Not a lot of actors have a background in film academia. Sarah Gadon does. She completed her Cinema Studies Master’s at the University of Toronto last year, and she admits to just finally getting around to watching “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” from French New Wave god Jacques Demy.
“I’m having a real Catherine Deneuve moment,” Gadon tells us. Of more recent fare, she recommends “James White” and the Hassidic-centered “Felix and Meira,” both in part because of the excellent cinematography. Her new film, “A Royal Night Out,” has excellent cinematography too, she points out, though she wishes it could have been shot on film, especially because it’s set in 1945.
“It’s tough to do period on digital, because it’s not film. We’re used to seeing that era shot on film,’” she says. Of course, digital can now sometimes pass for film, though not always. “When you shoot things in super-wide deep focus, it still looks really odd. That’s why a lot of period films shot digitally tend to look the same.”
“A Royal Night Out” is, on the surface, slightly fluffier fare than Gadon is used to, considering her CV includes Denis Villeneuve’s “Enemy,” three with David Cronenberg (“A Dangerous Method,” “Cosmopolis” and “Maps to the Stars”) and one (“Antiviral”) with Cronenberg’s son, Brandon. “A Royal Night Out” tells a fictitious account of a true tall tale: when then-Princess Elizabeth (played by Gadon) and Margaret (Bel Powley) were allowed out of the Royal Palace to celebrate V.E. Day. It shows a fictionalized version of how they slipped incognito into the partying masses.
“When I was doing my degree I was so dogmatic about working with auteur filmmakers,” Gadon recalls. When she went to Cannes with ‘Cosmopolis’ and ‘Antiviral,’ she brought her mom. “She turned to me and said, ‘You should really make a movie that I would enjoy watching.’” It’s why she did “Belle,” about the mixed-race member of an 18th century aristocratic English family. And it was a big reason she did “A Royal Night Out” as well.
The other big reason is her lineage. Her dad’s side of the family is British and her grandparents met during World War II, when she was in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and he in the British Royal Navy. They were even in Trafalgar Square on V.E. Night. Though they never spoke to her about the war, Gadon describes her work in the film as a love letter to them.