Exploring Love, Loss and Romance On Chesil Beach With British Actor Billy HowleHaving a chat with British actor Billy Howle about his film, On Chesil Beach, is a perfect way to spend a moody spring afternoon across the pond.
Nestled at home in the British countryside, just blocks from the coast, he is eager to talk about On Chesil Beach, his latest movie with Academy Award-winning actress Saoirse Ronan, who is best known for her award-winning roles in Lady Bird and Brooklyn
Having Ronan by his side was a bit of a comfort to the 28-year-old Howle, since they had previously worked together on The Seagull, a period film also starring Annette Bening.
In addition to this movie, Howle and Ronan also star together in Sony Pictures Classics’ The Seagull, which opened on May 11, about an aging actress named Irina Arkadina pays summer visits to her brother Pjotr Nikolayevich Sorin and her son Konstantin on a country estate.
On one occasion, she brings Boris Trigorin, a successful novelist and her lover. Nina, a free and innocent girl on a neighboring estate who is in a relationship with Konstantin, falls in love with Boris. The movie is based on the book of the same name by Anton Chekhov.
From Bleeker Street, On Chesil Beach, which had its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, opens on Friday, May 18, takes place in July 1962 England, and focuses on Edward Mayhew, (Billy Howle), a graduate student, and his bride Florence Ponting (Saoirse Ronan), who honeymoon in a small hotel on the Dorset seashore, at Chesil Beach.
The two are very much in love despite being from drastically different backgrounds. But shortly after exchanging vows, they discover their relationship challenged by societal mores and sexual pressure, and discover how one action, or inaction, can radically change someone’s destiny.The movie was adapted for the screen by author Ian McEwan, from his bestselling 2007 Brooker-Prize -nominated novella On Chesil Beach, about a newly married couple who destroys their marriage because of fear of intimate relations.
A formidable young actor, Howle was born in Staffordshire, England, who is best known for his work as James Warwick on the E4 television series, Glue.
He has since co-starred in the film, The Sense of an Ending (as the younger version of Jim Broadbent’s lead character) and the miniseries The Witness for the Prosecution in the pivotal role of Leonard Vole, the defendant in a murder case.
He also appeared in the historical film Dunkirk. Howle co-stars with Saoirse Ronan in the drama, On Chesil Beach, as well as in the adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s iconic play, The Seagull, and will star in the Netflix film King Outlaw, due to be released in November, in which he plays Edward, the Prince of Wales.
The movie is the epic story of the legendary King of Scots, Robert the Bruce, and his battle to regain control of Scotland after he is declared an outlaw by the King of England for helping himself to the Scottish crown and creating civil war.How did your friendship with Saoirse Ronan and previously working together on The Seagull help or inform your work On Chesil Beach?
Billy Howle: We shot The Seagull first, in fact it was a few years ago. A previous friendship or working relationship can help or hinder a performance; sometimes it can obviously muddy the waters. In this case, I didn’t allow it to inform the performance any, because you always want a clean slate, but it gave us a short hand of understanding one another. And we had a bond and level of trust required to do some of the more difficult scenes On Chesil Beach, which was helpful.
This is a beautiful, but difficult movie.
BH: I agree; that’s what attracted me to it. I saw it as a challenge. The author, Ian Howle, had adapted his own work for the screen, and the novel is a brilliant piece of writing. I love how he uses time in the novel. Using that blue print he was able to make a magnificent film. I also was attracted by the fact that Dominic was going to direct, because I knew his television work, and his previous work in the theater, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I knew that Saoirse was attached to the movie, and I enjoyed working with her before. So, all of the raw materials appeared to be there.
Why did you become an actor?
BH: That is always a tough question. Sometimes I ask myself that same question, especially when I have to relive certain traumatic scenes in Long Days Journey Into Night, about a morphine-addicted mother, and who wants to do that eight times a week. But, on the other hand, I have always loved story-telling and always thought story-telling is important. I love the idea of myth and the evolution of language, and– I can’t ever see that story-telling will end.
Do you stay in touch with Saoirse and other actors you have worked with over the years?
BH: It’s really tough because I have collected friends along the way. There is an unspoken mutual understanding in this profession that we all know it’s quite transient. So, sometimes building friendships and relationships can feel lonely. Don’t get me wrong I have lots of friends. And you know you will rub shoulders will them in the future, and I look forward to the prospects.How do you relate to your character of Edward?
BH: This has a lot to do with fear. There’s a particular type of male aggression that I think lots of young men can, as well. It’s about the need to assert one’s masculinity in sometimes a damaging way. It’s not a trait that we have that is nice to access.
What is your personal take on romance? If you take the story personally one different conversation or step, would have drastically changed the outcome. Do you think you would have taken that leap of faith to save a relationship?
BH: Yes, I would like to think so. From this movie, I learned a lot about myself and what I felt about romance and how human beings can treat one another. I learned about my own idea of masculinity and asserting it. The story is also about patience and what it truly means to listen to someone.
How did that change you?
BH: Listening and being open to someone important for my job and my relationships with friends, family, and lovers. So, this story truly opened my ears and my heart. It changed my understanding of how relationships work, and how the circumstances can be altered one way or another.
How do you spend your free-time?
BH: I watch a lot of films, but it feels like I am still working. I love to take my camera out, especially during long walks since I live by the sea. I am also a keen reader and also quite sociable, so I enjoy spending time with friends.
What are you watching?
BH: A favorite is the Chekhov film The Mirror. I love the way he manipulates time. His philosophy is pretty dense. It is poetry in cinema, and he is masterful.
What’s next for you work wise?
BH: I’m doing an eight-part TV drama for the BBC called MotherFatherSon, about a tough media tycoon, his aristocratic former wife and their free-spirited 30-year-old son.
What do you prefer – stage, television or film?
BH: I can’t pick between them. I love to do all of them and they all require different skill sets. Each keep me on my toes, energized and motivated. The memorizing keeps my brain ticking.Do you believe the premise that your life can be changed by one action or inaction?
BH: Yes. I really do. Sometimes the smallest thing has what they call the butterfly effect. I believe that inaction can change the course of one’s life, and that we are constantly making decisions and not making decisions. That is empowering.
Please tell me more.
BH: Well, I always struggle, and have in-depth discussions about self-determination and the questions about fate. By not saying something to someone you love, in this case, Edward not saying what he needs to say to Florence — can change the course of a life and can be intractable. So, I believe that love can remain resolute and you can never find happiness.
It has been a pleasure chatting with you today.
BH: And you as well. Take care. Cheers.For more about On Chesil Beach, please Click Here.
For the trailer of On Chesil Beach, Click Here.