Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Caitlin Stasey talks Ellie and Tomorrow When The War Began

Caitlin Stasey talks Ellie and Tomorrow When The War Began


Caitlin Stasey is familiar to many in New Zealand for her role as Rachel Kinski in Neighbours  (which screens weeknights on TV2). But now she's about to garner a new generation of fans in the film adaptation of the much loved John Marsden books, Tomorrow, When The War Began. Caitlin was in New Zealand for the premiere of the film and spent some time chatting with tvnz.co.nz's Darren Bevan about the role.

These are iconic books for many people - had you read the Tomorrow When The War Began Series of books before?

Caitlin- No I hadn't I read them. Once I was handed the script that was my first experience with these characters and the story - through a script - but I did read the books after that. I got into them right away and I think that I responded really well to the script, so reading the book was more research but essentially I loved the story. Just the fact these characters are very believable, very human.

Author John Marsden was initially against the idea of a film being made - was that daunting?

Caitlin - Yes it was kind of scary; the idea of going against somebody's wishes - you never really want to feel like that for something so iconic and so well loved. But at the end of the day, we're just an interpretation of his story and his book - we're not the final word on Ellie or Homer or on the book. We met John quite late into filming when he came to the set about 2 weeks before we'd finished - he didn't have a lot to do with the process but he was very supportive. He just was accepting that the project, while his original work, was now director Stuart Beattie's - in a way, this portion of the book isn't his story, it's very much Stuart's.

How did you get on with the rest of your cast members?

Caitlin - Really, really well. We sort of had to - we spent every waking moment together so we had to mould to fit one another both in humour and dislikes. Lincoln (who plays Kevin) I've known for the past seven years because I knew him when I was 13 and from working with him on a TV show The Sleepover Club then - and Phoebe (Tonkin who plays Fi in the film) I'd met through friends because that's the acting world - everyone knows someone who knows someone! But it was my first experience working with any of them. We all fit into our roles very easily.

There will be a lot of fan fervour for these beloved books being turned into a film - what do you say to them?

Caitlin - Just understand this is an interpretation of your favourite book; I know you'd love to see a completely faithful adaptation - and it is a faithful adaptation in many ways - but it's also going to be a different experience. You have to be open minded to see past some of the parts we left out then you'll really love it and enjoy it - see it as if it's a film you're going to see for the first time, a new Australian film. It was a very collaborative experience, Stuart was very keen to hear our views on how teens talk and behave - it was a team effort.

There's also a vein of humour running through out the film as well?

Caitlin - Yeah, there are scenes we didn't realise were funny until we saw them in the cinema - but I think the humour comes at the perfect time because they are really gruelling and tough, terrible, depressing times and then you have people like Andy (who plays Chris) who swoops in and makes people laugh with the occasional line that breaks the ice. You can laugh as well as being serious in this film.

What was your favourite part of the film?

Caitlin - Probably a lot of the stuff pre the war as it was easy to film and it didn't feel like acting as we had to be friends. We were involved in as many of the stunts as we could be and it was a lot of fun but I preferred the acting element rather than the explosive side of things. Surprisingly I'm not a fan of guns or anything like that! What's so great about this story is it's about morality, courage and what's right and what's wrong - that's what I love about Ellie - she's never 100% sure if she's meant to do these things and if it's worth it. In the end it comes down to her valuing the lives of those around her - and that is where her loyalties lie. I'm thrilled these characters are so human and that teenagers are being portrayed in such a positive light - you know, we're not hopeless and we care and are capable of doing great things.

Aside from Ellie, which character do you associate most with?

Caitlin - Probably Fi because I'm more like her than the others - I'm naïve when it comes to country life, war and naïve in a lot of respects. But I feel there's something inside both of us which is quite surprising.

So are you team Homer or team Lee?

Caitlin - Team Homer - I love his and Ellie's relationship - I just love their friendship and in the film it's entirely platonic but it's beautiful to see, it's heart warming. I love Lee - I love his still side, his brooding persona - but having heard what he does to Ellie in future books, I'm definitely Team Homer...

Will this be the start of the series - will there be more films to come?

Caitlin - I hope so that would be ideal if we can make 2 and 3 too - but we have to wait to see what the response is. I don't think we'd make more than three because the story sort of runs out after that.

You've had the Australian premieres too - as well as the New Zealand one - what's that experience been like?

Caitlin - The Sydney premiere was an absolute highlight - our first time, we were fresh and excited and it was the first time we'd seen the film in its entirety with other people, an actual audience. My closest friends and family have seen it and they've been incredibly positive - but then your family would be wouldn't they? They'll always love whatever you do.

Tomorrow When The War Began is in cinemas now.

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