George MacKay hails ‘masterful’ 1917 director Sir Sam Mendes

By Laura Harding, PA Senior Entertainment Correspondent

George MacKay has praised Sir Sam Mendes as a “masterful” director and said making 1917 was “like doing a filmed play”.

He told the PA news agency: “It was such a privilege working with Sam – I’ve never met anyone or worked with anyone who has an understanding on the architecture of storytelling like he does.

“But he’s a wonderful, very sensitive man and by the same token he has this understanding of the mathematics of how you put together a story.”

He continued: “He’s a masterful theatre director as well so he brought that element to it and it was like doing a filmed play.”

The Captain Fantastic star plays one of two young soldiers tasked with venturing across enemy lines to deliver a message that could save hundreds of lives in the war film, which is nominated for nine Baftas and was based on a story told to Sir Sam by his grandfather.

MacKay, 27, who portrays Lance Corporal Schofield in the film, said he wrote letters from his character to help him explore who he was as a person.

Director Sir Sam Mendes (left) on the set of his new film 1917 with cinematographer Roger Deakins (right) and George MacKay (centre) at Govan Docks in Glasgow (Andrew Milligan/PA)

He said: “Schofield’s thing is he doesn’t say, I think he feels like he’s going to unravel if he talks about it because it means so much to him and I think he just operates in a different way.

“For me, it was essential to know all of that stuff. We spoke a little bit about it with Krysty (Wilson-Cairns, the co-writer) and Sam but I did stuff for myself like I’ve got loads of letters that Schofield has written to home that I just used to write in the down time, the ones that he sent before.

“I think maybe he stopped sending them just because he can’t bring himself to do it and letters that never got sent and I think that is Schofield holding on to himself in a different kind of way.”

Game Of Thrones actor Dean-Charles Chapman, who plays Lance Corporal Blake, said he was inspired by a photograph in the costume department.

Dean-Charles Chapman (Ian West/PA)

He said: “The film literally starts off in a day and two men that you know nothing about so, as an actor, building that sort of back story, in order to portray this character as well as you can, was really fun.

“In the costume department they had this wall of reference photographs they used and it was a whole wall that was filled with pictures and there was this one photograph I saw of these three soldiers.

“There were two soldiers standing up correct, all their buttons done up, and there was one solider that had all his jacket undone and his shirt all slanted, and he was leaning up against a truck and he had two rings, one on his middle finger and one on his little finger, and there was something really relaxed about him.

“Rather than just an old black and white photograph of a soldier, I saw this personality just oozing from the photo, and that is what Blake is – he’s just got so much personality, he’s so warm and charming and friendly and lovely, and I really wanted to capture that, and having those two rings reminded me of that.”

– 1917 is released in UK cinemas on January 10.