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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 journey.

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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