READ MORE: Watch: Sarah Gadon’s Princess Elizabeth Takes Command in Exclusive ‘A Royal Night Out’ Clip
Indiewire’s Springboard column profiles up-and-comers in the film industry worthy of your attention.
At age 28, Canadian actress Sarah Gadon has already appeared in a wide variety of cinematic offerings, from her work with both David and Brandon Cronenberg in films like “Antiviral” and “Maps to the Stars” to turns in blockbusters like “Dracula Untold” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” to arthouse offers like the lovely “Belle” and Denis Villeneuve’s mind-bending “Enemy.”
Gadon’s taste has always been wide-ranging, and that’s precisely what’s allowed her to try her hand at all kinds of parts in all kinds of films for all kinds of directors. She has quietly become one of Hollywood’s most reliable emerging actresses. (And, with a turn behind the camera with an episode of the doc series “Reelside,” she’s just starting to move into directing.)
Her next projects illuminate Gadon’s hunger for unique work, including a starring role in the time-traveling mini-series “11.22.63,” a part in James Schamus’ Philip Roth adaptation “Indignation” and a dizzy, fizzy turn in “A Royal Night Out.” The Julian Jarrold-directed feature fictionalizes the events of V.E. Day in 1945 from the perspective of the young princesses Elizabeth (Gadon) and Margaret (fellow Springboard alum Bel Powley), following the two cloistered royals as they hit the town to celebrate peace and learn a thing or two about being young and wild. Although Elizabeth and Margaret did celebrate the day outside the castle, Jerrold’s film takes some (adorable, but still respectful) liberties with its subject matter.
As a queen-in-the-making, Gadon is tasked with being both graceful and lively, and Jarrold’s reworked history ends up being a very entertaining and surprisingly relatable film about coming of age during uncertain times. Unexpected, fun and unique? Sounds like Gadon.
Indiewire recently spoke with the actress as she prepared for this week’s U.S. release of “A Royal Night Out.” Her reflections are below.
I read the script and I fell in love with the story immediately. I just thought it was so charming. It reminded me of “Roman Holiday,” which is a film that I grew up watching and loving. It felt like a classic romance, which doesn’t always cross your desk these days.
I feel like biopics are so difficult to get around. And so I think taking this slice of time and creating this fictionalization of what happened on this night, it gave me such freedom to embody a character, as much as it is about a real person.
I had so much fun researching [Queen Elizabeth]. There isn’t a lot of footage of her as a young girl and as a teenager, but there are a few clips that Julian had sent me. I read a lot about her, I read a lot of bios, I read bios about the royal family, I read this little novella called “The Uncommon Reader,” which is a fiction, it’s about Queen Elizabeth going on this library bus and choosing books and reading them, but it’s so sweet.
We met with “Downton Abbey’s” etiquette coach. We met with royal consultants. We met with all kinds of people.
As much as a fantasy of the story of what happened on that night, we always wanted the feelings of it feel very real and relatable. I think that’s kind of the beauty of Elizabeth, she was this very strong young woman, but she always had this real sense of duty and this real sense of purpose. I found that really refreshing.
I had a very strong performance arts education. I went to The National Ballet School [of Canada] and then I went to fine arts schools to study drama and dance and liberal arts and all that. When it came time to go to university, I wanted to study cinema studies and theater and not necessarily do a fine arts degree.
I fell in love with filmmaking, I fell in love with criticism, I fell in love with theory, and it made me really dogmatic in my approach to choosing roles. I wanted to kind of contribute to filmmaking in a way that wasn’t— I didn’t care about hype. My agents would call and be like this, “but this is going to be such a big deal” and I was like, “I don’t care, I want to make Denis Villeneuve’s first English-language movie.”
I feel like my studying film really influenced all the things that I love about filmmaking. I wanted to choose things that weren’t necessarily mainstream. And then I just started kind of experimenting. And then went and made a Hollywood film, and then I went and made a romance, and then I went and did those things. And now I’m kind of back at, “no, I just really want to work with a really strong director.”
Often, one of the main outlets to discuss your work as an actress in film is through fashion magazines. Which is very different from what you’re doing as an actor, but it becomes this platform. Learning how to navigate that in a way that makes sense to you is something that I was really interested in talking about [for her turn directing a documentary episode of “Reelside”].
I really feel like I got my ass kicked by that process of making something for the first time, because I’d never made a documentary before. I realized that, as an extrovert and an actor, I’m like, “everybody wants to be filmed, I can follow you around for a day and make a story out of it,” and then Caitlin [Cronenberg], who was behind the camera, was like, “I don’t fucking want to be on camera, man.” And you realize, “oh, actually a lot of interesting documentary subjects are the ones who don’t want to be on camera.” It was a huge learning curve for me. I would like to continue to do things like that.