Benediction star Jack Lowden says ‘tapping into the insecurity that we all have as actors’ helped him portray Siegfried Sassoon.
Directed by Terence Davies, Benediction follows and recounts the life of the legendary war poet, known infamously for the letter he wrote upon his return to England after fighting in the First World War, stating that he believed “the war is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it”.
Following his recovery in England, the film explores his complex relationships with his homosexuality, as well as trying to find salvation within the conformity of marriage and religion.
A moving feature, Benediction lands itself in the queer library of powerful performances showing us what life was like for so many who are sadly no longer here.
Originally planned to film in March 2020 before the pandemic cut filming short, Lowden stars as Sassoon in a role that shows him exploring the poets struggle with his own sexuality, as well as conforming to life once returning to England after his traumatic efforts on the Western Front.
Starring the likes of Jeremy Irvine as Ivor Novello, Peter Capaldi as a look at Sassoon in his later years and Calam Lynch as a fellow outrageous socialite of the time, Benediction certainly delivers the camp. Rather than focusing just on Sassoon’s sexuality, the film depicts many layers of his struggle to re-emerge into life.
Speaking with GAY TIMES, Lowden reveals how he tapped into such an infamous and well known creative of our time.
“My way into him was through regret because I’ve got a hell of a lot of that already. That’s the way to get into Sassoon and that was what Terence Davies put on the page… This man that was full of regret,” he explains.
“He existed in some of the most brilliant circles of people that have ever existed. I mean, everybody from Lawrence of Arabia to Ivor Novello, you know? The man must have been racked with insecurities to go home after a cocktail party with those people being there.”
The Scottish actor adds: “That was another thing that I could sort of really tap into was that insecurity that we all have as actors of suddenly, you’re in a film with someone that you’ve adored or someone that you think is brilliant.”
Preparations for shooting the film moved ahead in 2019 with a view to begin shooting on March 23rd 2020, a date that is now undeniably tied to the beginning of the first national lockdown.
Lowden explains how he was able to find the light in the shade of the worrying moment.
“I had to get a perm done for the role, so I got a perm done at Pinewood Studios and whilst I was having it done, we had Boris Johnson on my phone screen making the announcement about the fact that we were all going to get locked down,” he says.
“There wasn’t any wave in my hair because of course we went into lockdown and I didn’t have a stylist to put the wave in, so I just had a really tight microphone style perm. I was probably one of the few people whose first experience of lockdown was with a perm that you didn’t need. I did grow to love my perm.”
Growing up in Galla Shields on the Scottish Borders, Lowden shares with GAY TIMES how growing up in a rural area doesn’t necessarily mean that there are less opportunities to enjoy what you love doing, which in his case was theatre.
“From the age of 13/14 I was in one [Musical Theatre Company] in Galla Shields, and we did everything. Annie, High Society, Anything Goes, I did them all and I did them with my four best mates. We were literally like The Inbetweeners. They came with me because they loved it,” he tells us.
“I was playing football once and I was being marked by someone who kept making derogatory comments about the fact that I was in a musical theatre company, but that’s the only one moment I can remember.
“We just loved it. It seemed perfectly normal, the idea that I wanted to become an actor and my brother wanted to become a ballet dancer.”
The film, which is out now in UK cinemas, also includes words from notable war poets such as Wilfred Owen, showcasing Owen and Sassoon’s friendship during their time back in England.
Benediction screened at the Toronto film festival, and released 20 May in cinemas in the UK.