I recently got the chance to talk to Felicity Dean about her role in ‘The Wedding Video’. Here, Felicity talks about what it was like working with the cast and crew on-set and about her career as an actress…
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
‘The Wedding Video’ is a comedy set in the cut throat world of English society weddings. Raif – (Rufus Hound) is suddenly asked to be his brother’s best man. His present to the happy couple, he decides, will be a video of their wedding. He returns from abroad to meet brother Tim (Robert Webb) for the first time in years and his fiancé Saskia – (Lucy Punch).
To Raif’s surprise, he finds his once-bohemian brother has undergone a total change of character and is marrying into the most socially aspirant of families; Saskia’s mum Alex – (Harriet Walter) has successfully re-married and settled into life in the ‘Cheshire Set’ – the English ‘Beverley Hills’. As Alex tries to compete in this world of perfectly manicured talons and so win the approval of her snobby mother, Raif starts to uncover the sheer scale of the wedding industry in the 21st century from personalised ring pillows to the most bizarre means of getting to the church on time and reconnects with Saskia realising that his brother is marrying his schoolboy ‘crush’.
As pressure mounts and the big day approaches Bride, Groom and Best Man have to face the fact that maybe the wrong brother is marrying the beautiful Saskia!
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I play Jacqui, Alex’s close friend and closest rival. Jacqui is snobbish, socially aspiring and ridiculous in her attempts to outdo the other women in her set. I am an example of one of those types of women, who try to use their daughter’s wedding to gain cache and social ‘brownie points’ !
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I have known of Nigel – (Nigel Cole our director) for ages and have always admired his work. I went to meet him and made him laugh. I think that secured me the job!
The film stars Lucy Punch, Miriam Margolyes, Robert Webb, Cara Horgan, Harriet Walter, Rufus Hound, Sophie Ellis and Julianne White – with Nigel Cole onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Any good anecdotes?
What was interesting about the whole process of filming ‘The Wedding Video’ was that no one really knew what the hell was going on! There about four of five cameras at any given time, there was also Raif’s film within the film filming, and more often than not there was a real ‘arts’ programme crew filming as well! A particular favourite moment was Rufus and I being ridiculously childish and trying to put Rob (Webb) off, as he was giving an interview (don’t ask!). I had worked with Harriet before and we used to wander into each others dressing room when we were both at the National Theatre, albeit in different plays, to have a natter! So we had a shorthand ,and then Julianne White is also fantastic fun, so all in all it was an enormously enjoyable job. Despite the diversity of all the actors from different areas of the business, we all got along very well. Maybe a bit confusing at times, but no diva tantrums!
Let’s talk a bit about you Felicity. What made you want to get into the industry in the first place?
I got into the industry a long time ago! My first job was a film called ‘The Prince And The Pauper’. My first day of filming I shall never forget. In one of the largest sound stages at Pinewood I was pulled along in a giant shell dressed as “The Birth Of Venus’ (well with clothes!) towards Charlton Heston, Rex Harrison and Harry Andrews. I was playing Lady Jane opposite Mark Lester. I spent three months in Hungary in the company of Oliver Reed and Raquel Welsh, among others, where I do remember one night Oli started a drunken brawl in the hotel nightclub. Tables and chairs flew; so exciting! We all hid under any remaining tables until we were ushered out by the police…….. I guess I love drama stories. That why I got involved in the profession.
Acting had always been in my bones, although I had no idea that a girl like me from a small new town in Surrey, where the shops shut on Wednesday afternoon and Sundays could ever be part of such that world. I dreamed that there was more to life than staring out of my bedroom window at the rain, but at that time wasn’t sure what it was or how to get it. The way I got into the industry was very lucky. Always in the school play I was head-hunted, and asked to go to meet Tony Richardson for a part in his new film. I didn’t get the part in the end, but I had been noticed by the wonderful casting director , the late Maude Spector.
I started working in films television and was extremely fortunate to be a part of the BBC and worked growing up with many marvellous writers and directors and actors, who came through there at that time. David Mercer, Alan Plater. I worked for Mike Leigh, John Glenister – (yes father of Philip and Robert!) among many. Also extraordinary make-up artists, costume and set designers, many have now gone on to be Oscar winners, being head of departments on huge US movies. The BBC at that time was nurturing and developing the world-renowned talent of the future. As I always had a passion for the theatre, as a youngster then, there was only one place I wanted to work, and that was for The Royal Shakespeare Company. The RSC was flourishing under the brilliant leadership of Trevor Nunn and Terry Hands. The company was full of extraordinary actors – Alan Howard, Sue Fleetwood, Sinead Cuisack, Tom Wilkinson, Roger Allam and Jeremy Irons.
I must have had such a nerve. I just contacted them and said that I wanted to audition. And in those days audition you did! In my first round I auditioned six times and got down to the last two to play Juliet. The disappointment of, after all that, not getting the part was huge. I was devastated! A blessing in disguise, I was not ready to play the main stage at Stratford in a leading part! My time came a year later! I ended up going to New York with the company for six months. The play had some singing in it and some ballroom dancing. I can honestly say I have sung and danced on Broadway! I’m proud of that!
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in the industry?
There’s a phrase spoken by the great dramatist and acting teacher Stanislavsky……..Love the art in yourself , not yourself in the ‘art’………. I think that is a brilliant piece of advice, and I’d like to pass onto anyone starting out within this incredibly challenging business. Young actors now seem to know everything about how to network, how to create an image, how to promote themselves. All great tools to have but in the end it’s all about what comes from inside you. Your talent and sensitivity are what counts.
You’ve been in a number of different films and TV series – which actors/actresses have been your favourites to work with and why? Any good stories?
I have done a lot of TV and have worked with truly great people. In fact really it has been actors/artists who have given me my education. Denholm Elliot was one of my most favourite people, funny, vulnerable and kind. I played Judi Dench’s daughter in ‘The Last Of The Blonde Bombshells’. She’s an extraordinary shape-shifter, and immensely generous.
Al Pacino, who I first worked with in 1985 and then subsequently on personal projects of his own – he is one of the most brilliant transformative actors it has ever been my privilege to know and he has been unceasingly generous and supportive to me over many years; and the wonderful Paul Schofield. I was in the last play he ever performed, at The National Theatre. He was a very private, shy and charming man. I adored him. I introduced Al and Paul to each other, backstage one night, and discovered from each of them independently that they were both equally in awe of each other. Two great Titans of their profession, and yet they still felt in awe. How wonderful.
What’s currently on your I-Pod right now?
On my iPod? Well I’m learning to Salsa so…an eclectic mix of fabulous Latin America salsa dance music. Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull, my most favourite song of all time ‘Forever Autumn’ sung by Justin Haywood and the whole album of ‘Chicago’!
If you could have dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
My three dinner companions would be:
- Dora Maar, muse of Pablo Picasso, and inspiration for his portrait The Weeping Woman. What made him see her like that? Did he destroy her or make her stronger?
- Pamela Churchill Harriman. Daughter in law of Sir Winston Churchill. Known as the greatest courtesan of the 20th century, mistress of powerful and rich men and ended up being given a State Funeral and then flown back to US in Airforce 1 for burial. What were her secrets?
- Vincent Van Gogh. How could someone carrying within himself such genius, even begin to endure such suffering.
You’re stuck on a desert island, you’re only allowed three personal things with you – what would you choose and why?
My three items on a desert island? A photograph of my partner Paul and our amazing son Paris! A telescope to look at the stars. Oh and finally, but not least…….mascara!
What’s coming up for you in 2012/2013?
As for 2012, the rest of and beyond. I’m working with the writer Gail Louw on a piece of new theatre which we hope to put on early next year, and I’m developing with Julianne White a contemporary comedy about women ‘of a certain age’ for television. Can’t wait!
Thanks for the interview!