In The Young Victoria, Rupert Friend stars alongside Emily Blunt as the dashing Prince Albert.
The movie, which was initially devised by Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, tells the lesser known story of the beginnings of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s relationship.
How much research did you personally do into the background of Albert to play the part, in addition to the costuming, the make-up?
It’s a whole process for me that I can’t split up. It’s more a soaking in of things.
I read every single book that I could find in print on him and then worked with the make-up artist and every painting we could find to create the look and then costume.
It’s more of a homogenous thing than compartmentalized.
How about learning a little German for it?
This idea that he had to learn English as well as he could was very important to my sense of him not wanting to be a foreigner so I learned German and then English with a German accent, then a German trying to speak English with an English accent It had to be that he wanted to sound English rather than he wanted to sound German.
What about him do you most identify with yourself?
I don’t really ever identify myself with these people. I try to find out who they were and leave myself out of the picture. I was very inspired by him. He was a very selfless man who devoted himself to causes. I guess he didn’t have anywhere to go. He was at the top of the tree, obviously never going to be king so he didn’t have that thing that we all have of, ‘Me, me, me. How can I further my own success, career, money, whatever?’ He was interested in trying to make things better for other people and I thought that was very inspiring.
You and Emily had such a great chemistry together. In your opinion, does that come naturally or is it something that, as an actor, you have to work on?
I was thinking about this earlier, because the word ‘chemistry’ is a scientific word and it means ‘a plus b equals c’. But the way we mean it in your sense doesn’t mean that. It means a magic thing that sometimes happens and sometimes doesn’t.
You can take two wonderful actors and a wonderful director and wonderful script and put them together and it’s really boring and horrible. Other times, it’s riveting and I honestly don’t know why. It’s one of those things that, if it works, you go ‘ssssh, nobody move. It seems to be happening,’ and step back quietly.
Do you feel it when you are actually performing with someone that it’s working?
This is going to sound pretentious. You are trying not to be yourself so if I was thinking ‘this is working. This will look good on screen’, then I’m not Albert. So if you’re Albert and you are starting to fall for this woman and she’s Victoria and she’s starting to fall for this guy then you’re job is done and you don’t say any more I think.
Emily said she went and touched things that actually belonged to Albert and Victoria. Did you go and do that and do you get something from that osmosis?
Yeah. I spent a lot of time in Hyde Park in London with the memorial statue which, for some reason, imbued something in really trying to come to grips with what would inspire a woman to create that sort of devotion to someone who’d been dead for so long and why she couldn’t forget. She couldn’t move on. What was it about him that was so inspirational and devoted. I found the monuments a constant reminder of that.
Royal Albert Hall?
Yeah, that whole area is know as ‘Albertopolis’ to some people because you’ve got Prince Consort Road and the Victoria and Albert Museum, Science Museum, Natural History Museum, Royal Albert Hall. That’s all his influence. That whole area was basically designed by him while he was still alive and was bought. It was land that belonged to a manor house there and he wanted it to be an institution of free education for London people which it still is. It’s sort of amazing.
What was the biggest surprise for you about Victoria and Albert’s relationship?
I didn’t realize that theirs was a genuine love story; that they were a team, they ruled together. They had a family together. It wasn’t a cold, ‘You father my children and then go sit in the study’. They did everything together. They were never apart for a day and I hadn’t realized quite why she was still wearing black at 80. It was just that. She’d had half of her soul ripped away from her when he died.