SOPHIE MEADOWS talks to actor Hermione Corfield about working with Tom Cruise, balancing a UCL degree with her career and being a woman in the film industry.
This article contains spoilers.
Hermione Corfield snorts when she laughs, puts nappies on her black Labrador and spent the Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation premiere after-party at home with her boyfriend, eating Austrian sausage in her pyjamas (no innuendo intended). She is both one of my oldest friends and favourite people, and after I watched her sign her first autograph during the summer (I welled up like a proud mother) I decided it was time I cash in on being her friend and interview her. She seemed rather amused to be asked but said yes all the same.
We had our chat with her sitting cross-legged on the floor of the East London studio apartment she shares with her boyfriend Andreas, whilst she absent-mindedly licked icing off a giant piece of red velvet cake and hugged a mug of tea.
Hermione’s first big-budget film, Fallen, was filmed in Budapest last year and will be released in early 2016. Hermione plays Gabrielle Givens, the angel Gabriel in the form of a teenage American girl. The fantasy film takes place in a reformed school for misbehaved children, and is based on the first of a set of four books by Lauren Kate.
“We had a lot of fun in Budapest, you get to know people pretty well filming with a cast and crew on set for three months. We’d wait until people fell asleep on set and then jump on and take pictures of them, and we played endless games of ‘Heads Up’ 24/7 when waiting to film. I also learnt how to fly using wires and how to fence for the film which was cool.”
“There’s something addictive about being in an intense collaborative bubble when you’re working with a big group of people. Getting a job becomes much more than about being paid because of the amazing camaraderie between you. I can see how actors get depressed when they leave it.”
Kate’s books have a loud and dedicated fan base known as ‘Fallenatics’, who currently have six Hermione Corfield Instagram accounts and multiple Tumblr pages. Intimate photos from Hermione’s closest friends, her family and her boyfriend’s social media accounts are regularly pulled and then re-blogged. Unlike me who finds this slightly unnerving and on occasion intrusive, Hermione is not fazed.
“It’s encouraging that there is a global fan base who is going to watch the film and insist that it’s translated into Chinese, Italian, Spanish, and so on. One of the many positives about social media is that you can see how many people have not just seen something but reacted to it by the number of ‘likes’ or re-posts. It’s a positive thing!”
Hermione’s most exciting career moment to date, she says, has been acting with Tom Cruise for Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. Hermione plays the record shop girl at the start of the film, a secret undercover agent who gets shot in the head by Sean Harris, the evil villain. Working with Tom Cruise was “the most amazing experience, it was a complete dream to work with him and such a huge opportunity for a young actress starting out.”
At certain times it’s been a struggle to balance her English degree with her acting career, but she’s been lucky with timings, Hermione explains: “Before my first year exams I had a quiet period, and the only uni I’ve missed has been for filming Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur. I was reading Malory for my course when I got the interview for the film, which just shows how much film and literature intertwine. The best casting meetings I have had in LA have been when the director and I have ended up talking about literature – it’s a great foundation for an interesting, joint passion. And of course so many books are made into films.”
Being cast in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was especially funny being an English literature student, Hermione says. “When I first saw the title I was amused but I also thought they were slaughtering an iconic book. But it’s actually a stroke of genius combining zombies and period drama – it’s hilarious!”. Hermione plays Cassandra Featherstone, a friend of the Darcy family, alongside an English cast including Hermione’s friend Millie Brady. “I particularly loved working with Dolly (Wells), I’m a huge fan of Dolly & Em and it was great to hang out with her. I got completely over-excited filming with her on the first day, and I ended up shouting ‘love you!’ at her as she got into the car to leave. I had to apologise the next day…”
Hermione wants to write and direct one day, as well as act. She explains why: “when you look at the script before casting you get a bio about your character. The girls are often described as blonde, pretty, and confused, whereas the male lead’s bio is longer and more substantial.” There is a feminist element to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Hermione tells me, as the girls are warriors. But “unfortunately, female parts are still too frequently written as an accessory or a prop to male parts. For example, you often audition for ‘the girlfriend’, rather than a girl who has a boyfriend.”
Hermione’s dream role would be “to play Bathsheba in Far From the Madding Crowd, although Carey Mulligan just did such a good job. Or someone like Madame Bovary, who has such a conflicted, complex inner life. My favourite kind of films are European 90 minutes which are brooding, less commercial- French films with a slower pace. I like characters who aren’t shiny or icy.”
Her advice to young actors would be to do short films. “Approaching an agent with just a head shot and saying you want to act is hard. By making yourself a reel you have a better chance of demonstrating your talent, whilst also working with different directors, film crews and making contacts at the same time.”
“The best piece of advice I’ve heard is something Rosamund Pike said, which is that the most important thing when you start out is which parts you say no to rather than those you say yes to: it’s tempting to take roles which aren’t right for you out of fear there isn’t going to be anything else.”
“Because there are so many stages to being an actor – going to drama school, getting a job, getting an audition, getting an agent, etcetera – that it’s easy to lose track of your progress, or feel rubbish and beat yourself up if you aren’t working. It’s an unstable career choice which takes courage and faith in what you’re doing. If I start to doubt myself I distract myself. I write scripts, watch films or try and do something creative”.
It seems unlikely to me that Hermione’s fears, albeit understandable, are justified. Attached to the lead in Andy Tennant’s new film and a short psychological thriller, The Waterboatman, which begins filming in November, I would bet all the red velvet cake in the world that Hermione is going to be gracing our screens for some time to come.
What is your go-to snack?
Avocado and Marmite on toast. If you haven’t tried it you haven’t lived…
If you were transported for a day to a random point in time, where would you go?
Back to the Fleetwood Mac and Patti Smith times!
What is your favourite coffee table book?
Richard Young’s Shooting Stars.
Who are your role models?
Aspects of lots of people – I admire certain qualities in people close to me and learn from watching people.
Last film / TV series you watched?
I’m currently watching Narcos. The film I watched most recently was Funny Face.
Image credits to Sophie Meadows and contactmusic.com respectively.