It's been almost a year since Darren Barker chatted to Mhairi Calvey on the Exit 6 blog. He catches up with her now about her upcoming features (including a bit of an exclusive), stunt work and subsequent hospital trips, plus directing her own first short film.
Last June, it was my great pleasure to interview one of the stars of Braveheart, Mhairi Calvey. We covered all sorts – drama school, short films and Abduct, a film she was shooting at the time.
“We actually took it to Comic Con in Portugal at the end of last year, which was amazing. There wasn't very many independent movies there, we were just one of them, so it was great that it's picking up an audience internationally”
I had the opportunity to catch up with Mhairi to see what she’d been up to over the last year – a lot as it turns out. Once again, we covered a variety of things – directing a first short, trips to hospital, doing your own stunts, an Exit 6 exclusive, pus and mosquito bites. But, first off Mhairi has just finished filming Robert the Bruce with ex-Braveheart actor, Angus Macfadyen.
“I'm not able to talk about the release date, they are currently in post-production at the moment. Hopefully, we'll be hearing a release date soon and then I can announce it. It follows on just after William Wallace but it's not a sequel to Braveheart. It's a completely separate story in its own right. We've had a lot of fans asking if it's a sequel to Braveheart but it isn't at all. Angus just wanted to tell the story of Robert the Bruce more individually and about what happened to him after that time. It's a passion project for him that he's been working on for a while.”
So, a Braveheart reunion then. I wondered, how did it all come together?
“[Angus] asked if I'd be interested in coming on and doing a cameo part in it, which was great for me because I got to play the queen. When I was filming Braveheart, I always wanted to play the princess, I wanted the nice dresses so it's all paid off quite nicely. We filmed on the Isle of Skye, which I've never been to before. That was amazing. We filmed on location in a castle - it was just an incredible experience."
Mhairi and Angus Macfadyen had met up a few times since Braveheart, but it was still a lovely surprise to be called up to be part of the film.
“We’ve seen each other a couple of times at events. We met up when FOX did the anniversary premiere a few years ago. That was the first time we'd seen each other after filming. It was really nice working with him again. It's always so good working with people that you've worked with - you're working with friends. It's good fun and it’s nice to do something like this again together because he has not done anything in Scotland since Braveheart either.”
Moving away from Braveheart, Mhairi has a new thriller coming out soon called 3 Lives. It’s currently in post and sounds really exciting, but apparently it was one hell of a shoot!
“We're very near the end, I think. That was a really great opportunity for me because we filmed in Germany for about a month, over the summer last year. I just relocated there while we filmed it. It was quite an experience.”
She’s not joking about it being an 'experience'.
“My character has been kidnapped and she wakes up in a cell. The men who rescue her, one of which, in the past had previously attacked her and raped her. So, in the end, the people who could save her are actually, in fact, the people who had previously harmed her. There's lot of twists to it. There's lots of action and lots of chase scenes, fight scenes, shootouts and all sorts of things. We had lots of stunt work in rivers and everything. We filmed in the woods, in the Hartz mountains for three of the weeks that we were there. It's probably one of the most physical films I've ever done. We we're working in quite bad conditions as well. The weather was so awful. It was just raining all the time. We were working in mud and most of the mud that's on us isn't actually make up. Being actually covered in mud made it easy for us to perform. I think it was a really hard shoot for all of us. It would just rain and didn’t stop for three solid weeks. We were just filming outside in the rain for 22 hours a day. It was quite brutal. It was hard.”
I felt tired out just listening to this – I asked if she had a well-deserved holiday after the shoot…
“Yes, I did. I needed some recovery time. You had to get to the hospital in between the filming.”
“Yes. There were a few different incidents. The mosquitoes, that was so bad. At one point, my legs completely swelled up from mosquito bites. There was some pus coming out and I had to keep cleansing them so they didn’t get infected. Oh my gosh, it was a nightmare. It's all the things you do for movies.”
We laugh at the absurdity of making movies and how everyone thinks it’s all glamour and jazz behind the scenes. As Mhairi has explained, it was a really physical film and she’s appeared in other films that have required some hefty stunt work – so, does she do her own stunts?
“There was a stunt team on set, but I've been trained and I’m also trained in martial arts, so I'm quite used to it now. There's always a stunt team on set making sure that you are doing everything safely.”
If you peruse Mhairi’s IMDB page you’ll see she has a raft of feature films on the horizon, she’s certainly been busy this past year. I’m also let into an exclusive.
“There's one which I’ve never actually spoken to anyone about. It’s very early days of the production but it's something I'm really excited about which is Fear the Invisible Man. It’s a big period drama that we're going to be working on. The script is incredible and it's a dream role for me. I've got a nice Christmas movie coming up as well called Lyra's Wish. I love Christmas, so it's nice to have a Christmas movie coming out. That's in pre-production at the moment.”
With all these films in pre/post and completed, you’d think there wouldn’t be enough time to get behind the camera. Wrong. Producing, writing and directing, Mhairi will be making her own short film this summer.
“I'm hoping to, yes. I'm actually just working on the script and I've got an idea of who I want to cast in it. I'm at that stage. It's about domestic abuse, psychological, emotional and physical. It’s based on all the different types of abuse you can get - it's something I felt quite passionate about. There's not that many movies about it. Especially not so much about the psychological and emotional abuse. That's why I wanted to do something that shows that as well.”
It’s a really harrowing subject matter to cover, so we talked about the research that she had to go through.
“I spoke to people. I spoke to a lot of therapists who deal with group therapy for women. We spoke to them and obviously it can happen to men as well, pretty easily. That was also important. That was something I really wanted in the script, to show that it doesn't just happen to women, it also does happen to men, because again I think that is really something that's never spoken about either, but it's very important. It's something I wanted to do for a while and it's an important topic.”
Hopefully if all goes well, we’ll get to see this at Exit 6 one day. Could this be a change in direction – director and producer?
“I would prefer to continue in front of the camera. I think maybe at some point in my life if the right story came along, I wouldn't mind directing again but I get more excited about the acting of the scene but also the producing. That's two of the things that I would want to continue doing. I think it's so important for actors to make their own work happen. I'm doing a lot of that on my own and writing a feature film as well, which is something I wouldn't produce or direct but it's just something I'm writing. I think it's important to try and create as much work as you can, anytime you get some downtime for yourself, produce and create your own things.”
As we feature short films from old hands to new kids on the block at Exit 6, I always like to ask other filmmakers for advice for those looking to break into the industry.
“I think for your first film, there's a couple of things. First keep a really good tight story. A lot of short films I see become very arty and if you're looking for further finance to do a feature, it's better to have a really strong, simple story. A coffee shop kind of drama. Just a couple of people, one location and keep it really short, a very close story. That's more likely to get you the funding. Keep it really simple and just focus on just making a really solid story. It's better to have something that really touches people rather than something where you're throwing in loads of effects.”
As we wind down the interview, I ask what Mhairi thinks about what’s happening in Hollywood at the moment and to a certain degree in the UK industry as well.
“I think it's probably going to take a couple more years maybe before it completely changes, but I think we are going somewhere. I think women are still standing up for themselves now. I think they're starting to be able to create their own work as well, which is really great. Yes, I think there probably will be quite a few changes ahead.”
And on that positive note, we bring things to an end. Look out for her ever expanding body of work heading your way soon.
Same time next year?
You can follow Mhairi on Twitter: @MhairiCalveyAct