Members of the FF2 Media team were able to attend a screening of Ophelia at the IFC Center on June 26, along with a Q&A with star, Daisy Ridley. Based on Lisa Klein’s novel of the same name, the film is a retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet from Ophelia’s point of view. Claire McCarthy directs the film, staying true to Klein’s YA audience. Read our review of Ophelia here.
Of course, the theater was packed. While I’m sure many in the audience loved Shakespeare, no one can deny that Ridley’s draw comes from another famous work, Star Wars. Many in the audience were clearly fans, from wearing shirts to holding posters and photos that they hoped Ridley would autograph. When she made her appearance at the Q&A, everyone was excited. The moderator began, focusing questions on the film, but did include some questions about her other work, including Murder on the Orient Express.
When asked about her preparation for this film, especially considering Hamlet is so well-known and constantly performed, Ridley revealed that she actually avoided reading or watching any version of the play, including a London stage version featuring Tom Hiddleston that was showing around the time of production. She went on to admit that she thought she had never read or studied the play, but was reminded by her friends that she had studied it in sixth form. In terms of her relationship to the book, Ridley said that while she had it in mind that the book was written first and aimed at a young adult audience, she tried her best to focus on the script and the direction that she got, not letting too much outside influence change her performance.
The moderator also asked her about how working with women differed from her experiences working with men. Ophelia is directed by Claire McCarthy, written by Semi Chellas, and based on the book by Lisa Klein. Ridley said that while she didn’t pick the project because of the women involved, she did appreciate that it was women and loved working on the project. However, when pressed to reveal the differences between working with women versus working with men, Ridley jumped to say that, in her experience, they weren’t that different. She said that she doesn’t prepare in any special way for each film, apart from research, so working with directors feels very similar. She did mention that because Ophelia was filmed in such a short period of time in comparison to a larger project like Star Wars, the only difference was her familiarity with the directors. Ridley made it clear that for her, she’s felt good with all the men that she has worked with.
Ridley was asked about her multifaceted talents, from acting to dancing to singing, specifically, what it was like to sing with Anne Hathaway on Barbra Streisand’s album, Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway, and if Ridley was up to singing in a future film. Immediately, she admitted she’s been longing to do a musical film. She told a funny anecdote about how she’s dropped hints, literally telling a Disney executive that she would love to be cast in a musical. Sadly, no projects have come up yet.
When it came to audience questions, some were well thought out and meaningful, while others were simple and not related to her work in this film. The first audience member asked about the emotional scenes in the film and which she felt was the hardest. Ridley admitted that because the flower scene, or Ophelia’s descent into madness, is one of the most well known from the play, she was most nervous to film it. With two whole days to film it, she was unsure if she would have the stamina to do it over and over again, but because the writing was amazing, she carried on despite her fear and ended up loving the take used in the film.
Another audience member, a younger woman, asked Ridley what it was like dealing with imposter syndrome, or the belief that you don’t belong because you don’t fit in. Ridley revealed that she has felt that way throughout her work. At the beginning of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, she thought there was no way she would be able to make it all work. As she has done more, her confidence in her work has grown, but her social confidence has gone down. She specifically said that she’s been lucky and worked with people who have made her feel like she belongs.
When asked about the best compliment she’s ever gotten, Ridley told a touching story about her family. After seeing the first cut for Ophelia, she was very unhappy with it. Luckily, the film was recut and she loved the final version so much that she organized a screening for her friends and family. She said that while her mom had seen her work before, that this film had the most impact on her. Her mom ended up crying after the screening and Ridley revealed that she had never seen her mom so emotional before. That moment was the most impactful feedback she’s ever had.
Ridley also divulged some information about her upcoming projects. Although the audience member was hinting at the upcoming Star Wars film, Ridley instead shared information about an upcoming biopic based on Sonia Purnell's A Woman of No Importance (pictured right). Produced by Bad Robot - Ridley's third collaboration with producer J.J. Abrams - the biopic tells the story of American spy Virginia Hall, who worked for the British intelligence during World War II. Ridley said that the difficulty in this project is how expansive Hall’s life was and what the film will end up focusing on. She didn’t divulge any other information about the film, but it seems to still be in development.
© Katharine Cutler (7/30/19) FF2 Media