Ordinary heroes

Jamie Dornan and Charlotte Le Bon on working with Sean Ellis and the real story behind Anthropoid.

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Fifty Shades Of Grey star Jamie Dornan talks Anthropoid
Fifty Shades Of Grey star Jamie Dornan talks Anthropoid Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

At Bleecker Street's Anthropoid première in New York with Cillian Murphy, Jamie Dornan, Anna Geislerová, Charlotte Le Bon and director Sean Ellis - attended by Pico Alexander, Christian Campbell, America Olivo, Pia Glenn, Christine Jansing, Laura Michelle Kelly, Michael Mailer, Jason Mann, Thomas Matthews and Dan Abrams - I spoke with the very busy actors.

Charlotte Le Bon's upcoming films include Terry George's The Promise, starring Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac; Mateo Gil's Realive with Tom Hughes and Oona Chaplin, and Jalil Lespert's Iris, opposite Romain Duris. Jamie Dornan will soon be seen in Alexandre Aja's The 9th Life Of Louis Drax with Sarah Gadon and Aaron Paul.

Charlotte Le Bon, memorable in Yves Saint Laurent, The Walk and Mood Indigo
Charlotte Le Bon, memorable in Yves Saint Laurent, The Walk and Mood Indigo Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Sean Ellis's Anthropoid is "based on actual events" and focuses on Josef Gabcík (Cillian Murphy) and Jan Kubiš (Jamie Dornan), two of the men parachuted into Czechoslovakia from England by a Royal Air Force plane to prepare for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich (Detlef Bothe). There they contact the small remaining band of resistance fighters, headed by Toby Jones as Uncle Hajský. Mrs. Moravec (Alena Mihulová) is the landlady who gives Jan and Josef shelter. She has a lanky, brave, violinist son At'a (Bill Milner).

Charlotte Le Bon as Marie and Anna Geislerová as Lenka at the New Year's Eve dance into 1942, an event packed with Nazis, are reprimanded by their dates, Gabcík and Kubiš, for looking too pretty. "Lipstick gets you noticed … and gets us shot." says Josef. The two girls who started out as beards soon turn into love interests. Marie confides to Jan on one of their outings: "I don't know what I'm doing." To which he responds, "You're doing fine."

Operation Anthropoid was the code name given to the mission to assassinate Heydrich, then the acting Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, nicknamed the "Butcher of Prague." Heydrich, one of the highest-ranking Nazi officials, had been chairing the Wannsee Conference in January 1942 where the "Final Solution" was set into motion.

Jamie Dornan rides up the escalator to introduce Anthropoid
Jamie Dornan rides up the escalator to introduce Anthropoid Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Anne-Katrin Titze: You are playing a real-life hero, a very impressive man. How much research did you do?

Jamie Dornan: A lot. You know, I feel it's one of the lesser known events during the Second World War. I didn't know anything about it. But there is still plenty of information you can find. I think both Cillian and I had a good grip on who these guys were and why they find themselves in the position they did and why they responded the way they did.

They were very different characters, you know, and hopefully that comes across in the film. I find it very relatable in terms of the vulnerability and the panic that would set in for a normal person in such an abnormal situation. They are true heroes but they are true heroes because they are just young men. They respond the way any of us would. There is nothing superhero about them. And that's why I think that story in itself is so relatable.

Director/cinematographer/co-writer Sean Ellis had a very specific way of working.

JD: I have worked with directors who didn't even have storyboards. Sean took it to a whole other level. He had figurines of us doing each action. He lit them in a way that he wanted to light them on the day. The attention to detail was incredible. It's very rare with filmmakers these days. I'd never experienced that before.

Charlotte Le Bon, Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan
Charlotte Le Bon, Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Anne-Katrin Titze: I just overheard that you are going to work with your Yves Saint Laurent director [Jalil Lespert] again, or you already did?

Charlotte Le Bon: I did already. I finished last April.

AKT: Yves Saint Laurent, The Walk, Mood Indigo - all very different roles from this one.

CLB: Yes! Yes!

AKT: This is much darker. Is Marie a composite, or did she really exist?

CLB: It's a composite. Well, she did really exist. I think there were a lot of girls that really existed in those guys' lives. But Marie really existed and she was pregnant by the end of the story.

AKT: Did you do a lot of research?

CLB: On her, a little bit. Sean didn't write something really precise about Marie. I didn't want to make it like a biopic about Marie. That wasn't the story. That wasn't the purpose of the movie. It was to see pictures. She was really different looking than me. I wanted to mix all those kinds of women that we are seeing in documentaries and in pictures and then make it my own.

Anthropoid posters at AMC Lincoln Square
Anthropoid posters at AMC Lincoln Square Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

AKT: There is this interesting scene about the dangers of wearing lipstick [and drawing unwanted attention from the Nazis]. When you put on lipstick, does it sometimes trigger a memory of that scene?

CLB: No. I'm so happy that we don't live in those years. The opposite.

AKT: Did you get nightmares?

CLB: No.

Coming up - Cillian Murphy and Anna Geislerová on Anthropoid.

Anthropoid had its world premiere at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival and will have a British Film Institute preview screening later this month in London.

Anthropoid opens theatrically in the US on August 12 and in the UK on September 9.

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