By Bonnie Laufer
In 2016, Oscar-nominated Canadian director Kim Nguyen premiered Two Lovers and Bear, his angular, Arctic-based drama starring Tatiana Maslany and Dane DeHaan at the Toronto International Film Festival. In 2017, he moves to a warmer climate to bring us Eye on Juliet starring Joe Cole (Peaky Blinders, Black Mirror) and French beauty Lina El Arabi.
Cole plays a pipeline security watchman who, while piloting his robotic drone spider from the United States, becomes fascinated by a Middle Eastern woman (El Arabi) lingering near the North African pipeline he’s paid to watch via monitor. It’s a bizarre romantic drama between two people who are worlds apart.
Original-Cin’s Bonnie Laufer spoke with stars Joe Cole and Lina El Arabi about why they wanted to be a part of this film and about working with Canadian director Kim Nguyen.
ORIGINAL-CIN: This is such a unique love story. Certainly nothing we have ever seen before on the big screen. What was your initial reaction to the material?
Joe Cole: “It was just so different to anything I’d read before. A lot of films tread the same ground and I felt with this it was exploring something that was so odd yet so extraordinary. What hooked me in was that I really wasn’t sure where it was going to go when I read it. One of the things that always interests me as an actor is finding diverse films and diverse characters and different stories and this was, as you said, unique.”
OC: Lina, how about for you.
Lina El Arabi: “Well, pretty much the same reasons that Joe said. I think what struck me the most was that my character had the worst disease you can have. She was head over heels in love with a man and Joe’s character, I think was more in love with being in love from afar. A very different kind of story.”
OC: In this film all of your scenes are filmed apart. I wanted to know if you ever got together to discuss anything before you began shooting. How did it work?
JC: “Lina shot all of her scenes in Morocco as I was working on another film at the time. Then I came to Montreal a few months later to shoot my scenes.
“However, Kim Nguyen (director) brought Lina to Montreal for about a week and some of the biggest scenes she read off camera with me. She didn’t have me when she shot, but I was lucky enough to be able to work with her when it was my turn. For our scenes in Paris we properly met, face to face.”
OC: How did you enjoy that process of working with somebody, but not really working with somebody?
LEA: “It was very tough, but I think I was lucky as I got to shoot in Morocco in the desert and Joe had to work in an office.”
OC: Yes, you got the outdoor experience. But it had to have been more challenging for you as an actor not to have that face-to-face interaction.
LEA: “Oh yes, definitely. When you act you are supposed to react not act...”
JC: “Oh no, that's what I was doing wrong (laughs)!”
LEA: “I was acting opposite a drone, a robot, so I didn’t have any feedback. It was difficult at times.”
OC: Joe you are British and Lina you are from France, yet you joined forces to work with Canadian director Kim Nguyen. What was it about his direction or just working with him that you enjoyed?
JC: “He has a real energy for life and he really likes to enjoy himself. He definitely brought a positive attitude to set every day. Even though I was stuck in an office all day everyday just watching blank screens there was a good camaraderie on set.
“For me particularly, he allowed me to do my own thing and let me explore my character and ad lib and play around with it. He gave me so much freedom to develop this guy. And Kim gave me a lot of feedback and support with that. He really encouraged it which gave me the confidence to do it more and make him into a fully rounded believable character.”
LEA: “I think he is one of these directors who loves actors and respects them. I really love his work and the movies he has made before, especially Warwitch. When you see a Kim Nguyen movie you just know it’s one of his.”
OC: They have a certain feel to them.
LEA: “Yes, each one has its own personality, but I just know that he has been a part of them.”
OC: People find love on social media and in so many different ways, but do you think that a love story like this could really happen?
LEA: “Ooh… I hope so.”
JC: “Anything can happen these days. Anything can happen in real life. I think Tinder and all of these social media dating apps are playing a huge part in how people meet these days, it’s very common. I actually have a lot of friends who are in long-term relationships from dating apps, so I have seen it work.”
OC: “It’s the way of the world now.”
JC: “So many people are meeting each other these days because they have seen them online first, and then decide to meet in person. It’s pretty much our blueprint now with the Internet and what is available to us. You can meet anyone from anywhere in the world.”
OC: Joe, audiences have really gotten to know you from the very popular British series, Peaky Blinders. What has a show like that done for your career?
JC: “The show is obviously really big, but I am just an ensemble member in it. But yes, a lot of people have seen it and there is a real huge fan base for it. The support is unbelievable because the people who love it, really love it. I’m grateful for my time on it. We have a lot of fun working on it and we are all very close. We’re like brothers. It’s been a wonderful experience.”
Eye on Juliet. Directed by Kim Nguyen. Starring Joe Cole and Lina El Arabi. Opens in limited release April 20.