THE THEORY OF FLIGHT
About The Characters
With Bonham Carter and Branagh fully committed, The Theory of Flight moved from development to production in mere weeks
With Bonham Carter and Branagh fully committed,
The Theory of Flight moved from development to production
in mere weeks. The actors had less than a month to prepare for
the demanding roles.
"I came at this role very pragmatically at first," says
Bonham Carter, "with massive education and an intense immersion
into Jane's world." But what started as a practical inquiry
into life with Motor Neuron Disease (ALS) became an intense emotional
Bonham Carter already had a personal connection to the material
- having watched her father cope with disabilities for years -
but the specifics of living with MND were entirely new to the
actress. "I read everything I could get my hands on,"
she explains. "The MND Association had all these pamphlets
with names like 'How Will I Die?' and 'How To Speak With MND.'
I realized that though I had very personal experiences with disability,
the progressive nature of this disease also made it different."
Continuing on her quest, Bonham Carter watched hours of videotape
to capture the slurred speech and limited body movements of people
in the latter stages of MND. She even worked closely with medical
experts to diagnose Jane's exact type and stage of disease. Through
the entire process, she began to forge not only the nature of
Jane's illness - but the style and determination with which this
memorable character approaches it. The actress also found herself
contemplating, via Jane's experiences, some of life's larger questions.
Says Bonham Carter: "The more I immersed myself in the role,
the more I became aware of the mini-Everests that people with
severe disabilities conquer every minute of the day. But what
I also discovered is that dealing with breakdowns in simple things
like speech and movement opens up a whole treasure trove of interesting
areas to think about. I became very aware of the impact of the
disease on Jane's character. She's very direct because there's
really nothing else to be in her position -and she laughs a lot
because there is no other response to such an absurd situation.
There is a real deepening of your inner life when you begin to
lose your body."
She adds: "'We are all so dependent on the future, thinking
about the future all the time. I really thought a lot about what
it would be like to have the future in any real sense taken away
from you. I think it sharpens your priorities, makes you hungrier
to get the things out of life you most wanted."
As Bonham Carter grew more acquainted with the challenges of late-stage
MND, she began more and more to see how its physical manifestations
have emotional consequences. "One of the things about losing
your speech is that it forces one to use a greater economy of
language. Everything you say has to count," she explains.
"And by extension, the people around you have to listen harder
to your words. Jane sometimes uses this to her advantage."
From the get-go, the actress was concerned about using the slurred
speech typical of MND lest she be completely misunderstood - but
she opted for a truly authentic performance. "There was always
the question: how extreme could I go on the voice and still be
intelligible?" explains Bonham Carter. "But I still
wanted to show how Jane has to struggle to communicate. I wanted
the audience to have to pay extra attention to her in the same
way that Richard must. Ultimately, I think one can get used to
her manner of speech but<
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