LFF 2017: The Cast And Creators Of Breathe Discuss The Real Life Love Story

Photo: Anna Hattingen / 4YE

London Film Festival has officially begun, and the BFI is ready to show off the world’s brightest stars. The Festival opened today with Andy Serkis’ Breathe, which tells the true story of Robin Cavendish, who suffered from total paralysis due to polio.

Actors Claire Foy and Andrew Garfield, as well as director Andy Serkis, writer William Nicholson, as well as producer Jonathan Cavendish, Robin’s son, took the stage at the Mayfair Hotel, London to talk a bit more about the project.

Johnathan Cavendish has been working as a film producer on several projects ahead of Breathe (such as the Bridget Jones franchise). He said that while always looking for stories, he only slowly realized that he lived one of those stories.

“I was very trepidatious about trying to bring it to the screen, because there would be nothing worse than making a biopic you didn’t like yourself”, Cavendish said at the press conference.

Cavendish said that the first person to come on board was writer William Nicholson. They worked on the script for many years before director Andy Serkis joined. Serkis said that he was immediately captured by the “most incredible script” and the “extraordinary love story”. What he loved most, however, was that the Cavendishs were “mavericks, they were outsiders, they were pioneers, they were people who had broken the norm and had shattered the idea of what it is to be disabled”.

Only last year, the creative team took on the almost impossible task of casting Cavendish’s parents. For Andrew Garfield portraying Robin Cavendish was about doing him, his wife, and their life story justice.

“Somehow they made such a joyous, inspired, fully-lived, rich life experience out of terrible loss”, Garfield said. “And we all go through loss, which is why I think it’s such a universal story. It’s such an inspiring story for every person, no matter where they come from, or what their specific imprisonment or loss is.”

Garfield also talked about how acting became a technical challenge, as he was only able to move his head and convey emotions with his face.

“The inability to follow physical impulses, and also the rhythm of the breathing machine, that was probably the trickiest technical challenge”, he stated.

He added that particularly emotional scenes, in which ones’ breath would naturally hitch were difficult to do with a constant stream of breath.

“[Robin’s] eyes became all that more alive. There was the soul, all of his longings, all of his emotions and feelings. His eyes and his face were his main form of expression.”

Claire Foye takes on the role of Diana Cavendish (nee Blacker), Robin’s wife. She said that the first time she read the script she could barely make it to the end, and that she was overwhelmed with emotion.

“I never read anything that affected my quite like that”, she admitted.

Another thing that attracted her to the project was that Jonathan, Robin’s son, who lived this life, was involved as the producer.

When asked about how the actors felt about portraying such a strong and stable marriage, Foy said that “Diana and Robin are very much a product of their time and their upbringing and the morals and standards of the time.” Their marriage, however, is not just representative of that. Their love and their circumstance has been defined by Robin’s illness, but that scenario is something humans still go through in the present day.

“I think people behave exactly the same now, they support the people they love, and look after them, and they care of them.”

Andrew added that while he personally does not believe in the idea of just having one romantic love all his life, he believes that “we’re all still longing for that kind of true-love connection, whether it’s for a lifetime or for how long it’s needed.”

Breathe is scheduled for a limited theatrical release in the US starting October 13th, and in the UK starting October 27th.

Verena Cote
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