Getting the opportunity to sit down with screen legends Connie Nielsen (who we loved in I Am the Night) and Dougray Scott (who is in the upcoming Batwoman) was a joy and we were thrilled to participate in an intimate interview with the duo. The TIFF film they were promoting, Sea Fever (which had its premiere the night prior to our interview), was quite a spectacle, which, don’t just take our word for it, take Nielsen’s and Scott’s as well. Sea Fever is a film in which the crew of a boat in West Ireland are lost at sea and together are forced to fight against an attacking parasite.
The following is a condensed and edited version of our sit down chat with Nielsen and Scott of Neasa Hardiman’s Discovery title, Sea Fever.
Brief Take: I thought you two created quite a lived-in relationship on screen. How did you craft your dynamic? Had you worked together before?
Dougray Scott: No, we haven’t. Well, I love Connie, and she’s a fantastic actress and so I was very excited to work with her and I think that we got on very quickly.
Connie Nielsen: Yeah, I think that we both were…
DS: … She’s very tough. She’s very tough, but in a good way.
DS: I mean it’s a very female-driven film, if I can say that in a positive way, and the main characters are women. I mean it’s an ensemble but without being gender-specific, it’s kind of taken that these women are powerful and strong and intelligent, and I love stuff like that, especially today. In this day and age, we need that, and we just hit if off! We got on really well and we hung out together and we spent a lot of time, and Connie comes from a fishing community and I hadn’t. So I spent a lot with fishermen and I watched a lot of documentaries, and we mucked in.
CN: But also, Dougray is, unlike a lot of male actors, not afraid of making space for his fellow actors. He’s an incredibly generous actor and I implicitly trusted him in every scene that we did. I just felt this real sense of trust in him and I think that that is what you guys feel, that there is that sort of trust between these two people, despite that we as a couple are dealing with grief and economic pressure and a very hard life, right?
BT: This is, as you say a very female-driven project. Do you think that there is a certain sensibility with a film such as this one?
DS: I think so, yeah. I mean, listen [sighs] times are changin’ in the world, I hope for the better, in terms of the misogyny, the misogynistic-driven industry that we’re in and we spoke about that. I’m not comfortable in the world of wage disparity between females and males, I think it’s wrong. I think that women and men, you know [sighs] we’re a different gender, but that’s it. There’s no super ability that a man has that a woman doesn’t have; maybe its a strength thing, but that doesn’t matter.
CN: Also, it depends on which man. On which man and which woman!
DS: I mean, I wouldn’t fight Connie.
DS: That’s for sure. I mean, let me tell you! I mean, yes, there’s differences between men and women, but in terms of intellectual capability and importance and what you bring to the world, no, there isn’t. I’d rather have a woman leading the country right now, in America, please God. But you know, I think that it’s there, but that’s what this story is, but in terms of the sensitivity of it and of the film, it was a very work-oriented shoot and the crew were incredibly concentrated on that. And so at the beginning it was like, yeah, it is all about the work and therefore you take away any other extraneous kind of things that might get in the way, because banter on set can sometimes go in the wrong direction. And when there’s women around, it’s not comfortable, and I feel much more comfortable being in a clean environment in which gender is not a commodity to be abused by men, that it’s about your work and your talent and that’s what it’s about.
CN: And storytelling, we’re just telling stories!
DS: We’re telling stories. And I want to be in in a world in which sex is not on the agenda when you walk on to a film set, that’s something that happens if you want it to happen and it’s not anything to be abused and be bartered with or anything like that. We have to respect humanity, human beings. You know in this world from which we are telling this story, women play an incredibly important part in that. It’s not a patriarchal society, the fishing industry – it’s very matriarchal.
DS: And our experience with the couple that had the boat, yeah.
BT: What do you think of the aesthetic of the film and how it looks on screen?
CN: I rarely, very rarely watch my own films. I usually duck out and I usually like to speak from the perspective of making the film.
DS: But you stayed yesterday.
CN: Yeah, I stayed yesterday. I was curious!
CN: I was so excited to see the special effects because they’re really good and convincing. I think that the look is so important. I mean we probably walked around smelling awful for the entire time. [laughs loudly] We were both, because we wore those same clothes, literally we wanted to look like people that, like we asked and they were like: “we don’t get changed for seven and eight days and we take care of that when we come home”. And it’s just about staying warm and safe when you go out there. I think that it was really important to do that. We both made like zero effort to look good [laughs] like zero, which is freeing!
CN: There was also a lack of vanity with these actors.
DS: Yes, yes. Which is really important in something like this, because I have seen movies before in which actors are portraying real working types and you’re like: “Really? Your hair’s that good?!”
DS: Or you’re clean and your make-up is perfect, and why are you not dirty?! And we were filthy, we were really filthy.
CN: True, and there were times, [to Dougray] remember when they were doing the gilling of the fish? Actually, that’s not even in the film. [laughs] We were beyond smelly! [laughs loudly]
BT: Dougray, you pulled off an amazing Irish accent in this film.
DS: He’s from Galway, and a Dublin accent is a very particular accent. Thankfully, I had people around me who helped me.
CN: Yours was amazing. Yours was really good. I mean you’re not Irish, but that was really good.
DS: I mean I’m Scottish, so it helps. It is really particular, Galway. I mean everyone’s accent was good. Connie has this, she’s Scandinavian. That’s what struck me about watching the film yesterday, which was that: “Wow, this is a woman that sounds Irish” but [to Connie] even though you’re Scandinavian in it, it feels very authentic.
BT: What are you going to bring from this role into future projects?
CN: First of all, I really think that it’s an important story that we’re telling. We’re telling a story that really asks, you know, what are we doing in terms of nature, and also, what is happening, what are the policies that surround people’s livelihoods that are being upended, not just in that economy, but in many manufacturing economies that certainly, hopefully, the heavy carbon economy, and so how are we going to take care of those people, because they have families. They have to pay bills and they are scared. And how are we going to look to those people and see that they’re done right by. Telling those stories and making sure that people understand how it is hard to have no money and to not know how to make the next payment next month. It’s something that we see far too rarely on film, but at the same time, this is such a great story. You like these people and it’s a super entertaining and scary story at the same time. I feel like we’re able to push some social issues into the forefront, but at the same time, really, seriously entertain people.