I recently got the chance to talk to Gil Cohen-Alloro about his role in ‘W.E.’. Here, Gil talks about what it was like working with Madonna on-set and how he got into acting in the first place…
Hey Gil. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film, ‘W.E.’.
It’s a pleasure, thank you for the invitation!
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
The film is a combination of two stories, the main one is of Wallis Simpson and her marriage to King Edward VIII who has chosen to give up his throne in order to marry her. This is intertwined with a modern-day story of Wally Winthorp, married but lonely, who is obsessed with the Wallis and Edward (W.E…) love story. The film goes back and forth in time, weaving those two narratives together with some fun surreal moments of interaction.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I play a snotty French concierge in a posh Paris hotel, quite stereotypical character really, and great fun to do. It was a very brief appearance, but then I did probably get the best line in the film. I was very pleased to have had that opportunity.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
My agent called and said I had a casting, quite straight forward really. I am originally from Israel, but I also have a French background so often get castings for French characters. I’ve worked with Madonna before, in an advert she did for her H&M collection, so she might have remembered me from there when she saw the casting tape. I was actually ignorant of the fact that the film was directed by her until the actual read through so it was a pleasant surprise when I realised I was to work with her again.
How would you say this film is different and unique?
First of all it’s directed by Madonna, which in itself is different and unique as it’s her first major feature film, and not something people are used to seeing her do. I think everyone was curious to see what she would create. It is visually quite stunning, Madonna has a great sense of aesthetics and pays a lot of attention to detail. There are also some unconventional moments, which add a slightly surreal, and humorous, feel. I was quite moved by both story-lines when I watched it. Beautifully acted and sensitively told.
The film stars Abbie Cornish, Andrea Riseborough, James D‘Arcy, Oscar Issac, Richard Coyle and David Harbour – with Madonna onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Any good anecdotes?
My scene was with Abbie, who seemed very relaxed and natural. There wasn’t much time to chat or get to know each other, it was all quite quick. I thought she gave a beautiful performance in the film, very subtle and sensitive.
I’ve met the whole cast only once at the read-through, which is always a magical time, when the story of the film first comes to life. I was just so excited to be there, with all those talented people. Can’t think of any anecdotes, apart from hearing a crew member asking Madonna whether she would teach them a Pilates class. I don’t think she had the time. I really enjoyed working with her, she knows what she wants and is quite instructive which I like in a director. Perhaps it’s my dancer’s background, once I know the choreography of the scene I can interpret it within that clear framework.
Let’s talk a bit about you Gil. What made you want to get into the industry in the first place?
I wanted to perform for as long as I can remember. As a child I took part in school shows, and performed in some family events. I think it was my way of being myself – when you perform you can express certain emotions in a way that you may be more reluctant to in real life. You are also the centre of attention, which is always nice, and maybe something I craved coming from a family of seven children.
I started my career as a dancer (so yes, it is possible to make the transition from dancing to acting!), I’ve done musical theatre, physical theatre, straight theatre and screen work including adverts and feature films. I think filming is my favorite, I love the subtlety and intimacy of it, every little nuance is picked up.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into the industry?
Have fun. Don’t try to impress anyone at auditions, do the best you can, enjoy yourself and then forget about it. Statistically chances are you won’t get most of the jobs you go up for, so you might as well enjoy the process! Be friendly, life’s too short.
And the old cliché – just be yourself – (everyone else is taken – as Oscar Wilde apparently said…)
Finally, don’t do it for yourself, do it for the audience. You are serving the story, not the other way around.
What is currently on your I-Pod right now?
A mishmash really, some of my favorite Israeli music, City Of Angels sound track – (including Alanis Morissette’s Uninvited – one of my favourite songs, I’ve done a choreography to it for 10 female dancers, I would love her to see it one day!), Buddha Lounge, Charles Aznavour, Sister Act sound track, Debussy, and Diva. Oh, and Michael Jackson.
If you could have dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
Jesus, Muhammad and Moses. To tell them about the mess we’re in because of the religions they started and ask them to do something about it.
What is your favourite word?
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
Good things I hope!
‘World War Z’ , in which I play an Israeli army general, is due out in 2013/14. It’s a film about a global zombie epidemic and how different countries deal with it, produced by and starring Brad Pitt, directed by Marc Forster, and based on the book by Max Brooks. Can’t wait to see it! (and hope I survive the edit).
Thanks for the interview!