do you walk that fine line without tipping him too far into either camp?

For me, it was about him being openhearted and true, firstly. He speaks his mind -- it's almost as though he lacks the sieve, or the technical filter that would stop him from saying what he's saying. I expected and wanted the character to grate and be frustrating, then hopefully turn that 'round not through manipulation but by the audience suddenly understanding his honesty. He hasn't tried to shave off those characteristics in order to be someone else -- he sticks to who he is.

Your performance is so specific that I couldn't help but wonder if you'd based Gordy on someone in particular.

I didn't, but specific is important. I went and did this long road trip from Tulsa down to Louisiana, and that was kind of important, because it is kind of ridiculous to have a Londoner play a Southern, adopted Native American. It was important to understand the fabric of those stories.

Candidly, I've talked to some British people who don't seem to grasp that vast expanse in the middle of the U.S.

No, they don't. It absolutely was a surprise to me because in Britain, the news we're fed comes from the coasts. We neglect the rest. The other day, I was looking at a map, and just the f***ing size of North America...it's so vast. Of course, there's massive, massive variation and variety there. I suppose I was slightly ignorant to lump it all together as one homogenous thing, but it's not. It's one of the great things about this country, is the infinite variety.

So how did Middle America treat a skinny Brit on a road trip?

Well, it was hilarious. There was this massive guy called Tez from New Orleans who was doing the road trip with me and we would just come up to random hotels in the middle of the night. He has this big Crown Royal bag -- you know the whiskey? -- and it was just filled with [cash], which is what we would pay for our hotels with. We would just turn up all weird and they would look at us, this skinny English dude and Tez. They thought we were these Coen brothers drug dealers. [Laughs] They couldn't work out what we were doing, and it was almost too much to try to explain.

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