“I’m currently two weeks into a shoot for a ten-part series on AMC about a doomed voyage to find the North West passage in 1847… It’s called The Terror, Harris tells us when we caught up with him recently.
In Allied Harris plays a professional soldier, Frank Heslop, who is both friend and commander to Canadian Airman Max Vatan (Brad Pitt). Heslop is tasked with overseeing Vatan’s mission to investigate Marianne (Marion Cotillard) whom British intelligence suspect is a German spy. She also happens to be the woman Max loves and is married to.
The majority of the film takes place in the Blitz-ravaged streets of 1942 London. We asked Harris what it was like working in such a setting and location.
“That’s the fun part of the job. There are these giant, detailed toys. It makes it a very visceral experience.”
Harris is currently the fan favourite to portray Dumbledore in the sequels to Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, his father Richard Harris played the character in the first two Harry Potter films before Michael Gambon took over the role from Prisoner Of Azkaban onwards.
The Sherlock Holmes star has remained non-commital about the prospect of following in his father’s footsteps, even pointing out that fan choices rarely end up playing the part in movie franchises, and his response to our question about working with practical effects also implies a hesitation in signing up to an effects-heavy franchise like Fantastic Beasts.
“Thank god we had real effects on Allied because you don’t get much from that [computer effects]. I haven’t done one of those, but having watched them there is a weird dislocation between the actor and the environment, and if you really watch it closely you can tell. Quite often you get two actors in the same scene but they aren’t quite looking in the same place because there is nothing there to refer to.” Harris says.
Speaking of his character in Robert Zemeckis’ latest film, Harris told us how Frank goes beyond the call of duty to try and help his friend.
“He shows up at the party in the movie and tells Max what he knows. That is him in the firing line. He would be pulled in for aiding and abetting. You are still trying to win the war, and it’s a war of survival. If the Nazis had invaded we would be singing a very different tune. He then has decisions to make that he knows won’t help his friend, but are crucial to the cause. There were a few scenes that didn’t make it into the final version of the film that go into that. There was a mention of how they were in the field together and knew one another before hand.”
Harris was recently seen in The Crown on Netflix. We asked him about his extensive work on TV, but the actor was keen to point out that his work on the small screen is actually a recent direction he has taken.
“I didn’t do much at all actually. The first contract I signed was for Mad Men. I exclusively did films for a long time. I didn’t need to sign up, I was young and wanted to do independent films and off-Broadway stuff. If the thing is a hit you sign your life away. Having said that I absolutely loved my time on The Crown. Working with Stephen Daldry is the best experience I’ve had with a director alongside things I’ve done with David Fincher and Steven Spielberg. He is up there with the greats and as an actor I’ve never had a better experience.”
Allied is on general release now