Updated: Sep 12, 2021
Meet Rupert Evans: English actor; film star; stage ‘sensation’; member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and super-fan of the Maltese Islands.
Globe-trotting Rupert has travelled the world for his work and his impressive CV includes major roles in Guillermo del Toro’s acclaimed 2003 film Hellboy , and more recently the 2016 movies The Boy , Ewan McGregor’s directorial debut American Pastoral and with the BBC Jane Austin’s Emma as well a long list of other film and stage parts. Currently living in Vancouver, with his wife and two children, Rupert has leading roles in the successful American TV series Charmed , soon to air on Netflix, and on Amazon’s hit show The Man In The High Castle.
It’s lovely to see Rupert again in Malta. He was last here to play the part of Synesius in Agora which was filmed in full at the Malta Film Studios. He’s got that incredible knack of remembering everything we spoke about last time we met. He’s generous and kind with his thoughts, interesting and addictive to be with.
Tell us a about your experiences of being in Agor
a? ‘The late John Hurt once told me “My dear boy, there are many reasons why an actor accepts a job; sometimes it’s the script, sometimes it’s
the director, sometimes it’s the money and sometimes it’s the location” and Agora, for me, was about the location. I had always hoped, having visited Malta so many times as a child and young adult, that I would be able to come back to Malta as an actor. Agora meant I did that. For six wonderful months, I was able to see a completely different side of Malta. I hadn’t really ventured south of Valletta previously so this was whole new experience, working just beyond the Three Cities at the Malta Film Studios.
Agora was a big budget film, to the tune of $70million, and the studios came to life recreating sets from ancient Egypt. In retrospect, this film was ahead of its time, much more inline with our present world, grappling to exist within a fundamentalist and liberal society. Filming Agora was special for me for many reasons including the diversity of talented actors; American, English, Israeli and Maltese, as well as Rachel Weiss, Max Minghella and Oscar Isaac who we all know. Oscar Isaac was lovely to work with and is now enjoying, quite rightly, an incredible career. Being an actor means you get the opportunity to learn extra skills for certain roles and I had to learn bareback riding.
Obviously in the days Agora was set in there were no saddle
s for horses. It was incredible and I loved it so much – I rode when I was working and even on my days off. A Spanish company brought these special stunt horses over to Malt
a along with three camels and they lived happily for six
months in purpose-built paddocks on set. The sets were extraordinary; built at the Film Studios with a life size auditorium and authentic streets and all having the privilege of Malta’s free and beautiful backdrop – the sea!
I think the studios are so cleverly positioned with 180 degrees of blue Mediterranean. These days it’s almost impossible to get an unmodernised view due to satellite dishes and cables. Although CGI is available to remove these items, it’s very expensive. There’s nothing like shooting on location in Malta; the light, the climate, the rich and rough texture of the land and architecture, which can be so easily ‘transformed’ into other parts of the world like Africa and the Middle East and, of course, the sea breeze which gives the film a sense of authenticity and movement – something you simply cannot achieve in a studio.’ I also remember we shot on location in Mdina. I will never forget galloping through the narrow streets late at night. It was a great privilege to be able to use part of the fortified city, the old capital, in the film.
He pauses then smiles with fond memories clearly running through his mind. ‘One more thing on Agora, the crew: they were brilliant. Local, mainly Maltese and they shared the secrets of the Islands with us. For example; the best restaurants and bars, the legendary outdoor clubs. All the
very best things to do – things we simply wouldn’t know about if it wasn’t for them sharing this insider knowledge. What an experience. I’d love to come back and do it all again.
You mentioned you’ve been visiting Malta since you were very young – tell us what Malta means to you. ‘It’s very personal. Firstly because of my parents. They got to know one another there. My father’s great friend organised a holiday in Malta for a few of them and suggested he bought along his youngest sister and her friend as they were desperate for a holiday and they were both great cooks. The ‘youngest sister’ is my mother and she and my father married in 1974. The rest is history.
Secondly, my grandparents: they also loved Malta and started visiting in the early 60’s. Malta then, as now, was a huge attraction not only as a holiday des
tination but also for a second homers, or as many had, a permanent home. There was a deeprooted connection with Britain after the war and when the Queen and Prince Phillip chose Malta as their home after they married, he was stationed there I believe, the Islands became a hot destination – it was the San Tropez of Europe. The Crown , showing on Netflix right now, sums up that era so well. My grandparents bought a house in Balzan and subsequently another property in Ta’ Xbiex. And it’s not just me: My Aunt is a Dame, and my uncle a Knight of the Order of Malta and regularly visit and my first cousin and her husband actually live in Malta - so you can see how the love for the Maltese Islands is resonant amongst us all
I recall memories of walking around Valletta, as
a child with Dad. He introduced me to some of the treats and riches of this unique capital. He also used to take my brother and me down to Peter’s Pool. It was deserted in those days. I learnt to cliff jump into the sea. We would go higher and higher every year. It was a serious challenge between us all.
Later in my life, as a young adult, I visited often. I have a close friend who is half Maltese and she showed me Malta from a very different perspective. There was a lot of fun. Those days were heady. Malta, I felt, was at its pinnacle of excitement for me at this point. The freedom, the feeling of you can do anything; the wildness and spontaneity. I will never forget it. More recently I bought my wife out here, just before we married and, equally, she fell in love with this wonderful place.’
You’ve just finished filming the first season of Charmed’, produced by CBS Warner; are you allowed to tell us anything about it? ‘Yes, in fact last week
we shot the final scenes for the first season. The show is a ‘re-boot’ of the 90’s popular TV series Charmed. We film in Vancouver although it’s set in Michigan USA. The storyline is about three sisters who happen to be witches. Throughout the series they learn to adapt and cope in modern-day life. I am their ‘Whitelighter’ – an angel who guides them through their many challenges. It’s the first English accented part I’ve had for some time, so it’s nice to do a character a little closer to home! It’s about to be dropped onto Netflix any moment now. Look out for it!’
The Man in The High Castle (Amazon Prime) has been a phenomenal success and into its fourth season – it’s a terrifying twist on history. Tell us more. ‘It was the book, half alternative history half science fiction, that drew me in first. Written by Phillip K Dick and, as you say, it turns history on its head. It depicts a world where the Nazis and the Japanese win the Second World War. The story of The Man in The High Castle reimagines the end of the war. In the book the Nazis were the first to build the atom bomb and dropped it on Washington DC, leading to the Allies surrender. The show picks up in 1964 in ‘Occupied America’, a totalitarian state where art and music are banned. My character, Frank, is a frustrated artist working in a factory, living a repressed life with his girlfriend, who finds a secret film-reel which reveal a different ending to World War II, the historically accurate end of the war. She, and ultimately Frank, start to search for the truth behind this reel.
Ewan McGregor chose you to play his brother in his directorial debut film – American Pastoral. How was that? ‘This was an ama
zing gig for me. In addition to the fact that the book American Pastoral is considered a modern classic in the United States and working alongside Ewan and Jennifer Connelly, this has to be my happiest acting experience to date. It’s a lovely film.’
Who inspires you from the acting world? ‘Paul Schofield. H
e was phenomenal, my biggest inspiration. I must have read his biography ten times. And of course, the late John Hurt who I got to know well when we were both filming Hellboy . We remained friends and I miss him dearly. Funnily enough, before I met John, I used a scene in the film Midnight Express , which John was in, as my showcase when leaving drama school. Doubly interesting is that this was also filmed in Malta. Things always come back to this island somehow. I admire and love both Derek Jacobi and Tim PiggotSmith. Tim played my father three times at least across the years. I never met the late Albert Finney but I admired him greatly. Lesley Manville, my onscreen mother in Fleming and North And South and the brilliant Juliet Stevenson – also my mother in The Village - are inspirational.
You’re always busy and you have a young family – that must be quite a challenge? ‘Yes and no. We have two young kids. Dragging myself away from them to go to the studio is hard, but it blows my mind just watching these babies – almost as a character study. Their imagination is extraordinary, always present and in the moment. They constantly remind me of what an actor’s job is all about. We have to almost reverse time, and like a baby, get to a place where you can emulate the same wonder that a child expresses at the moment of discovery. That is what an actor has to do. Having children reminds me of that every day.’ Finally, if you could play any role or aspire to a role, what would it be? ‘Good question and that’s tough. One day I would love to do King Lear, but that’s one day. I want to be older – bizarrely I’m looking forward to it; looking a little worn around the edges. It’s already started. There are some great roles for older actors.’ It’s been a wonderful hour with Rupert. He’s a professional of course but we can see why he is so successful and well-liked in his field. Thank you, Rupert, it’s just great to see you. Come back again soon .
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