ACTING WITHOUT DUTCH EMBARRASMENT


Last Update: 13 July 2001

Source: Algemeen Dagblad

Date: 28 June 2001

ACTING WITHOUT DUTCH EMBARRASMENT

Esmee Lammers working on her second feature film.

Report by: Koen Kleijn

On location in Amsterdam, Gent and London, Dutch director Esmee Lammers is completing an English language feature film from her own script, called 'Tom and Thomas'. After 'Long live the Queen' it is only Lammers' second film, but the budget, production and cast are all but child's play. At her disposal are a large crew and a solid cast, with at least one world star in it, actor Sean Bean (Ronin, Patriot Games).

'Tom and Thomas' has an intricate plot. Twin brothers Thomas and Tom grow up separately, one with his father (Bean), the other in an orphanage. They don't know each other, but they both feel something missing; they both have an imaginary friend, whom they talk to. At age nine they meet for the first time. Because Tom is pursued by a gang of kidnappers, Thomas hides him at his place and as no one knows the difference between Tom, Thomas and their imaginary friends, it leads to confusion, a kidnap and an exciting climax.

To avoid the Christmas competition with Harry Potter and Minoes [another Dutch children's film coming soon] the film will be released in February 2002.

Lammers has almost finished her 60 day shoot. On the set in the Amsterdam harbour area, she says: "Tom and Thomas intends to be a lovely, romantic, adventurous Christmas film, a modern 'Kruimeltje' [a very successful film about a street urchin, set about 1910]. It is a film with a lot of action, quite different from my former film. Action filming is difficult, certainly in London, but on the other hand it is easy as well: you are led by the technique and you can't do much about emotions, about investing in your actors. It is all rush, rush. In Amsterdam I have more time. The crew and art direction are almost entirely English, which works out very well, I actually don't have to do a lot."

The atmosphere is clearly relaxed. Cameraman Marc Felperlaan quietly gives guidance to the takes, a big golden retriever lies relaxed on his dog bed. If big problems should occur, Lammers can always call on the experience of Dick Maas, who is, apart from a producer and director (Flodder, Down) also her husband.

For the double part of Thomas and Tom, Esmee herself selected young Aaron Johnson. Filming with children is notoriously difficult, but with young Aaron, Lammers has no problems at all. Johnson has a lot of experience on the stage, in TV programmes and commercials. On the set he has his own coach and his father, mother and sister are present.

Lammers: "Aaron is exceptional. He is childlike and professional at the same time, without that typical Dutch embarrassment that acting is a bit silly. In fact the English are acting all the time - they are always so polite, for example. Aaron thinks nothing is strange. He needs only half a word. For the father part I was not necessarily looking for a big name, but the funny thing is that good actors in that age-group are almost always pretty well-known. Sean Bean often plays the tough guys, but I could see straight away that he is a very introspective guy, who can have sadness in his eyes. He is originally an artist and that made him entirely suitable. He was ready for a 'human' film, not for more superficial American realism."

That Sean Bean (1959) wanted to play a 'emotional' part in a relatively modest production is remarkable, but maybe it is also proof of the constant development of Dutch film. Bean got known by parts in Ronin and Patriot Games and on TV with Bravo Two Zero and Sharpe, all roles where Bean effortlessly throws people out of windows or shoots them in the knee. He got a classical education, shared the stage with Gary Oldham, who is the same age, and was Romeo with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Bean is modest, almost shy. On the set in Amsterdam he is clearly at ease.

Bean: "Acting came late to me. I never took part in school plays, or the like. I discovered acting when I was about 20 or 21. I was a painter, but I dropped it for acting. That experience was so much more intense."

Bean read the script for Tom when he was in Toronto working on 'Don't Say a Word', a thriller with Michael Douglas and Famke Janssen. He didn't mind the story being Dutch. "I liked the script. Magical, quibbling, a good structure, surprising and an intellectual challenge. Built around real characters, with whom you connect, who you care for. I get a lot of scripts, but they are rarely challenging ones like this. It is a bit like returning to the theatre."

With 'Tom and Thomas' Bean completes five films over three years, including the colossal 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy, which will conquer the world from Christmas 2001 on. Bean plays the part of Boromir, another warrior again, and stayed for almost a year and a half with celebrities like Ian McKellen, Christopher Lee and Kate Blanchett in New Zealand, where the three films were made in one go. "It was madness. I dreamed about it, all those gnomes, elves and Hobbits. You couldn't escape from it. They were everywhere."

Isn't the transition to Tom and Esmee Lammers a huge one? "I really wanted to do it. In the part of Thomas' father I feel entirely at home: an artist, in an untidy house, with a messy life. I am like that myself. I've got three kids and I love nothing better then dropping them off at school, hanging around a little, having a game of football or a little cricket. Besides, Esmee has a very elegant, flexible way of filming. She has an easy style, but still is very focused. When 'Tom' is over, I'll take a rest. I've hardly been at home these last years. I'm carefully talking about a return to the theatre. Macbeth, perhaps, with the RSC. It would suit me. In the mean time I have got a lot of experience on the battlefield with Boromir and Sharpe."

Then lunch is served. With Lammers, and Aaron and his family, Bean joins in for the Yorkshire pudding, roast beef, roasted potatoes and carrots. A real British Sunday Lunch. Just like home.

Translated by Gerda Seinhorst

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