Q&A: Jim Broadbent, television & theatre actor

UK television & theatre actor, Jim Broadbent who plays the role of Prince Bolkonsky on the epic new drama series War & Peace which sets to starts this Sunday, 26th June 2016 at 20h00 on BBC First (DStv Channel 119).

Tell us about this adaptation…

Andrew’s made it very accessible. He’s obviously selected key elements and moments but essentially it is all there, everything you want and expect from the novel is there, presented in six episodes of television.

The whole period is rich and fascinating and the culture is really engaging. This story tells us so much about it. It’s gripping and there are numerous love stories going on, there’s life and death and there’s war. These themes are as relevant now as they were then.

Tell us about Prince Bolkonsky…

Prince Bolkonsky is the father of Andrei and Marya. He’s extremely wealthy and has a huge palace at Bald Hills, which is fairly provincial. He is something of an 18th century character and still wears a tie-wig. So he’s old school and very protective of his two children.

He gets very cross with Marya on many occasions and is very rude to her and unpleasant but deep down it comes from a love for her and his need to have her around. He wants her to be happy but it comes out in a very unpleasant way from time to time.

He wants his son Andrei to be a good reflection of him and become somebody he can be immensely proud of, particularly in the military field which is where he comes from.

With regards to Mademoiselle Bourienne he’s something of a dirty old flirt really.

What attracted you to the role?

I like Prince Bolkonsky enormously; I think he’s a very real and very recognisable character. He’s complicated because he’s caring but he can also be fairly unpleasant. He’s of the thinking that “you have to be cruel to be kind”. He’s always working, studying and keeping himself busy but at the same time all his vulnerabilities come out, his anger and his frustration and his demands of both of his children. He’s a rich and three dimensional character and it’s a great one to be able to play.

What was it like filming in such amazing locations and wearing such amazing costumes?

It’s the joy of filming really. You get to work in fantastic locations like the palaces we got to film in for this. That does an awful lot of your character building for you, as does the beautiful costumes you get to wear. I think there were about twenty tailors in the costume department, who made the fantastic clothes and brought the period to life in a wonderful way. It’s great for actors to have that detail.

Did you have a favourite moment from filming?

It was great to be able to film Andrei and his father Prince Bolkonsky – myself – walking through the snow. The snow was real and stretched as far as the eye could see. It felt absolutely Russian and perfect in its delight. We were slipping and struggling through the snow and I loved that we could really get in to it.

One of Prince Bolkonsky’s hobbies is working on the lathe. I did my research and spent a few hours on a lathe, my brother has one and taught me, and it’s very addictive!  You can transform a lump of wood in to something beautiful very quickly. The art department created a period lathe for me to work on and that sort of detail just makes it richer and better and more wonderful really.

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