'Doctor Sleep' Star Rebecca Ferguson on the After-Hours Fun of 'The Shining' Set

Rebecca Ferguson attends the Premiere of Warner Bros Pictures' "Doctor Sleep" - Getty-H 2019
The actor, who is expected to star in two upcoming ‘Mission: Impossible’ sequels, also looks at her upcoming work on Dune.

[This interview contains mild spoilers for Doctor Sleep]

Rebecca Ferguson has worn many hats throughout her career, but the role of Rose the Hat in Doctor Sleep might be her best fit yet. The Swedish actor returns to the big screen as a villain for the third time in 2019 after roles in The Kid Who Would Be King and Men in Black International, and based on the critical reaction to her performance, Ferguson saved the best for last.

In filmmaker Mike Flanagan’s adaptation of Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep, as well as the follow-up to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, Rose the Hat is the leader of a nomadic tribe called The True Knot. Rose and Co. hunt telepathic children who have the ability to shine a la Danny Torrance in The Shining and Doctor Sleep’s analogue, Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran). Rose and her followers torture such children and feed off their essence, which they refer to as “steam.” This allows Rose and her friends to live forever, while increasing their own individual powers in the process.

Once Rose becomes aware of Abra’s extraordinary power, she pursues her all the way to the Overlook Hotel in Colorado as a middle-aged Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) has joined forces with Abra. While the cast did plenty of work on the recreated sets of Stanley Kubrick’s Overlook Hotel, there was just enough time for some play.

“Stepping on a set like that as a new character felt very liberating and also very childlike. I was laughing a lot,” Ferguson tells The Hollywood Reporter. “[Flanagan] made an exact copy of [Danny’s] small [tricycle]... We got to cycle around the corridors. When it was my turn, the lights would turn off because… the gaffers wanted to go home. We put our mobile phones on, and we ran around like little children... It’s fun to let the child out, be geeks and enjoy moments.”

In a recent conversation with THR, Ferguson describes her experience working with Denis Villeneuve on Dune, the particulars of Rose the Hat’s key monologue, the latest on Mission: Impossible’s sequels — in which she is expected to reprise her role as Ilsa Faust — and the omnipresence of One Direction during her Doctor Sleep press tour.

First off, is a member of One Direction currently sitting next to you for this interview?

(Laughs.) Apparently, they’re all over the place.

While researching, I couldn’t believe that within the same week, two different talk shows in completely different parts of the world somehow sat you next to two different members of that group (Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne).

Yeah, I know. Now, I’m just waiting for Harry [Styles]…

Since Rose the Hat is named after her favorite accessory, what favorite accessory of yours would you use for a “Rebecca the” nickname?

That’s a good question. So, Rose’s accessory is a hat; Rebecca would be Rebecca the...

Bottled water?

No, not bloody bottled water! Who do you think I am — healthy? Rebecca the Coffee, I guess? Maybe, Rebecca the Antique Chair? Rebecca the Flea Market? Rebecca the Fishmonger? I mean, I can keep on going...

In January, we joked about the similarities between Rose the Hat and your The Kid Who Would Be King character, Morgana, but after seeing Rose the Hat in action, have you become more and more concerned that you’re going to have some canceled playdates in the next few years?

(Laughs.) I wish. That means I’ve done a very good job.

Did you research Irish travelers to gain some perspective on nomadic people like Rose and The True Knot?

Yeah, I did. The conversations that I had with Mike [Flanagan] were also in-depth and very informative to me. There was also so much to be said and gathered from Stephen King’s writing — when characters discuss Rose. We talked about her, and we tried to follow how old she is in relation to the speech she made to Grandpa Flick [Carel Struycken], because we talked about Romans, gladiators and all of that. We talked about the Irish leaving Ireland because of the horrors going on [e.g. The Great Famine, Cromwellian conquest of Ireland] and where did they drift to and why. You’re Sherlock Holmes-ing your way through with the character. It’s so much fun.

Regarding the monologue that Rose delivers to Grandpa Flick, it actually reminded me of Rutger Hauer’s famous “Tears in Rain” speech from Blade Runner given the delivery and historical content. Can you talk about the particulars of preparing and shooting that speech?

Yeah, that’s a good comparison. That was one of my Everests to climb in a sense that I fell in love with the speech. It felt so important as well because at that moment, you really humanize the fear in Carel’s character, Flick, when he says that he’s scared. And then, Rose realizes that she’s going to take over and lead them; there’s no one older than her anymore. Also, it gives us a history to the travelers and how old they are. When you run past such a monologue, you lose focus to the history and the depth of it. It’s quite funny, actually, because when we did that monologue, it was 5 o'clock in the morning or 6 a.m. They had just opened the tracks for the trains, and it was at the point where I was just about to break down crying while cradling Flick to sleep forever. And then, the trains started to ring. So, for every single take, we had to stop because the trains were traveling by.

There's the cliche that villains think they're the hero of their own story. Similarly, actors often say that they have to find a way to justify their characters' actions, no matter how bad they might be. With that in mind, did you find a way to humanize Rose, or did you just embrace the evil?

No, I didn’t embrace the evil at all because the evil was so well-written and displayed on a plate; it was all there in her actions. Playing that would have just been over the top and villainesque. I think, for me, it was all about finding the reason why. I love Rose, but I think what she does is absolutely horrendous. She does it in necessity to feed her tribe, and equally, as much as we love our children and our family members, she loves and supports hers.

Rose's voice has a very hypnotic quality. At times, it even sounded like a lullaby in terms of her inflection and rhythm. Was this a conscious choice of yours as a way of lulling Rose’s victims into a false sense of security?

Yeah, definitely. I had a voice coach who I worked with because I needed to dip into the Irish and let her be what she was. At the same time, she lived in America for so many centuries that her Irish probably would have disappeared by now, but I loved the idea that she still has her roots over there. Also, there’s an effortlessness over her. When someone is that powerful, she doesn’t really need to raise her voice; she doesn’t really need to strain anything. There’s a form of psychotic grandiosity over her, which I think displays in her voice. 

Was the steam CG, or did you guys use dry ice mouth capsules?

That was CG. We didn’t see it. We had Terry Notary, who’s an incredible body and movement choreographer. He was one of the chimpanzees [Rocket] in Planet of the Apes with Andy Serkis, and he helped us find what animals we were and how we moved. With Rose being 700 years old, she wouldn’t move the same as some of the other characters. So, we talked about how we inhale steam and what it means to us. Is it sexual? Is it predatory? Creating this was such a ride.

You shot an extended sequence on a recreated Overlook Hotel set. Did you eventually get used to the feeling of being on such an iconic set from The Shining, or were you buzzing the entire time?

You do get used to it. When we were given the blueprints from Stanley Kubrick’s estate and got the go-ahead to recreate it exactly as he had built it at Elstree Studios in London, that was such a beautiful moment in creating it. Stepping on a set like that as a new character felt very liberating and also very childlike. I was laughing a lot. We were giggling trying to reincarnate some of the characters and yet, trying to stay true to our story.

Is it true that Mike made tricycles for the adult cast so you could recreate the floor-to-rug sounds a la Danny in The Shining?

Ooh, yeah! He made an exact copy of the small one, but only one. We got to cycle around the corridors; there were so many different corridors you could go down. When it was my turn, the lights would turn off because I think it was wrap day, and the gaffers wanted to go home. (Laughs.) They were like, “Enough! We’re turning the lights off.” So, we put our mobile phones on, and we ran around like little children. It was fun. It’s fun to let the child out, be geeks and enjoy moments.

There's an amazing sequence that begins with Rose doing some aerial work en route to Abra’s bedroom. Do you enjoy harness and wire work for the most part?

Yeah, it’s fun, but I wouldn’t say the harness work was one of my top moments in the film. When you’ve done Mission: Impossible, you’re used to the harness work. I was more intrigued by the idea of what the character was going through. I love the meditation scene and landing into the room of Abra, meeting her, the dialogue about the cathedral and the hand bashing. Basically, everything around the harness work. The harness work was strapping on, lifting up, hovering for a minute and then landing again...

Do you have an idea as to why Rose wouldn't let anyone touch her hat, such as that grocery clerk who tried to pick it up for her?

I might be mistaken, but I don’t think that her reaction was in the script. I think we had a conversation, and I said, “I don’t know why, but this hat is very, very important to her.” I like the idea that it comes with so many memories, and I think when you’ve lived for so long, you hold on to certain memorabilia, whether it was something that belonged to someone she loved, or if she found it during the Great Depression, or maybe Grandpa Flick gave it to her in a turning point. There are so many possibilities, but I love the idea that it means so much to her that if someone touches it, it doesn’t take away any power, but it makes it dirty.

How many hats did you try on until you found the one you wore throughout the film?

We kind of found it straight away. Terry had a couple of hats that we tried on, but they weren’t great. I think I tried on about two, and then this one came. We had a costume fitting in London, and once I put this on, we both looked at each other and went, “Done.” They needed to shorten the little band, but that was that.

When we last talked, you were just about to fly out for your costume fitting as Lady Jessica. Now that Dune has wrapped, can you share your very best adjectives to describe the experience?

Sand… hot… chains… grand… closeups… flying.

How soon did you realize that “I deeply love it” is Denis Villeneuve’s highest form of praise?

I want to get that tattooed on my arm. (Ferguson imitates Villeneuve.) “I deeply, deeply love it. I deeply, deeply love it.” I love him. I deeply, deeply love him. He is magnetically wonderful and humble. He’s such a good director. I feel very lucky with all the directors I’ve worked with. 

You also hinted that you were about to book something in the fall, and that turned out to be Lisa Joy's movie, Reminiscence. How’s that going so far?

Great! I’m prepping it whilst promoting this film. I’m seeing Doctor Sleep this evening, and tomorrow at 3 o’clock in the morning, I head back to New Orleans to shoot my first day — the day after.

The notion that you, Thandie Newton and Lisa Joy will lead at least one scene together is very exciting.

Thandie is so wonderful. She’s so cool, so great and so natural in her way. We just rehearsed a couple of scenes together. And Lisa is beyond is brilliant. I’m very excited to work with a female director, who’s also written the piece. It’s very exciting.

Since Mission VII and VIII are quickly approaching, are you remotely aware of the impending danger you'll be experiencing next year?

I’m not even remotely aware of if we’re going to shoot VII and VIII together. I have no idea what’s happening. I haven’t actually heard anything. I think people have dropped some hints, but as long as I was aware, we were shooting in November, and then we were shooting in December… and then we were shooting in January… and then we were shooting in February… and then we were shooting VII and VIII together. So, I’m promoting this movie, renovating two houses and shooting another movie. I hope Mission will happen; we’ll see what happens.

Lastly, If someone said, “Hey, I’ve got an idea for a Rose and Friends movie that takes place hundreds of years before the events of Doctor Sleep,” would you take a meeting on it at the very least?

Absolutely. Rose is over 700 years old, so we’ve only seen a small portion of her life. She’s the antagonist in this film, but maybe she wasn’t always the villain. There’s so much more to her story, and it would be really interesting to see where she comes from and what her backstory is — such as how she came to own the hat, perhaps.