One of the many things to admire about director Jason Connery’s latest work TOMMY’S HONOUR are the two young, rising stars Jack Lowden as Young Tommy Morris, one of the most influential golfers in its modern history; and Opehlia Lovibond, playing his eventual wife Meg Drinnen, who had to overcome a great deal of judgmental stigmas on her road to being a respected member of Scottish society.
Lowden was recently a part of the film A UNITED KINGDOM, and was seen in such works as ’71, PAN, DENIAL, and last year’s WAR AND PEACE miniseries. But it’s what lies ahead that is particularly exciting: a major role in Christopher Nolan’s DUNKIRK; the starring role in ENGLAND IS MINE, in which he plays young Steven Patrick Morrissey, who would later become the lead singer of The Smiths; and a part in FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY, from writer-director Stephen Merchant and co-starring Dwayne Johnson, Lena Headey, and Nick Frost. Lovibond is probably best known to as The Collector’s assistant Carina in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, as well as roles in the British comedy MAN UP, THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE, and in the current season of “Elementary.”
They were both extraordinarily fun people to talk to, and I wish we could have gone an hour. With that, please enjoy my chat with Jack Lowden and Ophelia Lovibond…
Capone: When you initially heard about this story and heard about this couple, what were the things that hooked you about them as a couple and them as individuals?
Jack Lowden: I think it was the fact that they were both individuals. They both stuck out like sore thumbs in the period they were in for different reasons. He fought against the idea of being owned by gentlemen, and she very much fought against the idea of a woman of that period as well. I think that’s why they obviously…there must have been a reason why the real pair of them hooked up.
Ophelia Lovibond: It was quite unusual. She was quite a bit older than him. That in itself, for her to be 28 and unmarried—that’s ancient for that time. And that they got married at all that in itself is already evidence of them rejecting the idea of what was proper. Individually, what attracted me to it was that you don’t see female characters, especially in that period, depicted in this way. She really was like that. There were records of her behavior. She really was known for being quite outspoken. I just found that appealing.
Capone: When we find out about her history and he just says, “I don’t care.” It’s not a whole big discussion, it’s just that—
JL: That was my idea, remember that? Remember, that wasn’t in the script. That was the very last day we shot that.
OL: Oh, yeah! And I was called in and they were like “We’ve got an extra scene,” and I was like, “Great!” And they didn’t have a costume fitter, so they just threw a shawl around me.
Capone: What was it before? Or was it nothing before?
JL: There definitely was something before that they had to cut. But Jason said yesterday he had to cut like 45 minutes in the edit.
OL: There’s so much more. There’s the bit where he buys the house, and he carries the threshold.
JL: A lot, a lot.
OL: There’s a lot about their story, which I obviously, selfishly miss. “Golf schmolf; it’s all about him and me.” But I can’t remember what was there, then it jumps to them being married, but that was really lovely. Because she goes back to Whitburn [her poverty-stricken hometown]. She goes back to the slag heaps and the other things. She’s just like “Okay, that’s what I have to do now.”
Capone: I had to actually go back and look to see when this took take place [the mid- to late 1800s], because they do seem like really progressive people. For him to say, “I don’t care” is surprising, especially in that community.
JL: What was it you found about her?
OL: She was named and shamed, which meant she was put on a chair in the middle of the congregation and she was basically slut shamed because she had a baby out of wedlock. Apparently, she did that immaculately. The was no man involved; he didn’t get named. And normally that would go on for several weeks where they would do that, and you have a huge stigma attached to you. You’re shunned by the community. They only made her do it for one week, because she was such a strident character, and they didn’t want to cow that. They didn’t want to get rid of that. She had her penance, and it was just a prayer and that was it. Where normally, it would be quite a lot more than that.
Capone: They could have banished her, right?
OL: They could have done a lot, so much more. It was recorded as her being a colorful character that they didn’t want to totally disgrace because her character curried favor, I suppose, and it’s all written down in these parish records—her character, what she did and the way that she atoned for her sin. But her attitude, she never apologized. She refused to apologize. It said she refused to apologize because she wouldn’t be made to feel ashamed for her choices, which was hugely progressive for that time.
Capone: I know there’s a lot written about Tommy, but was there much research you could do just into her history?
OL: There was some. There wasn’t an enormous amount. Once they were married as well, there were comments about the way that they conducted themselves. They were very loving in public and they were friends. They were partners in crime. He didn’t treat her as property, which technically she was at that time. It was worthy of remark that they showed affection. But there wasn’t masses about her.
Capone: One thing I realize as I watch it is you’re not only playing these characters over the course of a few years, but you’re playing them over different economic stations in their lives. They could have been very posh about it all, but they seem pretty down to earth the whole time. Even though the church seemed to think they were too big for their britches. Was there an adjustment you had to make playing them as rich people verses playing them as poor and in love?
JL: To do them credit, it never crossed my mind when we were doing the scenes where suddenly they had money that it would change them in any way. I actually think it comes across as they don’t particularly care. I think the excitement is there, first of all. They seem to get over it quite quickly. It really is between the two of them, first and foremost, they want to be together. You can say that about any film where two people fall in love, but for them, it really is about that. It’s more about the people around them when they get money. It’s what people think of them, and all that crap, which was quite a prominent thing especially at that time in Scotland—someone raising themselves above their station. It’s almost this inverted snobbery. It was quite a big thing. It’s still a big thing, not only in Scotland, but just in the UK in general.
OL: The class thing is still so rife.
JL: It’s not really disappearing in the UK.
Capone: I feel like every movie I see out of the UK, there’s an element about class distinctions. You can’t get away from it.
OL: It’s there all the time. When would we ever get a Scottish Prime Minister? It just wouldn’t happen. It’s still very much entrenched in the culture.
JL: We’re not really good at tackling it that head on either. We’re getting better in the arts in the UK certainly with other issues to do with parts for women and race and things. We are getting a lot better.
OL: The class thing, since local funding has been cut, people are speaking about it a lot saying—the Oliviers of the day—were all talking about “We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for all of those free drama clubs,” and now people don’t have that. It’s starting to be talked about due to the erosion of it.
Capone: Never having been to Scotland, I always have imagined that there’s a statue of Peter Mullan on every street corner. What do you learn from him both as an actor and as a person from spending that much time in his presence?
OL: There should be a statue to him. I really loved how he never lost the sense of fun with it. He would be chatting, chatting, chatting, and as soon as they shout action, he’s straight into character.
JL: It didn’t seem like work. It never seemed like he was at work.
OL: He never lost that sense of having fun with it and playing. It’s quite infectious.
JL: He was a hero of mine, and I’d never met him. Of course, most of the stuff he does on screen, he comes across as quite terrifying. He honestly is the polar opposite. He’s forever cracking jokes and telling stories.
OL: He’s always telling stories. He has so many stories up his sleeves.
JL: Oh my god. Unbelievable. ADs are jumping about trying to get him to get on his mark because he’s halfway through a story, and they’re so engrossed in it and everybody is just sort of drawn in.
OL: And they call action and he’s fine and you’re like “But, ah…” Then they’ll shout cut and he’ll say, “And then she said…” And he’ll continue straight on where he left off.
Capone: Do you ache for the day when it’s that easy for you?
JL: Of course! That’s all I want to do [laughs].
OL: The Mullan gene.
JL: I have asked him multiple times between takes, “Has it always been this easy for you?” And he’ll tell you that it hasn’t and he’s grown though everything he’s done.
OL: And he didn’t overthink anything. He’d do one or two takes and he was fine with that and happy to move on.