14 Dec Daphne Talks The Palace – Female First Celebrity Gossip & Lifestyle Magazine
Daphne Alexander’s new short The Palace is winning over critics left, right and centre for it’s human depiction of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus.
I caught up with the actress to talk about the project, all the awards attention that it has been receiving and what lies ahead
– You are starring in new movie The Palace so can you tell me a little bit about the movie?
The Palace is set during the invasion of Cyprus by Turkish forces in July 1974, and it focuses on a Cypriot family fleeing their home during this agonising time and taking refuge in an abandoned Ottoman-era palace.
The film examines the human story behind the chaos of war, and what it means to ordinary people such as a young soldier, a young mother and innocent civilians. Part of the strength of the story lies, I think, in that it translates to any conflict zone, and any human suffering during war.
– You take on the role of Stella in The Palace so what was it about the character and the script that drew you to the project?
The story of Stella, the young Cypriot mother in the film, was based on a true story, which instantly drew me to her, and to the project.
Moreover, it is an almost unthinkably difficult situation that she finds herself in, and playing a young mother in life-threatening circumstances such as these, clutching her three month-old baby in the midst of the unforgiving chaos of war, was undoubtedly the most demanding part I’ve ever had to play.
So I embraced the challenge! Finally, as a Greek-Cypriot actress, the subject matter and role were very close to my heart and I instantly felt passionate about it.
– I read that your mother and father lived through this conflict to I was wondering what research you did into that time and events?
The invasion of Cyprus in 1974 was a traumatic event for my country, which left the island scarred and divided.
Cypriots have had to abandon their homes and their hometowns, never to return, a lot of them never to see their loved ones again.
And yes, my parents had been newly-weds at the time of the invasion in July 1974, and my father was doing his military service in the very military base which was first hit by the Turkish navy. An agonising few weeks ensued for my mother, as you can imagine!
In terms of research, I travelled extensively to the occupied areas, and spoke to several people who lived through this terrifying time – it was truly heartbreaking to hear some of those accounts first hand.
– The movie is directed by Anthony Maras so how did you find him as a filmmaker?
Anthony Maras is a brilliant film-maker, passionate and with a fantastic vision. I am sure he has a very bright future ahead.
He was a joy to work with – he was wonderfully open-minded about the rehearsal process and likes to think on his toes, which is refreshing and inspiring! He has become a great friend, and I really hope to work with him again.
– The Palace is set during a war so what was it like filming on that kind of set with explosions and gun fire? How did you find the whole shooting experience?
Production took place in a beautiful Ottoman-style residence which is now an ethnological museum, and along the United Nations Green Line that, 37 years after the invasion, still divides our island in two – and filming took place, literally, amidst armed guards and war-ravaged buildings.
So it couldn’t have been better in terms of imagining ourselves in the actual circumstances of the story! The experience was exhausting and edgy, but truly thrilling in its immediacy.
– The movie has been winning awards left, right and centre and is now eligible for an Oscar nomination you must be delighted by it’s success?
Delightfully enough, Palace is eligible for the 84th Academy Awards, after winning Audience Award at Adelaide Film Festival, Best Short Film at Sydney Film Festival and Best Short Film at Melbourne Film Festival.
It recently received its international premiere at Telluride Festival and has also been nominated for Best Short Fiction Film at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Awards.
I am, as you can imagine, over the moon, and feel so blessed to have been part of this very special project.
I think all involved were passionate about the subject-matter, which is why, I think, it has touched so many people – as for the worldwide approbation, it has come as a wonderful surprise to all of us!
– And how have you personally found the response to the film?
Taking on this role, my biggest concern was to do justice to the story and the character; and the response has been very moving! Also, as a Greek-Cypriot I feel very proud to have been a part in the telling of this story.
– You read law at Oxford so what made you decide to go down the acting path? Is it something that you have always wanted to do?
It was my grandmother who’d always talk to me about the theatre, and actors she loved – she’d always take me to see plays she had seen and loved when she was young.
I come from a family of lawyers, which is why I read Law initially, and was struggling towards the end, because it was really not for me. My grandmother came to stay during my final year exams with strict instructions from my mother to “oversee my studies”.
But every evening around 6 o’ clock she’d barge in my room where I’d be cramming case studies and would declare: If we set off right now we’ll be just in time for a play!
– You kicked off you career in TV so how have you found the transition onto the big screen?
It is true that I started my career on the BBC’s most popular medical drama, Casualty, as regular character nurse Nadia.
TV projects such as House of Saddam and The Amazing Mrs Pritchard followed, and a little later films such as The Fourth Kind starring Milla Jovovich and Roman Polanski’s The Ghostwriter.
It hasn’t been a transition as such from TV to film, but more a journey from one project to the next.
What’s most wonderful about my job is reading a new script and starting to prepare for a new character. This anxiety-laced excitement is the same whether the new project is film, TV or stage!
– You worked with Roman Polanski on The Ghost so how was that experience? Are there any other filmmakers in particular that you would like to collaborate with?
I could hardly believe my luck when my agents phoned to say I was chosen to play Mexican legal intern Connie in The Ghostwriter, to be directed by one of the greatest film-makers of all time Roman Polanski!
It was a dream come true. He was a wonderful man, generous and polite and a great perfectionist. It was a joy to work with him as well as movie legends such as Pierce Brosnan, Ewan McGregor and Kim Cattrall, who were all kind and supportive to a beginner such as myself!
As for film-makers I’d love to work with in the future, I would have to say Danny Boyle, Ang Lee, Martin Scorsese to name but a few.. I would also do anything that had Meryl Streep in it – including fetching coffees for her! – she is truly sensational.
– 2011 is drawing to a close so what movies and performances have you been enjoying this year?
I enjoyed Michelle Williams’ performance in My Week With Marilyn, and Tilda Swinton in the extremely disturbing We Need To Talk About Kevin. Both inspiring female actors!
I also enjoyed Mark Rylance’s spectacular and age-defining portrayal of Johnny Byron in Jerusalem at the Apollo Theatre in London.
– Finally what’s next for you?
I am set to play the lead in an English language thriller set on the north-western tip of Cyprus – which is both breathtakingly beautiful and quite scary, full of high cliffs and choppy seas.
There is also an exciting and beautifully written new play set to happen next year in London.