The rain schedules are a matter of national security, movie or not. Thus, on a sunny but cold Saturday afternoon amid an industrial ruin in the city’s East End, actor Angus Macfadyen — a regular in the filmed-in-Richmond AMC Revolutionary War spy series Turn and the Wild West crime-solving series The Pinkertons, shot in Manitoba, Canada — is adjusting the scene while CSX freights grumble along the elevated trestle.
Macfadyen, directing and acting in his adaptation of the Shakespeare tragedyMacbeth, incorporates the train’s massive might and the shadows of the cars grazing across the brown grass into the scene. For this project, he’s using an unusual production company: Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts’ Cinema program.
The End of the Road
Macfadyen portrayed Orson Welles in the 1999 film Cradle Will Rock, and counts him and John Cassavetes as directing role models. Welles himself once remarked that a film director is one who presides over accidents, and a film likeMacbeth, made on a budget of less than $600,000 — an amount that some major productions might spend to feed the crew — while conducted at a fast pace, uses a form of naturalistic choreography. What occurs around the busy scrum of the actors and technicians may be threaded into the process, like the 35 mm film running through the camera.
Shooting was conducted during weekends because of the actors’ weekdayTurn schedules. Macbeth’s cast rehearsed prior to filming, so that when the camera rolled, little time or film was wasted. Macfadyen didn’t want to overwork scenes, either, to allow for a raw, muscled performance.
In thoughtful written responses to questions from Richmond magazine, Macfadyen muses that Welles and Cassavetes “knew how to make a film by rubbing pennies together. They would no doubt approve of a shooting schedule which is two days filming on weekends, and five days off to prepare for the next assault.”
Several of the final scenes are getting shot on this Saturday in mid-January. A ragged cardboard sign, a film prop, indicates “THE END (OF THE ROAD).”
As Macbeth, Macfadyen sings the “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” speech to a jazz-ballad tune. His big voice reverberates off the nearby ruinous brick walls. He later says he didn’t have a particular tune in mind. “I think there was a little West Side Story on ‘ … creeps in this petty pace from day to day.’”
In character, Macfadyen dances a macabre tango-waltz holding the limp body of his redheaded Lady Macbeth, portrayed by Turn colleague Taylor Roberts. Costume and makeup people circle her. Vivid blood is applied to her lips. The actors pace out their movements for the camera. Roberts wears Uggs for this bit, but when the actual shooting commences, the former ballerina, clad in a black slip dress, goes barefoot. After the whirling and dipping, Roberts critiques her performance.
“I don’t think I seemed dead enough.” Macfadyen isn’t troubled. “That’s part of it; we’re wondering, ‘She’s dead, is she dead?’ It’s gruesome.”
Then comes a scene in which Turn colleague Seth Numrich, portraying Macduff, whose family was slain at Macbeth’s command, confronts Macbeth. He pulls a pistol and aims across the roof of the 30-foot-long limousine that serves as the rolling center of the film. The two men roar at each other, in part from the emotion of their meeting, but also due to the train, the rumble as uncompromising as the character Macbeth, its cataract of noise underscoring the scene’s visceral nature.
“This is about Macbeth’s madness,” says Julian Pozzi, another o2f the film’s producers and a VCUarts Cinema instructor. “He’s in his body, he’s outside his body.”
Angus Macfadyen and Taylor Roberts for Style Weekly Magazine
Back in 1999, Angus Macfadyen was playing Orson Welles in director Tim Robbins’ “Cradle Will Rock,” when Vanessa Redgrave innocently asked him, “Do you think Orson’s ‘Macbeth’ is any good?”
“I just looked at her and I said, ‘You said the word,’” Macfadyen recalls.
It’s a long-held superstition among thespians to refer to “Macbeth” as “the Scottish Play,” in fear that doom and disaster will follow the mere mention of Shakespeare’s 1606 masterpiece inside a theater or during the staging of a play.
“She looked at me and said, ‘You don’t believe in that nonsense, do you?’” But by the end of the day, Macfadyen says, “somebody had almost cut their thumb off and the entire day’s filming … got overexposed.”
Fortunately, no such plagues have beset the Richmond-based shooting of Macfadyen’s 2015 indie feature film of “Macbeth” — perhaps because most of the movie was filmed within the confines of a black, 1997 Lincoln Town Car stretch limo. Originally owned by a Texas oil mogul, the limo was acquired from a seller in Powhatan County through a Craigslist ad spotted by Macfadyen.
This is an avant-garde re-imagining of the Shakespearean tragedy — written and directed by Macfadyen, best known for his role as the conflicted Scottish nobleman Robert the Bruce in Mel Gibson’s “Braveheart,” which won the 1996 Academy Award for best picture. He also appeared in the “Saw” horror franchise but says wryly that bringing up that role is “a saw point” for him.
His film also features several of his fellow cast members from AMC’s Revolutionary War espionage drama “Turn: Washington’s Spies.” Filmed in the Richmond area, “Turn” features Macfadyen as the burly, obsessive Scottish guerrilla warrior Robert Rogers. Macfadyen shot “Macbeth” around the filming of “Turn’s” second season, which recently wrapped and premieres in April.
With a Virginia license plate reading “LADY MCB,” the 30-foot-long stretch limo is parked in the brick-paved driveway of a tony Cary Street Road estate. The gaping maw of its open trunk provides a handy receptacle for the many corpses that stack up in Macbeth’s wake, which on this afternoon includes Roukin. He cracks a joke about “spooning” while he folds himself into the trunk alongside his similarly bloodied “Turn” co-star Daniel Henshall.
“To me, the limo represents our fate, constantly moving,” says Taylor Roberts, who plays Lady Macbeth. A film noir buff, she patterned her performance after silver-screen femmes fatales such as Ava Gardner in “The Killers.”
“We are really only trapped in this small, moving thing once we’ve done the deed and killed the king,” Roberts says. “After that, there is no turning back. It’s a one-way street ‘all the way to the end of the line,’ as they say in ‘Double Indemnity.’”
Season Two of TURN is fast approaching as cast members have been filming for several months on location in Richmond, VA. In preparation for the season premeire, AMC is live streaming the series on their website as well as Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Follow along at AMC.com for updates and stay tuned for pictures and information about Taylor's appearances as Rachel Clark in Season Two.
Taylor Roberts will be starring as Lady Macbeth opposite Angus Macfadyen in his directorial debut of a new screen adaptation of William Shakespeare's Macbeth. This is a modern interpretation of the bard’s tragedy, set in the claustrophobic confines of a stretch limousine which prowls the streets of a contemporary landscape as its agoraphobic passengers struggle for existential meaning in a dog eat dog world where only the fit survive, and tragedy unfolds. Macfadyen also plays the lead role, surrounding himself with a cast which includes Taylor Roberts as Lady Macbeth, Kevin McNally as the King, Harry Lennix as Banquo. Seth Numrich, Sam Roukin, Dan Henshall also star.
New pictures are available from Taylor's recent episode ofTURNon AMC entitled, "Mercy, Moment, Murder, Measure."
If you missed the episode, you can watch it here, along with recaps, extra scenes, and previews for upcoming episodes. Also be sure to join Taylor and the rest of the cast on twitter as they live-tweet each episode!
These photos feature Meegan Warner as Mary Woodhull, Taylor Roberts as Rachel Clark, Jamie Bell as Abraham Woodhull, and Heather Lind as Anna Strong. Courtesy of AMC.com.
Taylor Roberts plays the recurring role of Rachel Clark in AMC's new historical hour drama, TURN, which airs Sunday nights at 9pm. You can spot Taylor starting April 27th in episode four, entitled "Eternity How Long."
The first picture from episode four was featured in the LA Times review of the show, which you can read here.
The show is a hit on Twitter, where many of the cast members--including Taylor-- often live-tweet the episodes as they air. Follow Taylor on twitter @Taylor_Roberts and watch TURN Sunday nights at 9!
We are pleased to announce Taylor Roberts will be joining the cast of AMC’s upcoming Revolutionary War drama, "TURN."
The series from creator and exec producer Craig Silverstein tells the untold tale of America’s first spy network, the Culper Ring. It follows a group of childhood friends (including star, Jamie Bell) who become George Washington’s secret weapon to winning the war.
Roberts will play the recurring role of Rachel Clark. Find out more about "TURN" on AMC.com
Recently someone asked me what it’s like to work on a period film, and my answer was, “It’s like coming home.” Living in the world of the Kennedy white house was like walking up the yellow brick road. Am I mixing metaphors? What was the road to Camelot paved in?
For Killing Kennedy we chopped my hair and strapped on a girdle, then took it off again for a skinny-dipping scene in the White House pool. While researching my part I discovered all kinds of naughty stories about the Kennedy poolside rendezvous. Mimi Alford’s book, Once Upon A Secret, was a major resource, and a fabulous read for Kennedy fans—especially girls like me who’d have loved to share a flirtation with the most handsome president in history.
Mimi had been the last of several secretaries whose jobs were basically to shuffle papers and type a little, and to be always ready to keep the president company. My character, Jill “Faddle” Cohen, was one of a pair of constants for Jack. We were nicknamed Fiddle and Faddle, and you’ll see us both in the film on Sunday.
We peeked into history every time we set foot on the White House film-set, and the part of me that has always felt a little out of place in the modern day was sublimely at home.
A few behind the scenes shots from the set of Killing Kennedy starring Rob Lowe as JFK. Taylor Roberts plays the role of Faddle, a secretary to Jackie Kennedy and frequent flirtation for President Kennedy. Filming took place this summer in Richmond, VA and the show is set to air on November 10th, 2013. More to come...