'The Children Act' star Fionn Whitehead: Chris Nolan was like 'a surgeon' on 'Dunkirk' (exclusive)

Sam Ashurst

Fionn Whitehead joins Emma Thompson on big screens this week, when The Children Act lands in cinemas.

The film follows Emma Thompson’s Judge Fiona Maye as she struggles with the difficult moral decision of adjudicating a blood transfusion for a child who says the act would be against his religious beliefs. It’s based on Ian McEwan’s best-selling 2014 novel of the same name.

Fionn plays the child, Adam, but when Whitehead was cast in The Children Act, he was about to start shooting Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, his first major role.

Did he learn anything from Nolan that he took into The Children Act?

“Yeah, definitely. It was one of those things where being around people like him, and Emma [Thompson], you pick up so much just from working with them and listening. It was the way he was in his directing style, the way he behaves on set, I learned a lot,” Whitehead told Yahoo Movies UK.

“He’s incredibly intelligent. He dissects everything, he has the power to be so objective. It seems like he doesn’t personally involve himself with the story at all, scientific almost. Like a judge, or a surgeon.”

“He also creates a really intimate vibe on set, so even though it’s a huge scale and there’s so much going on, there’s one unit and it’s him, the DOP, and the key grip – and he’s feet from you all the time, always talking, and you’re always discussing the film.”

In the above video, Emma Thompson remarks on how different Nolan is to Richard Eyre, the director of The Children Act, and Fionn agrees.

“Richard was much more invested in terms of emotional attachment.”

As for Richard, he was happy that Whitehead was able to work with Nolan before making his film.

“We cast him,” Eyre said, “he went off to make Dunkirk then we filmed in October / November, so he’d done Dunkirk, he had been in active service, I think it had been good that he’d come to us having done a film which was dialogue light, but very, very demanding. Then he came to us and we looked after him.”

The Children Act is in cinemas on 24 August.

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