Caroline Kaplan, the producer of Letters to Juliet, admits they auditioned scores of actors for the role of Charlie, Claire’s (Vanessa Redgrave) grandson. Christopher Egan, who walked away with the part, began his career in his native Australia in the soap opera Home and Away and has been making a name for himself on both the big and small screens ever since. He played David Shepherd on NBC’s drama Kings, and as Roran in the movie Eragon.
Letters to Juliet spotlights a true phenomenon in Verona, Italy, the location of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, where thousands of tourists flock to the courtyard, stand on Juliet’s balcony and post notes of love lost on a stone wall. When Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), a young American, travels to Verona, she meets a group of volunteers who respond to the letters written to ‘Juliet.’ She finds and answers a letter that has been lost for 50 years, and is stunned when its author Claire arrives in Italy with her handsome but overprotected grandson Charlie, to find the fiancé she left decades before.
Christopher Egan spoke of his role as Charlie at the press conference for the movie.
What was the attraction for you to play Charlie?
I had a real, distinct idea of how I wanted to play Charlie as soon as I read it. I’ve just been fascinated by Hugh Grant and Colin Firth; the Darcy, British prig kind of [guy] so I just knew I was going to enjoy playing him. I just went into the audition with my Charlie and it was sort of in line with what [director] Gary [Winick] wanted and it went from there.
How did you pull off the transition to nice guy?
Well, that was another thing that was cool about it too; his journey. It felt like the gear changes for Charlie were [interesting]. The first half of the film, his care for Sophie is all about his grandmother then, when he sees how happy Sophie is making his grandmother, I liked how his walls started to come down and, in the end, he’s in love with Sophie.
Were you nervous going into this romantic leading man role?
I was fairly nervous to begin with all during the audition process. I know I’m not a big name. I’ve been lucky to do great supporting roles in film and I guess I’m protected in a way that I haven’t become too famous. But Vanessa is a legend and I have to work very closely with her so I was definitely nervous but to calm those nerves, I would say that the rehearsal process was really valuable. When preparation meets opportunity it equals success.
How do you relate to Charlie? How are you like him or different from him?
I don’t relate to his cynicism and negativity. That beginning Charlie was very opposite to me. But, we can all be negative at times. I probably relate to the transformation that happens to him. We all also have transformations in our lives at a certain point when we see things or events or family or people that influence us and, in this case, it’s his grandmother and Sophie that want Charlie to become a better person.
You are an Aussie playing a Brit. What kind of cultural differences did you overcome to play him?
There are a lot of cultural differences but there are Brits like that, that are uptight, not saying all Brits are but there are characters like that. I think Australians are a bit more laid back, but cultural differences from Australians to Brits to Italians are completely different. I just had to straighten my back and keep that tight-lipped thing going on. I didn’t change the hand movements and facial expressions I like to make and I put my fidgeting into Charlie.
Do you have a favorite scene?
It’s hard to say ‘favorite scene’ because I had so much fun with all of the scenes. But the favorite part for me was when Sophie and Charlie were in Sienna and they spend that day. We shot all that in a day. That was the moment when you see Sophie and Charlie really start to get along. It felt like me and Amanda were on this romantic walk through the city but there was just a camera there with some guys [he laughs].
What about working with Amanda?
She’s great. I was pretty nervous to meet Amanda too. I had seen her work but she’s just fun and quirky and kind of crazy like me so our scenes just had a natural flow to them that was fun. It wasn’t hard work. I felt like we bounced off each other really well and she’s very cool too as I got to know her. We shot a lot of the film in order so as I was getting to know Amanda so by the time it got to the point where Charlie and Sophie really hit it off, me and her were really connected. It’s funny playing scenes where I had to be such as asshole to her. She’s so sweet and nice.
What sort of role do you want to play that you haven’t yet?
One of the roles that I’m looking at now is a dark, psychological thriller and I’ve always wanted to do that. I’ve never been happy with Saw V or anything, but this one is a very intellectual, intense, pretty dark piece.