Kelvin Harrison Jr. based Chevalier's virtuoso violinist on rock gods

Kelvin Harrison Jr. reveals the key to portraying the real life violin virtuoso Joseph Bologne in Chevalier.

Chevalier is released in UK cinemas on 9 June, 2023.

Video transcript

FREDA COOPER: I couldn't help thinking when I was watching the film that, Joseph, your character, was kind of like a rock star of his day. And I wondered if you had any particular rock musicians in mind when you were actually making the film that you could actually draw on.

KELVIN HARRIS JR: Yes. The cue for me-- Stefani wrote a line she was like-- at the beginning of the movie where they have the Mozart and Chevalier battle, she said, it's like Jimi Hendrix and Clapton battling it out. And so I immediately was like, OK, this is the guy I'm playing. So I pulled from Hendrix. I pulled from Prince, you know? And just really finding that just like showman that takes up the space in French society of the time.

Amadeus is also such a specific character that-- you know? And I love that performance in that movie. And I think what's so-- he's such a quirky like kooky kind of character. And I think Joseph is, I guess, the opposite, you know? He's very like grounded. He's very focused. And I like the fact that, tonally, the movie was like someone with just so much drive. He feels like a superhero. He's very playful, but in a cheeky kind of way, you know? He's not-- you know. Anyway, but yeah, I do think it is-- it's the sister movie of Amadeus in some ways, yeah.

LUCY BOYNTON: I think I read it that-- kind of leaning that way. But then seeing what Kelvin did with it where the second you walk on set and you're around Kelvin and around him in character, you totally understand why everyone wanted to be around Joseph Bologne. and I totally agree. I think he totally has the aura of the rock star. And God knows he's got the skill. I mean, he just excelled at everything and anything he drove his mind to. So yeah, he's an iconic figure in history.

STEPHEN WILLIAMS: That was there in the script, you know? Stefani very early on in the script describes Joseph's resonance in his own time as being like-- you know, someone like Prince or Jimi Hendrix. And that felt like really apt and appropriate and gave us all creatively and visually a way into telling Joseph's story because he was such a celebrated figure in his time. He was, you know, famous for-- almost as famous for his romantic exploits as he was for fencing and his musical prowess. And you know, he really was the talk of the town.

And so that felt like, yeah, that's what a rock star would have been like in those days. And that was all part of our attempt to try and render the story albeit set in a particular period of time in pre-revolutionary France but to render it as if it were unfolding in a-- with a contemporary energy and vibe to it.