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Asa Butterfield talks his latest film Journey's End and the benefits of having a good trench

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Early February sees the release of Journey's End, the latest adaptation of the 1928 R.C. Sherriff play of the same name. Set near the end of World War I, the film is a harrowing drama about the experiences of British officers in the trenches, starring Sam Claflin, Asa Butterfield and Paul Bettany. 


The National Student sat down with Asa Butterfield (Hugo, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children), who plays lieutenant Raleigh, a young, naive officer who volunteers to join Captain Stanhope (Claflin)'s company because he knew him from school. 

Acting since the age of 9, the now 20-year old Asa has starred in a wide range of films and has worked with some of the most famous directors in the world, such as Martin Scorsese and Tim Burton. That doesn't seem to have gone to his head - he's a polite, elonquent young man that spends most of the interview heaping praise on his co-stars or the production itself. Unsurprisingly, he prefers Asa to the all-too-formal 'Mr. Butterfield'. 

Journey's End has a long history of performance on stage, televison and film, but the script for the latest adaptation was the first time Asa became familiar with the story of the play. "I didn't want to copy anyone else's performance' he says when asked if he looked at what other actors have done with the role. 

What if, five, ten, twenty years down the line there's a another adaptation of Journey's End in the works and the new Raleigh comes to him for advice? Asa pauses for a moment before saying, half-jokingly, "find some good trenches". 

He goes on to describe how spending time in those meticulously recreated, gloomy, muddy World War I trenches really helped immerse him in the role of a British army officer - "a very demanding experience, physically and emotionally" -and how important that level of immersion was to his performance. 

Journey's End is by no means a cheerful, feel-good movie, but Asa mentions that he and the other cast members had quite a bit of fun during filming. He describes a certain camaraderie, an easy going banter that mirrors the dynamic of the characters themselves. Although he can't recall anything funny in specific detail, he singles out co-star Toby Jones for his "particular dry wit". (Jones plays Mason, the cook)

When asked which other character from Journey's End he would most like to play, Asa hesitates. He mentions Osbourne, the older officer who everyone calls Uncle and "what a great job Paul Bettany did with it", but also brings up Trotter (Stephen Graham) and his sense of humour. In the end, he can't decide. They're all too wonderful and interesting. 

On the subject of military training, Asa says that the cast got a bit of prep during rehearsals. "They showed us how hold a gun and that sort of thing... fortunately we went through some of that when I did Ender's Game". He also takes this opportunity to praise the film's talented extras, who he found were excellent at playing soldiers - just another way to really get that immersion going. 

A key scene in Journey's End has Raleigh and Osbourne having a tense heart-to-heart mere minutes before they attempt a daring daytime raid. Asa calls it "one of the biggest scenes in the movie" and says he and Paul Bettany "had a whole day to figure out how we were going to do it". 

Speaking of Paul Bettany, one can't afford to miss the opportunity and ask if the actor spilled any secrets for the newest Avengers movies on the set of Journey's End

"Sadly, no." Asa says, with a smile. 

Journey's End, directed by Saul Dibb, is set to come out 2nd February 2018.

 

 

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