Actor and writer Jonathan Jude’s latest project – the short film Him and Her – is a beautifully shot and tenderly acted story that explores how much love is subject to gender and sexuality.
Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge spoke to Jonathan about the starting point for the film, collaborating with Aude des Pallieres, challenging gender norms, and much more.
Q: What was the trigger or starting point for yourself and Aude des Pallieres to write ‘Him and Her’?
A: The trigger actually came from a casting. I was up for a gothic rockstar and I decided to apply jet black nail varnish to get me in the mood… it just so happens Aude des Pallieres was taping with me and it was there we discussed and questioned our gender norms.
We decided that Him and Her needed to be the Q (Questioning) in LGBTQI. I am a feminine male. I identify with my gender but that doesn’t mean I can’t identify with another gender’s clothes and want to explore, however it’s not that easy and it really takes a lot of courage!
Q: What is the message you want the short to bring?
A: In a nutshell the story is about truth. Way back when we started the quote [from the poet E. E. Cummings] that inspired me to write and then continue writing was: “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” This sums it up perfectly.
Q: It is so interesting to see the trepidation (from different angles) Alex and Sam experience as they venture into this new territory of their relationship. How did you approach capturing their different perspectives?
A: Capturing both sides was the only option for us, in every relationship there are two people with very different perspectives. I think too often we see a singular view point in life.
Aude and myself have very strong opinions, so we improvised a lot when we started writing it. We did our homework and read every book we could find, but the biggest help was Jennifer Boylan’s She’s Not There. Jennifer describes what it was like for her and her wife at the time she was transitioning. It’s an incredible story!
Q: What was it like stepping into Alex’s shoes for this role? Did you have any useful personal experiences to help with that?
A: I remember putting my mom’s heels on when she was out because I was curious. I remember thinking: ‘Damn, these are cool! I’m taller!’ Then I remember looking up and my sister staring at me, a sense of shame glossed over me and I didn’t understand why… after all they are just shoes.
I grew up in the modelling industry in my later teens. Dressing up and makeup was the job and I never once thought that I didn’t like it – in fact I loved that side of it! Then the questions start to arise: What am I? Am I still a man if I like this, if I enjoy this? I never really answered the questions before, I just decided I can like what I want. So Alex spawned from these questions.
Alex is unsure about what to think, what to want, how to even approach it… but he is courageous to tell the one he loves the truth, no matter the cost…
Q: Yourself and Aude beautifully convey the closeness and shared history of Alex and Sam. How did you work together to create this feeling?
A: We worked so hard on finding the balance between fear and love for each character… even on set we were trying new things and exploring in new ways…
Aude is an incredibly talented actress and working with her is a gift. We rehearsed a couple of times with Abby Scollay, our wonderful director, and she really trusted us and left us to it.
For Alex and Sam, it was always a balancing act between what they want for themselves but still finding how to hold onto this undeniable love they have for each other
Q: Director Abigail Scollay has worked on huge films such as ‘Alien: Covenant’, ‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’. Why did you feel she was the right person to help bring this story to life?
A: We wanted someone that understood aesthetics because the movie we wrote needed to be beautiful, elegant and tender. From the get go, Abby understood the script like no one else. She was the perfect director not only because of her wealth of experience but also the team she helped create. She brought in Jaryl Lim (DoP) and Paolo Buzzetti (Editor), and it’s these three that really created the special moments you see in the film.
Q: Abigail and the rest of the team certainly helped transform the intimate and small setting of a hotel room into something incredibly atmospheric. What was it like working in that space?
A: The space was a god send! As soon as we walked in, there was already a sense of romance, danger and intimacy. We could act in a real space that already had atmosphere to feed off.
We wrote the space as almost a third person. It was pivotal for the characters to have the opportunity to escape and be alone, but also knowing they are always within touching distance… just like how they feel in their relationship.
Q: How would you compare working on ‘Him and Her’ to the bigger sets you’ve been on such as Netflix’s ‘Close’?
A: I mean it was certainly very different scale wise with our budget being small in comparison to Close and Living the dream. But, honestly, working on a story I’d help create – as well as putting together an incredible team of creatives – is the most satisfying feeling… now I have had a taste I don’t want to ever stop! We truly had the best cast and crew ever!
Q: What are your hopes for the film? And, what is next for you?
A: I hope it wins an Oscar… no I’m joking, but who knows? We think it has the potential to do incredibly well. We are hoping the world premiere will be this summer before we then take it around the world for the next 18 months.
As for me, you’ll be seeing me in a couple of new projects on streaming services very soon. I am also working with my company, Red Snow Productions, on our very first feature. Man, it’s an exciting time to be part of the film industry – that’s for sure!
Title photo by Edo Brugué