Actor Joe Alwyn won the Chopard Trophy when he arrived at the Cannes Film Festival in 2018. He hopes to replicate his success with Claire Denis’ “Stars At Noon”, based on the novel by Denis Johnson.
The romantic thriller tells the story of a Nicaraguan businessman who falls in love with an American journalist, played by Margaret Qualley. Alwyn sat down with Deadline to talk about his new movie and what it was like to shoot in Panama.
Joe Alwyn talks about filming in Panama
Alwyn admitted he only read the script, not the book, but had an “incredible” experience filming in Panama. Although he said he had never been to Panama before, he said they got to see “a good chunk of Panama” since everything was shot on location.
“It’s great to be on the soundstage and it’s amazing to see the worlds you can create in a studio, but there’s something about being there that just gives it something” , did he declare. “Anyway, that little spark that can be different.”
However, he said they were “literally at the mercy of the weather” and noted how it could “completely mess up the schedule” when they needed tropical rain for certain scenes and the weather was sunny.
Alwyn added: “It was amazing to see the places Panama had to offer and the people there were so friendly. The crew was amazing. It was quite chaotic in some ways just because logistically there were difficulties because you can’t control the sky. But it was a nice place to shoot and I’m really glad we shot there.
Joe Alwyn praises filmmaker Claire Denis
Alwyn said it was “amazing” to work with Claire Denis, describing her as “a strength”.
“She’s unlike anyone I’ve ever worked with, and her sets are unlike any other set I’ve ever played on,” he said. “She is completely singular and out of herself and a real speaker.”
He went on to say that Denis can “be both fierce about knowing what she wants and then incredibly tender about what she wants. We have the impression that she discovers everything at the time.
“I don’t think I’ll ever understand how it works,” he added. “Maybe she wouldn’t be able to answer either.” It was definitely the most unique experience I’ve had with a female director on set, but I think it’s completely awe-inspiring.
He called Claire his “first and foremost” highlight of working on the project. He also praised working with Margaret in Panama and “everyone we collaborated with.”
“Eric Gautier shot it, and everyone was brilliant, but Claire was in charge,” he continued. “To see how she figured out how to work and what she wanted, how she communicated with the department heads around her and how she functioned was amazing.”
“She would be in the trunk of the car. We would go around town with her,” he revealed. “She would be locked in the trunk, shouting instructions in French to us who were sitting in the car – crowded with five other people filming us – and she was just yelling whatever she wanted. She’s just a force like nothing else. I’m really lucky to have done this crazy race with her.
Joe Alwyn confides in his mysterious character
As for the character himself, Alwyn teased, “My character is a mysterious English businessman who is quite enigmatic and we don’t know much about him or why he is in Nicaragua.”
He revealed that his characters and those of Margaret Qualley are “both playing a game and pretending to be someone they are not against this backdrop of political unrest, turmoil and utter mistrust”.
“But in the middle of it, these two strangers, who themselves don’t give much about who they are in their hearts, fall in love with each other and have some kind of weird connection, but then they’re in trouble,” he continued. “Well, he particularly gets into trouble and they have to escape together to the border. Or they must flee to the border, perhaps together.
He concluded: “That’s the story of this one, but I think more than anything, reading it, it was about those tender moments between two people who managed to break into an environment and a world of mistrust, games and falsehood.”