Three Men and a Babe

GQ (UK), 1995                     Photos
By Susannah Frankel

"Emma's a tremendously good kisser" gushes actor Sam West. "Intimate love scenes are very difficult if you don't like, the person, but having lusty thoughts lying around on top of Emma Thompson... That's not difficult, that's divine."

GQ is on the set of 'Carrington', the latest in a long line of classic English period pieces. All the credentials for a marvellously literate, dusty costume drama are in place: Christopher Hampton (who scripted 'Dangerous Liaisons') writing and directing; Thompson and Jonathan Pryce in the lead roles; and West, Steven Waddington and Rufus Sewell, three of the most prestigious up-and-coming English actors, playing Thompson's lovers. Pryce and Hampton won two awards - the only British awards - at Cannes this year. The story - based on the bizarre relationship between homosexual society wit Lytton Strachey (Pryce) and painter Dora Carrington (Thompson), the Odd Couple of the Bloomsbury set - also seems perfect fodder for the type of cerebral study of English manners that US film distributors would kill for.

But today, West is rushing around his trailer in between takes clutching a bottle of Listerine and a toothbrush. Waddington, meanwhile, is reduced to an emotional wreck by the very thought of his own love scene with the actress. "It's a very short scene. Story of my life," he says, blushing furiously.

That Thompson can have this impact is all the more remarkable considering Carrington was ultimately a rather dowdy, sexless woman. A promising artist and endearingly eccentric with it, she had handsome young blades queuing up for her affections nonetheless, which is where West, Waddington and Sewell come in.

While her suitors came and went, each contributing something different to the peculiar Carrington/Strachey menage, their platonic relationship ultimately overshadowed everything else. It is the intricacies of their friendship that constitutes the most compelling part of the film. "Carrington was in love with Lytton but she was also a little bit in love with all the things her other boyfriends represented," West says.

Like their characters in the film, West, Waddington and Sewell all embody different aspects of the quintessential English love interest. West, son of Timothy West and Prunella Scales and chiefly known for his lead role in Merchant Ivory's 'Howard's End', is the archetypal sensitive, idealistic writer; Waddington, whose most auspicious roles to date were in 'Last of the Mohicans' and Derek Jarman's 'Edward II', is the perfect dashing military gentleman. Sewell, meanwhile, who became the thinking woman's heartthrob overnight as Will Ladislaw in the BBC adaptation of George Eliot's 'Middlemarch', couldn't be better as the tortured, passionate artist.

Waddington thinks that anyone expecting a prissy Merchant-Ivory-type production is likely to be disappointed. "There are similarities," he says, "but Merchant Ivory films don't go to the extremes that this one does. This is a much darker film. I think people will be quite shocked by it." 'Carrington' is ultimately quite unsettling - the main characters are, without exception, profoundly troubled; the conclusion painful and sad.

At the end of the day, talk inevitably drifts back to Emma Thompson. "It's just been great working with Emma." sighs Waddington. "She leads the whole cast."

Right on cue, the lady herself bursts through the trailer door. "I'm so sorry," she gasps, glowing with excitement. "I didn't realise you were busy. I was wondering whether, well, whether you wanted to play Frisbee actually... "

Back to Articles Listing | Back to