ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke to The Pale Blue Eye stars Lucy Boynton and Harry Lawtey about the upcoming Netflix film, which begins streaming on January 6. The duo discussed their characters and working with Christian Bale.
“A world-weary detective is hired to investigate the murder of a West Point cadet,” reads the film’s synopsis. “Stymied by the cadets’ code of silence, he enlists one of their own to help unravel the case — a young man the world would come to know as Edgar Allan Poe.”
Tyler Treese: Lucy, going on a date with Edgar Allan Poe in a cemetery just seems so fitting, but it also seems like a red flag. Do you find anything about that romantic?
Lucy Boynton: Yeah, unfortunately, it’s very much my vibe, so it’s [a] total green flag to me. Whatever that tells you or means. Yeah, I loved that. I’m up for the … gothic creep, I was going to say, but that sounds mean.
Harry, your character is part of this very prestigious family, and that comes with a lot of pressure placed upon him. What did you find most interesting about the character of Artemus?
Harry Lawtey: I think what’s interesting of all these characters in this film is that they have a public face and a private face. They have an exterior life and a very different inner life, you know? Atremus is a great example of that. I think he has a lot of pressure in the culture that he’s in, the environment he’s in, to live up to being this golden boy figure of the academy and to be this prodigious leader of the military at a time when the American military was sort of in a fragile place in terms of its own self-identity. So then trying to live up to that and play that role and fill those shoes … and then also for me, having the opportunity to completely invert that and focus on a vulnerability and an emotional dependency and a fear of holding close to people that count most in his life, you know?
Lucy, what did you like most about being in this period piece and getting to wear the 1830s-style dresses and all that?
Lucy Boynton: I loved it. I think doing period pieces is always a kind of behind-the-scenes history lesson, and it’s so rare that you actually get to exist in an era that you are researching and experiencing it in such a vivid way. The costumes are the bonus of that, and it not only helps you find the character, but it’s just a real treat of an experience to get to be so extracted from your everyday life. It makes the job more easy [and] accessible and also I think just much more enjoyable.
Harry, watching a murder mystery is always so much fun as a viewer because you’re examining every person trying to find them suspicious. As an actor, do you ever play into that, or is that all done in the editing room?
Harry Lawtey: Yeah, you absolutely do. I think, as an actor, more so with this genre than any other. I think you are specifically trying to chart the audience experience and drip feed pieces [of] information, whether that’s even down to something as nuanced as the way you deliver a line or the physical interaction with another character, looks in the space between dialogue … you get the sense that an audience know that when they’re watching a murder mystery, they are kind of complicit in solving the crime as well.
That’s part of why it’s such a thrilling genre. It’s partly why it’s such an everlasting genre. There will always be an interest in this type of story, I think, and that’s because it involves the audience in such an active way. You want to do your duty in building that experience for them. Sometimes you embrace it so much that you can kind of get lost in it. Obviously we knew, when we were making it, what the story was, but it’s easy to forget and you look around and you get enticed into everyone’s performances and think, “Oh, maybe they did it.”
Lucy, Christian Bale gives another fantastic performance. What impressed you most about working with him as a scene partner?
Lucy Boynton: I think that he’s able to balance both and be both. So between setups and working in that environment, you get such a dose of him and he’s such a brilliant leader to have on set, making sure that everyone is okay and able to work to the best of their ability and in kind of extreme environments. Then in his performance, obviously he’s completely gone to it. He disappears and it is just this really incredibly intricate thing to observe. Getting to observe that, with a lot of the actors on this film, is such an education and such a treat to get to see up close.