With Crawl, 1917 and the upcoming The Winter Lake as part of his resume, Anson Boon is carving up a solid career for his relatively new career. With director Roger Michell’s Blackbird, Boon learned from an A-list ensemble and he talked to us about this seminal experience.
Blackbird centers on Lily (Susan Sarandon), a woman who gathers her family to her beach house for one final weekend after she decides to end her life after a long battle with ALS. Sam Neill is Paul, her loving husband who has been nothing but supportive, with Kate Winslet and Mia Wasikowska co-starring as Lily’s daughters Jennifer and Anna. Lindsay Duncan, Bex Taylor-Klaus, and Rain Wilson round out the stellar cast.
Anson Boon stars as Jonathan, Jennifer and Michael’s (Wilson) son who, along with processing his grandmother’s decision, is also pondering on whether or not to tell his folks about his ultimate career ambition.
During our chat Boon talked about what he learned from his Blackbird experience and why, no matter where he is as an actor, he will never be “off the cusp.”
Susan Sarandon gave you advice on Blackbird about following passions outside acting to expand on your craft. During this time of sheltering you’ve picked up golf? What else have you explored?
I did a lot of that. A lot of fishing and just bike rides and stuff like that. I’ve been really active. I’m probably the fittest I’ve ever been from lockdown because there’s really nothing else to do than keep fit all the time, I guess. And do outdoor activities and sports and stuff.
That’s been one of the best parts of it really. Just refreshing and doing stuff other than work for a while. Normally it’s work, work, work and not having the time to do other stuff that I enjoy. Which is good, obviously, and I’m grateful for that. But it’s been a nice reset for me, these past couple of months and then now things are starting up again.
I took up a lot of time watching movies that I used to really enjoy when I was younger so a couple weeks ago me and my girlfriend we watched all of the Harry Potter films. Harry Potter is something that sparked my interested and cinema and other worlds. I kind of feel that I have found a new childlike energy about my job again and I’m really looking forward to jumping back into a new script.
I’m sure it’s hard to put into words, but learning from such a diverse group of acting veterans must have been a seminal experience for you.
Yeah. A massive thing I take away from it is you don’t treat someone differently because of their age or if they’re in a different sort of circumstance or stage in their career than you. Give them the respect you want and help people along.
As Susan Sarandon will tell you, she didn’t get to where she was without people giving her a helping hand and teaching her certain things.
You pick things up from these people as you go along. On Blackbird specifically, it was my first opportunity to play a lead role and get into the nitty gritty parts of a rehearsal process.
On Blackbird I watched how Kate Winslet prepares for her role as well as Rainn Wilson, Lindsay Duncan, Bex Taylor-Klaus – all these people who have had very different careers. Lindsay has done a lot of theater. Bex has done a lot of TV.
I can see how all these individual performers have worked their characters and how they build things. I kind of picked my favorite parts in that and have built my own process.
From a work point of view, other than the fact they haven’t forgotten where they’ve come from, they were so playful and not afraid to make a mistake or to try something that may be a bit ridiculous. They encouraged me to do the same even though I didn’t have the experience behind me if I made a bad mistake. They were so encouraging of me to try new things out.
I definitely learned to be calm and be playful and enjoy what you do as opposed to making it about work.
What was it like having Roger Michell (Notting Hill, My Cousin Rachel) as the captain of the ship. There is a real sense of humanity to his work and did that make this production a special experience?
Absolutely and it starts in casting. The casting director facilitates it and gives their opinion and the director has the final say.
I think (Roger) cast the movie so perfectly because everyone fit in to the specific role in the familly dynamic perfectly. Kate Winslet is a mother. Rainn Wilson is a father. Susan and Sam (Neill) are both grandparents. We kind of had this natural family dynamic that Roger just encouraged us by having us to spend a lot of time together outside of work. We really did form this family. We sort of realized at the end that Roger was almost the unseen and the unspoken member of the family.
Not to get relgious, but Roger felt almost like the person looking over us or maybe our conscience of what we all shared. We always knew what was right and what was wrong and Roger was the voice in our heads telling us that.
You’re right – the humanity I think comes from how quiet it felt. The crew was so small and often Roger would put the camera in the room as we were shooting and ask all of the crew to leave the house and leave the camera rolling and asked us to play out the scene a few times.
Once we achieved the scripted take he needed – we knew at the end of the scripted scene we needed this, but to get there, (it was) do whatever u want to get it there.
Just improvise. Then you find these real natural moments that this real family would experience. So he does encourage this element of naturalism and humanity.
Without giving too much away about your character, do you remember the first time you told your family that you wanted to be an actor?
I don’t because I always wanted to be an actor, truth be told. But I suppose what I can relate to is the fact that where I come from, I didn’t grow up in London.
My family aren’t in the entertainment industry. They are not actors. Everyone around me is a tradesman or works in an office. So although they were incredibly supportive of me and they always knew that is exactly what I wanted to do, I suppose it never really seemed liked something that would happen. It wasn’t exactly a viable or normal career option to become an actor.
I’m actually having these pinch me moments where “I’m normal, I’m an actor but I’ve worked with Susan Sarandon and Kate Winslet, you know what I mean?”
I’m still friends with everyone I grew up with and my family and they obviously know me as Anson. On the other end of the spectrum, when I meet people who have just seen me in a movie – like I encountered someone in London who just saw me in a movie and said “Whoa you were Jonathan in Blackbird.”
That’s so bizarre to me. It’s not the world that I come from. I can definitely relate to the fact that Jonathan was taking a leap to something that was not exactly his natural future.
What does it feel like when you’re probably seen as an actor who is on the cusp of embarking on a great fruitful career?
I don’t know if I’ll ever feel like I’m “off the cusp” to be honest with you. I get so excited about the work that I’m doing and the incredible opportunity that comes my way. It’s a personal achievement – it’s about the work for me, obviously.
If I’m presented with an opportunity in 1917 for example. It’s a huge film which we knew, one of the best directors in the world (Sam Mendes), it was being produced by Steven Spielberg, and you get this absolutely incredible opportunity.
Everyone else is talking about the scale of it, but for me it’s about the work. For me, of course, with a job like that you’re excited that you’re going to have such a big budget and get so lost in the story. It’s so unbelievable.
I guess while I’m on the cusp, and I don’t mind people saying because I don’t think I’ll ever be off the cusp, I just look forward to getting more opportunities with massive budgets and massive actors I get to work with that allow the work to be of higher quality.
Anson thank you so much for your time!
Thank you very much. Pleasure to meet you.
Blackbird is now playing in select theaters and is available On Demand.