Glass talks to Tom Bateman



Glass talks to Tom Bateman about his Disney venture Death on The Nile, his relationship with Kenneth Branagh and the importance of connectivity post-lockdown

 Tom Bateman is a handsome man. What’s not evident to the naked eye is his emotional intelligence. He tugs at the heart and has a resume which attests to that.  His latest outing sees him starring in Disney’s upcoming sequel from Murder on The Orient Express, Death on The Nile. Starring opposite an array of extraordinary talent, ranging from Gal Gadot to Armie Hammer, and orchestrated to perfection by Kenneth Branagh, the Disney blockbuster is set to hit cinemas in early December.

tom bateman issue 44Tom Bateman. Photograph: Adam Whitehead

Bateman’s done it all. From the silver screen to the West End – nothing seems to hold him back. The 32-year-old actor from Oxford studied drama at the London Academy of Dramatic Arts where he appeared in a production of Much Ado About Nothing alongside Catherine Tate and David Tennant. From there, he joined Kenneth Branagh’s company and kick-started his career sharing the stage with Judi Dench in A Winter’s Tale.

Rumour has it that a potential 007 role may one day be on the cards. For now, he’s starred in Snatched as Amy Schumer’s love interest, played a charming Rawdon Crawley in Vanity Fair and trod the boards in Shakespeare in Love in the West End – to name just a few.

tom bateman issue 44

Tom Bateman. Photograph: Adam Whitehead

In Death on The Nile, he takes on the role of Buoc – the only character that was written exclusively for the franchise and doesn’t exist in the Agatha Christie books. In the film, he has a close relationship with mustachioed sleuth Hercule Poirot and is not complicit in the murder in the first film. But Death on The Nile also sees Bateman take on a slightly meatier role.

“I’ve got my own storyline going on now,” he explains.  “He’s grown up a bit more and he’s still at a nice turning point in his life. He wants to change because he’s fallen in love, but things are not easy. He’s got his struggles, but he’s not the complete buffoon that we met in the first film.”

tom bateman issue 44Tom Bateman. Photograph: Adam Whitehead

Was love the catalyst for Buoc’s development? “That’s the jumping point I took,” he acknowledges. “Lacking emotional depth can deplete people of empathy and it’s evident in Buoc in Murder On The Orient Express. “If you’re only interested in yourself, there is no growth, and there is no depth.

But to love another person is to go outside of yourself. He wants to be a better person and he’s never in his life had a reason to be a better person. But in falling in love with Letitia’s [Wright] character, Rosalie, not only did he think ‘I want to be a better person’ but there was someone who said ‘you can be a better person, I believe it, I see it in you’.”

His relationship with Kenneth Branagh started at the Garrick Theatre and now continues on the silver screen. Their ongoing collaboration and friendship have made Bateman more attuned to Branagh’s “military-style” way of directing and approaching productions.

“When I first met him, I almost couldn’t ignore the fact that it’s Kenneth Branagh.  That doesn’t go away. He’s still an incredibly impressive person with a ton of energy. As you get to know him, you see the person behind it and you respect it more,” states Bateman with absolute honesty in his voice.

tom bateman issue 44

Tom Bateman. Photograph: Adam Whitehead

It’s after all connectivity, friendships and partnerships that can enhance creativity, expanding to new and unknown territories. That plus a level of trust that can only be achieved if time leaves an imprint. With Branagh, Bateman has learned how genuine hard work can push an artist forward if the right sentiments lie behind it. What’s the key element that he takes away from Branagh, though?

“Preparation. I’ve always been very prepared, but he works harder than anyone I’ve ever met. He’s so involved and passionate about everything. The first time we ever worked together, on The Winter’s Tale, he said on the second day that we’re going to run [through] the play. So, you had to have your lines learned on the second day of a Shakespeare tragedy.

“He was playing the lead character in it, and he knew all of his lines so none of us could say ‘Sorry I don’t know that line’ because he’s got 10 times more than all of us. It’s about leading from the front energy, his preparation, his work, and his fun as well.”

tom bateman issue 44Tom Bateman. Photograph: Adam Whitehead

As the lockdown sent the worldwide entertainment industry into a standstill for the first time since the Second World War, Bateman ponders on the importance of having a chance to reset and recharge. “When lockdown happened, I found it very difficult. I meditate a lot. I find it very challenging, but it has helped in thinking to myself – you are not only one thing – which is someone who acts, but you are also a human being.

“There’s other stuff inside you like thoughts and ideas and sitting in a garden and witnessing the world happening around you is a wonderful blessing.”

It’s essential to take a step back and reflect over the past year and how it’s changed the way that we communicate, connect, do our jobs and adapt to what is now referred to as the new normal, he adds.  “I have a real dislike, or a recoil reflex, towards things like social media and phones. I hate my mobile phone. We, as human beings, are communal animals who connect and create. How do we conquer this planet? It’s because of our ability to communicate, so it’s a vital part of our being, our core.”

tom bateman issue 44Tom Bateman. Photograph: Adam Whitehead

What’s Bateman’s take on connectivity now that we are in lockdown two? “Similar to this interview, doing it in person is out of our control, but it would have been wonderful to be in your physical company. I was reading this article about how we take in another person. The problem with Zoom is that you become this tiny thing on a 2D-screen with a tiny voice coming out, and that’s not you as a person.

“If I were to sit with you, your actual body would vibrate as you’d speak, you’d give off heat and smells, you’re a 3D-person.

“Through lockdown, I think everyone has thought a lot about what connectivity is,” the actor reflects, adding, “If and when a cure is found, and people can start moving around and communicating, I hope we put our phones away a bit more. If you haven’t seen a person for weeks and months, and they are in front of you, don’t get out your phone. You’ve spent eight, nine, ten months with that.”

by Adina Ilie

Photography assistant CONOR CLARKE
Retouching ART POST


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