High Rise stars Sienna Miller and Luke Evans: 'We would have dinner every night, hang out and drink too much... it felt very Seventies'
Drugs, sex and violence all feature in the movie High-Rise, which was filmed in Bangor, so it's a good thing Sienna Miller and Luke Evans were up for a challenge. The pals talk to Susan Griffin about pushing themselves... and each other
If you've ever thought the concept of playing dress-up and performing for a crowd as a grown adult seems a little ridiculous, you're not alone. Luke Evans acknowledges his chosen career path has its peculiar moments.
"You're forced to do the strangest of things, and it takes its toll," says the Welshman - not least when you're cast as a sexual predator, as he was for new movie High-Rise.
The film, which is set in 1975 and was shot in Bangor, is an interpretation of author JG Ballard's modern classic and directed by Ben Wheatley, the man behind Kill List, Sightseers and A Field In England.
"I was nervous. It scared me a little bit, but this is what being an actor is about, finding those roles that really push you a bit further than you've been before, and with this role, I was like, 'Well, I've done nothing like this'," explains the 36-year-old, whose previous credits include Tamara Drewe, Dracula Untold and Fast & Furious 6.
"It's the most fun I think I've ever had, portraying this character, because he was so far removed from who I am."
The character is Richard Wilder, a failing documentary-maker who lives with his put-upon pregnant wife Helen (Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss) and their children in the lower level of a high-rise block.
In the penthouse resides Jeremy Irons' architect Anthony Royal and his aristocratic wife Ann (Keeley Hawes), and in between live an array of inhabitants, including new resident Dr Laing (Tom Hiddleston) and Charlotte, his seductive neighbour upstairs (Sienna Miller).
As complex social dynamics breakdown, manners and sanity disintegrate, and the tower block residents are reduced to simply satisfying their basic desires, ever isolated from the rest of the world.
In one particularly powerful scene, a beaten-up Wilder ends up dragging Charlotte out of a room as if she's a piece of meat.
"It wasn't choreographed, it was clear in the script, but it was a very uneasy thing to do," admits Miller, (34), sitting next to her co-star. "I was quite scared of Luke that day."
"I was scared of myself, darling," Evans adds.
"It was horrible. You just have to take a moment to yourself I find, close your eyes and not talk to anybody.
"You have to work out how to process it yourself and to leave it there, which we did, but it's not easy, especially when you like that person very much," he says, putting his arm around Miller.
The film-maker hopes cinemagoers "find it boldly funny and invigoratingly shocking" - a statement both Evans and Miller agree with.
"You're not going to leave the cinema without something shocking you," says Evans.
"It's really thought-provoking and asking a lot of important questions," offers mother-of-one Miller. "I think people should sit with that feeling and have a look at themselves and the world that we're creating. It's very prophetic and feasible, almost."
On encountering Wheatley, the pair insist it's impossible to predict the dark material the director's drawn to.
"He's quite deceiving in a way, because when you meet him, you think he's such a sweet guy; you think family comedies, romcoms, and then you see his work and you're like, 'Where did that come from? Who is this man'?" says Evans, laughing.
"He knows everything about cinema, has seen every single film," adds Miller.
"I mean he's the genuine article. He'd go home and edit for six hours - there's no one that has that kind of commitment that I've ever worked with really, that's that focused and just breathes it. He is an artist."
Given the story's subject matter, it's perhaps only fitting that the ensemble cast enjoyed letting their hair down at the end of the day, minus the contentious hierarchy that exists between their characters.
"We were very close. It was a real troupe and that's a testament to Jeremy Thomas, our producer, who really makes films that no one else would make," says Miller, whose breakout role was opposite former fiance Jude Law in 2004's Alfie.
"Part of the experience of making films is to have a great time doing them, so we all lived in this beautiful hotel and we would all have dinner every night, and drink too much and hang out. It was mad and it felt very Seventies and a joyous experience. Completely chaotic, as we were shooting, but that's what Ben had wanted."
Since the film wrapped, both actors quickly moved on to other projects.
Evans makes no secret of the unsettling nature of moving straight onto the big-screen adaptation of Beauty And The Beast, starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens.
"Can you imagine? I needed therapy just to deal with the transition - and the hair," he jokes, grinning.
"It was a brilliant and bizarre and refreshing thing, to go from such a dark creature as Wilder to someone as self-absorbed and ridiculous as Gaston."
And he got to sing, something he's enjoyed doing all his life, and to great acclaim in musical theatre.
"I loved every minute of it, it was great," he says.
"I didn't want it to finish, it was really special, and nice to merge the two parts of my career together. I never have nerves singing. I have trouble stopping."
"He's Welsh," exclaims Miller, who recently finished filming Live By Night. "The part was just fantastic, an Irish immigrant, daughter of a pimp, it's Prohibition-era. It was everything that I love to play. The production design was exquisite, [there was] a huge budget, the antithesis of this [High-Rise] really," she adds of the film, which is due for release next year.
Live By Night is directed by Ben Affleck, who also stars in the movie.
"He's the loveliest man and incredibly talented. I was nervous about the idea of working with someone and acting opposite them at the same time, but it was seamless," Miller notes.
As is their High-Rise co-star Hiddleston's transition to action star in BBC One's Night Manager, a role that many are touting as his unofficial audition to play the next James Bond - something Miller and Evans could both see happening.
"Oh absolutely, look at him," remarks Evans, pointing to a suited and brooding Hiddleston on the poster next to him.
"Oh wow, Tom should be, he totally could do that," adds Miller. "He is Bond, isn't he."
- High-Rise is in cinemas now