Eddie Redmayne, Star Of 'My Week With Marilyn' On Sharing A Fantasy With Michelle Williams
Stolen days of romance with the world's most alluring and desired woman - these may sound like words from a fairytale, but they are the stuff of My Week With Marilyn, the memoir of Colin Clark, a gopher on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl in 1956, and his brief but life-changing involvement with screen siren Marilyn Monroe.
"As a runner on a film, you are the lowest of the low, and yet you have incredible access to everyone," explains Eddie Redmayne, who plays Clark in the film released this week.
"I can totally imagine that for actors in the middle of a Hollywood bubble, all they really want is a sense of normality, and that gopher can be a tap for that. So could it happen? I like to think so."
When Monroe, at the height of her fame and recently married to playwright Arthur Miller, arrived in England to film with Laurence Olivier at Pinewood, what had seemed a dream pairing quickly proved to be a collision of cultures - as Redmayne describes, "more than just people, but a real moment in history of these two trying to reconcile British theatre traditions with American cinema, Marilyn's Method acting versus Olivier's "acting", it's all such a rich story."
At its heart is the vulnerable Monroe, played exquisitely by Michelle Williams, adding to this proverbial onion by crossing the pond herself to greet a roll call of British acting talent, a hall of mirrors not lost on Redmayne:
"The similarity was everywhere. Dame Sybil Thorndike on set for the original Showgirl, was known for her generosity, and now Dame Judi Dench - who's in My Week with Marilyn - is equally renowned for being generous-spirited. And there was that same fear from Michelle, coming over to see all these established figures....
"She doesn't have the same insecurities as Marilyn, but all actors have something. There's that scene in the dressing room when Kenneth Branagh as Olivier is trying to work out what is wrong with her. I say 'maybe she's scared, sir' and he blasts 'we're all scared, that's what we do' and I think that's true. You'd be hard-pushed to find an actor without some sense of nervousness, because we're all being scrutinised, and we want so hard to get it right."
As Clark was the all-observant prism through which we can view the on-set turbulence of The Prince and the Showgirl, Redmayne, despite an increasingly impressive catalogue of work himself (The Good Shepherd, The Other Boleyn Girl), sees himself in a similarly privileged position:
"Michelle and I would sit there, Derek Jacobi would come in, Dame Judi Dench, Kenneth Branagh, Zoe Wanamaker...
"Michelle is just the most formidable actress, almost in a league of her own, but the talent was across the board. It was just astounding to witness all that, and be in the thick of it. The Colin Clark character is the cipher through which the audience see it all, and I felt very similar."
Making a film about a film must have made it very difficult for Redmayne to escape into the same almost fantastical world that his character did with Marilyn, something he recognises - "so many technical aspects you wouldn't believe, and cameras everywhere."
Nevertheless, Redmayne had his own share of nostalgia and magic:
"We were shooting at Pinewood, where the original film was shot," he remembers fondly. "The same dressing rooms where Marilyn and Olivier originally hung out, and there were definitely special moments, which tended not to happen when the camera was on, and artifice took over.
"I remember one time, Michelle came out into the long corridor at Pinewood, tottering just like Marilyn, and I just thought 'oh my god'.
A little part of the fairytale has endured, it seems.
My Week With Marilyn is in cinemas from Friday 25 November. Watch the trailer below: