Director Celyn Jones on Making ‘The Almond and the Seahorse’

Director Celyn Jones on Making ‘The Almond and the Seahorse’

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Actor, writer and director Celyn Jones (pictured above, left and below) is the triple threat that no one saw coming. Originally from Wales, where he still films many of his projects, Jones first built his career as an actor of both theater and film before starting to write films such as “Set Fire to the Stars”, starring Elijah Wood , “The Vanishing” with Gerard Butler and “Six Minutes to Midnight”, which he co-wrote with Eddie Izzard and which features both Izzard and Judi Dench.

Jones’ latest project, “The Almond and the Seahorse,” also represents his directorial debut. Jones co-wrote the film with Kaite O’Reilly (whose play it is based on), about two couples dealing with traumatic brain injuries, and co-directed with Tom Stern (“Changeling”). He also stars in it alongside Charlotte Gainsbourg (“Melancholia”), Trine Dyrholm (“Queen of Hearts”), Meera Syal (“Yesterday”) and Rebel Wilson (“Pitch Perfect”). The film, which will premiere Monday evening (September 26) at the Zurich Film Festival, is also a major first for Wilson, as it marks her first appearance in a dramatic role.

Shortly before flying to Zurich, where Jones will appear in person with the cast and creative team, he sat down to talk to him Variety on adapting “The Almond and the Seahorse” from a play into a feature film, collaborating with Wilson and the Welsh production boom.

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How did this project come about?

Well, “The Almond and the Seahorse” is the name of a play written by Kate O’Reilly. I was in the original production in 2008 [at the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff, Wales] and the part [of Joe, which Jones reprises in the film] was written for me. [The play] had a great, great critical reception. And it never let go of me, the idea of ​​the audience reaction. People who laugh and cry and have this human connection and the idea of ​​the fragility of life and the robustness of life. And the idea that heartbreak and “brainbreak” are two very different things, but affect everyone. So I just wasn’t ready yet [with it]. I just thought it was a great story, great characters, I loved playing that character. And that was always in the back of my mind. It never really had its day, never really had the chance it deserved. And when I started working on this side of my career in independent film, probably about six years ago, Kate got in touch and said, “Would you like to adapt ‘The Almond and the Seahorse’ together? ” And I thought, “Yeah, I like the piece.” It was an unfinished business.

Celyn Jones (photo by Jemima Marriott courtesy of Celyn Jones)

How did Rebel get involved?

Her agent had read the script and loved it [it] and said, “What do you think of Rebel Wilson?” And I think at that point they were like, “Well, how about Rebel Wilson?” like it’s some kind of [be] to test [our reaction], but I immediately thought, “Well, I love Rebel.” l [thought] we would be great together as a couple and this character is so strong and unique that you really have to love Sarah throughout this movie because she really goes through the wringer as a character. She’s an archaeologist stuck in the past, like Charlotte Gainsbourg, an architect locked up in the house, and while Trine Dyrholm and myself are characters who have suffered traumatic brain injuries. But the thrust of the story is about the people who don’t have it and how they survive. It’s the aftermath of it. We look at the people without the condition and how to put their lives together like broken pieces of a vase. So the idea that Rebel came to this movie was like, people immediately love her and support her as a person. So that character would be as abrasive, as lighthearted, so despondent, you know, so kind, so caring, as funny as Rebel – like we – wanted to be because we were with her.

She read it and two days later she was in. Suddenly Rebel Wilson is in a movie opposite Charlotte Gainsbourg. It’s like a couple that no one knew they wanted until they saw it.

What do you think of the film premiere in Zurich?

Well, I think it’s out of my hands, you know. I’ve been in movies that have burst into festivals and walked out. And I’ve been in movies stumbling to festivals and running out, you can’t control it. You just want people to enjoy it, you want a good home and you want the public to enjoy it. Critical response, who knows, but the work is authentic and it’s committed and these actors have never been in the same kind of movie.

Am I nervous? I guess I just can’t control it. I just want people to enjoy it. A lot of people have worked very, very hard to get it there. It should be a moment of celebration and joy and the rest is up to the universe. But the film is a good cry, a healthy cry. And I think the story has had a satisfying ending.

And like I said, I think the world will see Rebel in a way they’ve never seen her before and supported by Trine and Charlotte, extraordinary actresses.

Part of “The Almond and the Seahorse” was shot in Wrexham, Wales. Between the recordings of ‘His Dark Materials’, ‘Doctor Who’ and Ryan Reynolds’ ‘Welcome to Wrexham’ in Wales, it seems that the country is experiencing a significant increase in production.

Yes, I am an ambassador for the charity Into Film and my joke is that future generations will say – where they used to say: “You will work in the [coal] mines” – they will [now] say, “I’m going to work in the studios.” But I love that it’s a viable industry and that’s something that I’m very, very passionate about, that it’s a thriving and viable industry with a lot of jobs and opportunities for people. “Set Fire to the Stars” we made for half a million pounds [$546,000] in Swansea with Elijah Wood and it was just the beginning of this kind [renaissance of Welsh production] and since then all these amazing things have happened in Wales. Obviously “Doctor Who” was the big kicker for the world stage, take note [of] things happen in Wales.

But from our point of view as a production company, I think it’s great that we’ve brought Elijah Wood to Swansea and Judi Dench to Llanelli and Eddie Izzard to Llandudno and Rebel Wilson to Wrexham.

What would your dream project be?

I get really inspired by a lot of different things. I want to create for many different actors and tell many different kinds of stories. So I like to do something that’s aimed at the audience that’s very characterful, and with something to say at heart, but genre wise I’m open to [all of] it, and also open to actors, because I have a long list of actors in my head that I go, “I’d love to see that person in that kind of story.” Isn’t it wonderful that a blank sheet of paper can become an opportunity and jobs for people, and then that can become a movie to be enjoyed. That’s the magic for me.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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