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Jodie Comer knew that The Last Duel was going to be her most challenging performance to date, but thanks to Ridley Scott, the film’s most upsetting sequence was captured rather quickly. Written by Nicole Holofcener, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, the film revolves around Jacques Le Gris’ (Adam Driver) rape of Comer’s Marguerite de Carrouges and how their perspectives differ on the matter. Since the sequence is shown from both of their points of view, it’s fair to assume that both actors would’ve had to spend a great deal of time reliving that disturbing interaction, but Scott’s efficient approach said otherwise.
“We started it in the morning, and I honestly think we were off it before lunch, which is unheard of,” Comer tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Any other film or show, if you were shooting with two cameras, you could’ve been on that way until the midafternoon, which is exhausting. There’s obviously a substantial amount of money, but you realize when you’re working with someone like Ridley and you have that many cameras, you are really afforded that luxury. So I know we were all really, really grateful for that.”
Playing de Carrouges has only reinforced Comer’s belief that women should be believed, not doubted or questioned by default.
“When women speak out in this way, they have a lot to lose by doing so. They are constantly doubted, constantly questioned,” Comer says. “Even when I’ve heard the audience’s view for this, someone said, ‘Do you think she was telling the truth?’ And I was like, ‘What!?’ What did she have to gain by speaking out in the way that she did? Her life was at stake!”
“Honest to God, that job was a really, really magical job, and I would love to get back on set with all those guys in Boston in a hot summer with the leather pants,” Comer shares. “I think I’m gonna have to do the leather pants, but maybe she could have an outfit change, though?”
In a recent conversation with THR, Comer also discussed how co-stars Damon and Affleck made her feel welcome.
You probably grew up watching Ridley’s movies as well as Matt and Ben’s. How long did it take you to settle in and not be distracted by your reverence for them?
That’s a really good question. Do you know what, though? Pretty quickly because those guys are wonderful, very grounded, very down to earth and extremely welcoming. For all of them, the work is the most important thing, and they really invited me into those conversations. They’d go for dinner one night at Matt’s house, Ben and Nicole, and they’d invite me around to go through the script and speak about anything that I was feeling or wanted to change or any suggestions. So they just kind of wrapped their arms around me in that way, and I just felt like I was meant to be there. So it was fairly quickly, which was surprising.
So I knew that Ridley was a fan of Killing Eve, but I didn’t realize that Harriet Walter was also a major character in this film. Were you pleasantly surprised when she came on board?
Oh, it was made-up! We were so thrilled. We had a ton of fun on Killing Eve, and when we found out that we’d be in this together, we were just like, “Ahh!” We feel like we’re stuck with each other now, which neither of us is complaining about. But Harriet is just such a wonderful, wonderful woman and an actress. So we have a really good rapport and we have a ton of fun. It was great to play enemies again, but in a slightly different way.
The first two chapters are Carrouges (Damon) and Le Gris’ (Driver) versions of Marguerite, while chapter three is truly her. So did you basically approach Marguerite as a different character in each chapter?
I thought of it more as a projection. I was playing a projection. It was what they saw me as; it was their idea, their fantasy in a way. Carrouges believes he is this doting husband — who has a wife who loves him and adores him, and he takes good care of her — but that’s not the truth. I still had to explore that and give him that within his story in order for the first narrative to seem truthful and to work. So I saw it more as a projection, as opposed to a different person entirely, but of course, it kind of is. It’s a fabrication; it’s not the truth. But it had to be so subtle, so that was how I processed it in my own head.
I presume you shot the rape sequence several times to account for Le Gris’ point of view and Marguerite’s point of view. Were Ridley and co. able to capture it in such a way to where you didn’t have to keep reliving it over and over again?
Yes. (Comer emphasizes.) Yes, I’ve spoken so highly about the way Ridley works generally, but especially for moments like this which are intense, emotional, physical and violent. He has multiple cameras rolling the entire time, so we blocked out the physicality the night before for the bedroom parts. We shot the corridor in one sequence and the bedroom as a stand-alone. So when we came to the bedroom, we blocked the physicality the night before, and then the next day, the cameras were up and ready to roll. I think we did Marguerite’s perspective first, and I think we did two takes of each perspective. We started it in the morning, and I honestly think we were off it before lunch, which is unheard of. Any other film or show, if you were shooting with two cameras, you could’ve been on that way until the midafternoon, which is exhausting. There’s obviously a substantial amount of money, but you realize when you’re working with someone like Ridley and you have that many cameras, you are really afforded that luxury. So I know we were all really, really grateful for that. Also, that setup of five cameras, it just forces everybody to be present because everybody is on camera. They were dotted all around the room, so it felt live. I remember Nicole saying that she was watching it on the monitor and she said it was very surreal. Usually, you would do it from this angle, cut at a certain point and you come around, but it was playing the whole way through. I think the original take was, like, nine minutes long. It was really long, but we had such a wonderful crew. They were hugely respectful and extremely sensitive to what it was that we were creating. So I felt very lucky with that.
How has this role impacted your perspective on present-day victims who step forward like Marguerite once did?
My thoughts in regard to that haven’t changed at all in a sense of believing that women should be believed. I understood the kind of duty of care that I had in exploring this story and knowing that there will be many people who watch it and relate to it. When women speak out in this way, they have a lot to lose by doing so. They are constantly doubted, constantly questioned. Even when I’ve heard the audience’s view for this, someone said, “Do you think she was telling the truth?” And I was like, “What!?” What did she have to gain by speaking out in the way that she did? Her life was at stake, and I felt so empowered playing her. It was an honor to even attempt to try and give her a sense of justice.
Do you think her friend Marie (Tallulah Haddon) was bribed by Pierre (Affleck)?
Oh God, that’s a really deep analysis. I don’t think so. I think her friend was probably as terrified as she was. I think her friend may have experienced something similar in her own life, but that was her way of dealing with it. There’s a lovely interaction with her mother-in-law [Walter], and she says, “I was raped. Did I stand up? Did I protest? Did I cry?” All these women are so conflicted with their own feelings and how they’ve dealt with it when they see someone else dealing with it a different way. So they’re all struggling with so much. You see Marguerite at the end of the movie, right before the duel, and she’s holding her baby. She suddenly realized, “Oh my gosh, I now realize why so many women before me haven’t done this. What have I done? I’ve now put my life and my child’s life at risk.” So the women were just having to deal with so much and also keeping so much contained.
I have to wrap, but Disney wants a Free Guy sequel after its warm reception.
Yes, they told Ryan, and Ryan told the world.
So are you looking forward to more leather pants and yogurt?
(Laughs.) Yes! Always. Always. I would love to. Honest to God, that job was a really, really magical job, and I would love to get back on set with all those guys in Boston in a hot summer with the leather pants. I think I’m gonna have to do the leather pants, but maybe she could have an outfit change, though?
Or a new avatar.
Yeah, who knows?
By the way, you have some of the most passionate fans I’ve ever seen online. They are really on top of all things Jodie Comer.
(Laughs.) What do they do?! I love that.
Whether it was our last interview or a tweet about your Last Duel performance, they really spread things far and wide.
Aww! Thanks, Team Comer!
The Last Duel is now playing exclusively in theaters.
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