Keeping with the Beat: Thomasin McKenzie on Last Night in Soho | Interviews

Thomasin’s efforts to lay down the experiential seeds of her character led her to the School of Design at Massey University in Wellington where she attended lectures, did numerous sewing projects and learned how to hand-stitch, all the while working with the college’s Program Leader for Fashion, Sue Prescott. These activities go along with Thomasin’s usual process in preparing for a role, which includes changing her own personal interests to reflect those of her character, collecting objects that hold meaning for her and keeping a journal in the voice of her character. In the midst of her intensive shooting schedule, she also took full advantage of being on location in London by immersing herself in the city’s culture and galleries, some of which coincidentally had Mary Quant exhibitions brimming with ’60s fashion. “When we first got to Soho, Thomasin and I actually stayed for three weeks in the same building where Thomas De Quincy wrote Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, so the history of the area was very much infused in our surroundings,” recalled Stuart. “We wandered around Soho and caught a production of ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.’ This was pre-COVID, so we would go out at night when the place was just teeming with people. The bar across the road, known as the Pillars of Hercules, was where a lot of the quintessential British writers, such as Ian McEwan, used to congregate, so we’d go there and get a drink. Edgar and Krysty’s story looks at how the environment haunts those who live there, and we really felt that when we were living in Soho.”

Miranda likened this to the experience she had on the set of Jane Campion’s rapturous 2009 gem, “Bright Star,” in which she coached young actress Edie Martin. “Jane would gather everyone in the small room above a hotel where John Keats actually did a lot of his writing, and she had Andrew Motion, who was Keats’ biographer, read Keats’ poetry to us in this room,” said Miranda. “This required us to take quite a trip out of where we were staying to go there, but Jane felt it was very important that the essence of the location would infuse into the nature of the performances.” Another spirit Thomasin held with her throughout filming was that of her grandmother, Kate Harcourt, the revered star of stage and screen with whom she shares a deep connection, a bond that is mirrored by Eloise’s relationship with her grandma. Now 94, Kate gifted Thomasin with an embroidered pillow displaying both of their names, just before her granddaughter flew to LA for this week’s “Soho” premiere. “They shared a very moving embrace, I guess because Kate is wondering when or if she’ll get to see Thomasin again,” said Stuart, his voice choked with emotion. But what Kate said to her was, ‘Go out there, have fun, work hard, and I’m very proud of you.’”

Dame Diana Rigg stars as Ms. Collins in Edgar Wright’s LAST NIGHT IN SOHO, a Focus Features release. Credit: Parisa Taghizadeh / © 2021 Focus Features, LLC

“Soho” also boasts a wonderful performance from screen legend Diana Rigg as Ms. Collins, the crotchety landlady at Eloise’s apartment. The towering actress died shortly after production wrapped, and her work here is as fitting a final bow as Christopher Plummer’s droll turn as the celebrated patriarch in Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out.” Rigg was also impressed with Thomasin’s Cornwall accent, which she developed while spending time with Stuart in the barren industrial town of Redruth where Eloise is from. During their visit, they saw the inferior reboot of “Hellboy” at a local movie house and found that they were the only people in the theater. Thomasin decided to stay in her Cornwall accent throughout the production, both on and off the set, not to mention at a dinner with Jane Campion and Benedict Cumberbatch prior to collaborating with them in “The Power of the Dog.” Therefore, Rigg had no idea Thomasin was from New Zealand until she met Miranda, whose Kiwi accent prompted the actress to exclaim, “What’s going on?!” Then, as recounted by Miranda, she looked at Thomasin and went, “Good on you.”

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