at La Chimera by Alice Rohrwacher, British actor Josh O’Connor changed his double-breasted tailored suit on Netflix’s The Crown plays Prince Charles in a crumpled cream linen suit that looks like its owner has been through one too many late-night digs.
But the character in the Italian drama “more like me than The Crown” is, O’Connor explain. Actor turns heads to prove his working-class roots when he sees blue-leader icon Ken Loach ahead of an interview with The Hollywood Reporter , giving an interview behind him on the roof of the Palais des Festivals in Cannes, where La Chimera ( and Loach’s The Old Oak) are showing the game. “That’s Ken Loach over there!” O’Connor added shyly, half shouting, half whispering, “He’s one of my heroes.”
O’Connor plays Arthur, a tomb raider who leads a group of Etruscan tomb raiders who unearth ancient relics and sell them on the black market Fence, which impressed him in the conversation for the Best Actor honors at Cannes. Unlike his motley troupe, whose chimera—or unattainable dream—is the promise of making a fortune from buried treasure, Arthur’s quest is more spiritual. His Chimera is Beniamina, the woman he loved and lost, and he hopes to somehow find Find her again.
Talking to THR in Cannes, O’Connor discussed why he and Rohrwacher were overwhelmed by “gardening and Vegetables”, how he lived the “circus life” on the set of La Chimera and how he became the favorite foreigner of Italian cinema .
What was it like to trade the pomp and setting of The Crown For the movie’s earthy realism and dirty linen suits?
Well, it’s better than The Crown more like me. so far. While making this movie, Alice [Rohrwacher] and I were living in this world, and it felt like the real me. When we were shooting at the lake, I lived in my camper van and I would bathe in the lake, which was real and I loved it. Every night Alice and I and our friends from the movie would sit around the fire, cook and sing. This is a real circus life. I love The Crown, but it was a timely moment, an incredible moment, I am forever grateful for it, but that is a character [Prince Charles]] I really There is no concept. Granted, I never had a full idea of any character, but I found Arthur [in La Chimera] more accessible in some ways because I Kind of wants what he has. I was intrigued by him because of his interest in artifacts and yes, even his ability to see the unseen.
You think he’s Arthur, the knight in shining armor (or dyed linen suit), Or as a predator? What drives Arthur?
Well, I think since I read the script. At that time, I didn’t know if I watched the movie of [Rohrwacher2018]Happy as Lazzaro. In that movie, Lazaro is a saint in some ways, and I like that, and I like that kind of iconography around it, but I guess I thought, “Oh, maybe Arthur is a saint.” And then I Thinking, “Well, no, he’s not because he’s also interested in money.” Then I thought, “He’s a guy who’s also interested in the unseen, he’s interested in history, people, and nature.” He’s a bit of a floater, a bit of a ghost, a bit of a shadow. But deep down in his heart, he is a very human being. I think the key for me was that I was trying to understand how this character who seemed to be looking for an afterlife existed in this world. He was described to me as empty. But I don’t think Arthur is empty. I think he is full. In fact, this kind of life is not enough for him. He needs to be with Beniamina, of course, that’s part of it. But he also needs to be in another space because this real world doesn’t work for him. I’m not sure if this answers your question. I think by the time we finished the movie, I was still getting to know him deeply. I feel like I’m still trying to figure out the truth about him. If I figure him out, I’ll let you know.
You are in this Alice Rohrwacher movie, in the new Luca Guadagnino movie, Challengers, your next movie will be Rosebushpruning, Karim Aïnouz remakes Marco Bellocchio’s 2018 classic Fists In pocket . How does it feel to be the favorite Brit in Italian cinema?
marvelous. Yes, it’s great. I mean, as far as I’m concerned, it was kind of an accident. I mean, Alice happens to be my favorite filmmaker, and it’s very lucky that she let me do this movie. Now she is like a sister and we are family. Luca Guadagnino is my friend and we have been working hard together for a long time. Challengers is coming out later this year and I think it is A very entertaining movie.
So I guess, in that sense, it was all an accident. But I also believe that, kind of like the red threads that get pulled on Beniamina in the movie, I’m pulled by them. I am a big believer in destiny in real life, sometimes we are attracted to people, thinking that life has a source, a purpose, and we are attracted to people that we need to be with. Alice is certainly one of them. She changed my life. No exaggeration.
And there were clues there before. I’m a big fan of Italian cinema. So Pasolini, Bellocchio, Fellini, Rossellini: these are filmmakers I admire very much. So I thought maybe I was looking for them somehow. I have no idea.
How did you and Alice Rohrwacher meet?
I saw happy like Lazzaro , then I watched The Wonders and Corpo Celeste, then I wrote her a letter. We had a Zoom call. I was in Mexico City at the time. We had a great call and I love her. She said, “I don’t have a movie for you. But maybe in the future, I will.” Two months later, she said, “Well, I’m doing this movie with an older actor, and now I’m Will rewrite it so you can do it.” That’s pretty cool.
What was that click when you two first spoke?
I think we are all hippies at heart. We both love gardening and vegetables. So here’s the part. But I also think she’s a fan of a movie I made called God’s Own Country. Of course, I’m a fan of all her work. I think there’s an element of, “Well, I’m not an overly spiritual person, but I’m a firm believer that people will find each other.” I think there’s definitely an aspect to that. Once I got to Italy, we sang together on set every day and every night. A lot of times they’re getting ready to shoot and they’re like, “Where’s Josh?” You’ll see me on top of a hill, looking at a leaf. And Alice is exactly the same. They’d get ready for the shoot, while I’d be crouching on the floor trying to examine the growth rings of a tree, and Alice would be mesmerized by some flying insect. They’d say, “Guys, come on, we’re trying to make a movie here!” Certain elements of Alice and I just fit together, and I almost felt like we were destined to do something together.
I have one last cheesy question to ask: what is your Chimera?
So here I have to ask: What is my understanding of this translation of Chimera What you desire, what you can never capture. Is that how you understand it?
Yes, I’ve heard different translations, but unfortunately I don’t speak Italian.
I ask this because I told some Italian journalists that Alice and my friends are My chimeras, they look at me weirdly, “but do you have one?” Like I’m being really rude to them. But if Chimera is something you want to achieve, you can’t fully achieve it, I think for me that’s faith, faith in God is my Chimera. I feel like I’m always looking for answers to my life, but I feel like finding them is inevitable.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.