Close-up Culture spoke to Welcome To Marwen stars Falk Hentschel and Siobhan Williams about the film’s emotional story, stellar cast and working with Robert Zemeckis.
On the story of ‘Welcome To Marwen’:
SW: It will be incredibly touching! As well as exciting and heart-breaking and funny. I haven’t seen the film myself yet so I’m not sure how many tear-jerking moments there are, but I know I cried twice in the script.
I also know that it’s a very personal journey, and everyone will have moments they relate to – undoubtedly some more than others. You will laugh, and you will cry.
FH: To me, Mark Hogencamp’s courage was the most inspiring element of the story. He was a man courageous enough to try to live his truth and was then beaten within an inch of his life, resulting in severe PTSD, losing many of his motor functions and most of his memory, because ignorant people felt threaten by him.
Not only did Mark pick himself back up after this tragedy but he decided to remain true to himself and be unapologetically one-hundred percent Mark Hogencamp.
I admire the bravery it takes to truly be yourself no matter what people say, think or do. Especially in our industry and our society in general, that’s a very hard thing to maintain. To me Mark is a true hero, an example and inspiration for so many of us right now. Mark’s story encouraged me to always be authentically me.
On playing dolls in the film:
SW: Because of Robert’s concept for the film, the entire ‘World of Marwen’ was animated. This meant that all of the actors were doing motion capture for all of the doll segments.
Motion Capture basically requires standing in a massive padded room in skin-tight unitards and acting with no set and placeholder props. I’d done a fair amount of motion capture before this project, so I knew what to expect, and thoroughly enjoy the challenge it provides. It requires an abundance of imagination – which is fitting, given the story we are telling.
FH: Topf being a doll allowed me to expand myself as an actor. Doing motion-capture was somehow very freeing and allowed me to be larger than life. Plus the fact that I also got to play an American in this film kind of made it a perfect project for me.
Quite honestly, it was very challenging to do some of the scenes as the American who beat Mark. Knowing that this really happened and embodying the person who attacked Mark was quite overwhelming at times, especially when we shot the attack scenes. I took a salt bath and brought out all my new age cleansing gadgets and shooed away anything negative. So overall this role was a lovely and amazing challenge in more than one way.
On the film’s stellar cast:
FH: Unfortunately, I didn’t have very many scenes with the incredible “Women of Marwen.” But the short experience I had with them was very lovely. Most of my scenes were with Steve and he was wonderful to work with. Kind, professional and most of all very committed to the role which was impressive to see. I made amazing friends with Matt O’Leary (who plays Benz) and Neil Jackson (Kurt). Look out for those two, they do incredible work.
I made friends for life and had the opportunity to work in an incredible creative and magical environment.
SW: I was working with so many people I admired – and it was all I could do to listen to their stories and watch them work and learn as much as I possibly could.
On working with Robert Zemeckis:
SW: There are no words to describe how excited I was – and still am. I have been a fan of Robert Zemeckis ever since I can remember – his films shaped my childhood. He is a legendary creator, and to have the chance to work with him was not even in the realm of what I’d previously have considered possible.
He is a genius. He invents technology that didn’t exist previously so that he can have his films move people in ways never done before. He is so kind and genuine, and calm on set. His planning is meticulous and makes everyone in the cast and crew’s lives so much easier. I could go on about him forever.
FH: I learned so much! Bob is a true artist and an absolute genius at what he does. His vision is so clear, he communicates so flawlessly and also allows for the actors to play and have fun. He embraces ideas if they help tell the story, no matter who the idea comes from.
My favourite part of the day was the morning. Bob would sit every one down and lay out his vision for the scenes to come. It felt like a captain talking to his troops, giving them a battle plan. The energy in the room was awesome; full of excitement and anticipation.
He’s a leader that you’d follow into any battle blindly. It was film making at its best. The biggest lesson I took from watching him though was his handle on the story. He never loses sight of it, always knowing what the focus needs to be on and managing to create an emotional journey like an orchestra conductor. It was magic.