I recently got the chance to talk to Tom Ward-Thomas about his role in ‘Summer In February’. Here, Tom talks about how he got involved in the project and what it was like working with the cast and crew on-set…
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
Hi Matt. ‘Summer In February’ is essentially a love story between three people. It’s one of those stories where, in the beginning, all the characters are living in a bit of a paradise that the audience knows is just too good to be true. It’s set just before the First World War in a small artist’s community in Lamorna, Cornwall. Back then, English society obviously had rather a strict code of conduct but this collection of artists did pretty much whatever they liked. They went to the pub, they had big parties, they went skinny dipping, models posed nude on the rocks. What they got up to was pretty wild for the day and in ‘Summer In February’, we see Florence Carter-Wood, an upper class girl from a rather stiff upbringing, coming into this. She meets Gilbert Evans, played by Dan Stevens, an old-fashioned English gent, and at the same time she meets the charismatic and volatile Alfred Munnings, known as AJ, played by Dominic Cooper. Both fall hopelessly in love with her and she pretty much falls in love with both of them and ends up choosing the wrong one. That’s where things start to deteriorate.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I play Frank, a precocious and arrogant student in the pub. There are three of us, Frank, Walter and Bertie, loudly debating about a Persian poet, Omar Khayyam and generally wanting the entire pub to know how educated we are. AJ, who always needs to be the centre of attention, comes and confronts us and ends up making us all look a bit small. It was a fun role. The three of us had to butter up on Omar Khayyam quite extensively and study his ridiculously long Rubaiyat beforehand (long, long, long, long poem) so that we could improvise a detailed discussion for AJ to butt in on – quite a tricky task tenth time round.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
There was quite a bit of luck involved actually. Having never had any family connections to the film industry, suddenly an old family friend materialized who had decided to produce a film. This was Jeremy Cowdrey, one of ‘Summer In February’s producers and he secured a general meeting for me with Ros and John Hubbard, the casting directors, and they auditioned me, originally for the role of Joey Carter-Wood, Florence’s brother.
How would you say this film is different and unique?
It’s all a true story to start with, and actually quite an unknown aspect of Alfred Munnings’ life. He was a hugely famous painter in his day and in the film you can understand why he would want this part of his life to remain forgotten. I would say the setting of the film compliments so many elements of the storyline. The Cornish coastline is obviously beautiful and dramatic but it’s stormy and unpredictable and volatile and the film really captures that.
There are a lot of love stories out there. There are fewer stories where you see a love triangle and you’re routing for both men for different reasons. I think, in this case, Florence, played by Emily Browning, makes this storyline special and interesting. She would probably be diagnosed with bipolar disorder today. Extreme highs and lows and emotions and feelings that change like the wind and she can be captivated by one man, for one reason on one day, and then hate that the next. She’s a bit of a nightmare really. But a good nightmare.
The film stars Dominic Cooper, Emily Browning, Dan Stevens, Hattie Morahan, Mia Austen, Shaun Dingwall, Max Deacon, Michael Maloney and Nicholas Farrell – with Christopher Menaul onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Any good anecdotes?
It was fantastic. I was only on set for a few days and unfortunately the interior of the pub was not the real Lamorna Pub, The Wink, but a pub near Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire so I didn’t get to go down to Cornwall. What I was struck with was how, despite the fact the cast and crew had all been living in each other’s pockets for weeks, I didn’t feel in the slightest out of the loop. Everyone made a real effort to include us in their stories and jokes and seemed genuinely interested in what we were doing. Sorry to say nothing outrageous happened – not that can be repeated anyway.
Let’s talk a bit about you Tom. What made you want to get into the acting industry in the first place?
I always wanted to be an actor. I don’t think I ever wanted to do anything else, apart from being a vet at one point but that didn’t last long. I was one of those annoying kids that was always making up plays and forcing my friends to be in them. When I left school there weren’t really any other options in mind apart from getting into acting properly.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in the industry?
I’d say you need to just be fearless. There are lots of ways to dig up auditions and get seen by the right people and seek out opportunities to perform. You just have to think outside the box about how to get hold of those, and sometimes you’ve got to risk looking like an idiot. There’s of course a lot of luck involved but having resourcefulness is more relevant.
What’s currently on your I-Pod right now?
There’s quite a varied list. I suppose my top choices would be Muse, Arctic Monkeys, Dixie Chicks, Amy Macdonald, The Kinks, The Kooks, Keane, The Beatles, Queen, Mumford and Sons. There’s a bit of musical theatre, Avril Lavigne and Lilly Allen as well but I’m not ashamed! Oh and I’ve also got my sisters, who, unfortunately for my parents have decided to also go down the entertainment route and form a country duo, Ward-Thomas. I like pretty much everything except R&B and general club/dance music.
If you could have dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
Elizabeth I, Napoleon and Shakespeare. Elizabeth I (in her younger years ideally). She always fascinated me. I think I quite like strong women. Napoleon is just all round interesting, good and bad and would be a great one to meet. They probably wouldn’t get on very well though so you’d need to dispel the politics with Shakespeare and a bit of theatrics.
Which film was your favourite of 2012 and why?
‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’. I haven’t seen anywhere near all the films of 2012, including most of the films that were in the Oscars and the BAFTAS but of the films that I saw in the cinema, ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ was the most unique and original in storyline. It moved me, it made me laugh a lot, it was insightful and the acting was phenomenal.
What’s coming up for you in 2013?
I recently premiered a play I’ve written at the Lavender Hill Studios in Clapham. It was a two night preview and now I’m developing it further for a full London run at the end of the year. That’s the main focus point at the moment.
Thanks for the interview!