In anticipation of the live-streamed movie Lost in London, we spoke to actress Eleanor Matsuura of Cuffs, Spooks and the forthcoming Wonder Woman about the unusual project, her hopes and fears, and what it's like working with Woody Harrelson.
In an age where live-streaming is the new social media fad to take hold, is it really a surprise that we are soon to have the first ever live-streamed feature movie? Woody Harrelson is attempting to do just that this Thursday; a bold experiment in film making, he has produced, written and will be directing Lost in London, a semi-biographical account of an incident that landed him in a police cell on a wild night a few years ago. To be shot in one take over 14 locations and 100 minutes, the film will be live-streamed to cinemas around the U.S. and London's Picturehouse central.
Eleanor Matsuura, who plays Woody's wife in the film, took time out of the tough schedule to speak to us about the project and the task ahead. Trying to adjust her body clock after a series of 12-hour night rehearsals, she is clearly in the midst of an event that has consumed much of her energy. "I'm so in the eye of the storm at the moment, it's really hard to get any sort of sense of what it is yet – it's a bit like a dream at the moment. There's a very frenetic and energetic story to the story Woody has written anyway; to film this live just makes sense, it kind of feeds into that energy and helps the story," the actress muses. "It doesn't help our nerves so much, though! It's really weird; we're completely hyper, because we're shooting in the middle of the night."
Indeed, it might feel dreamlike and intense, but the concept itself is a very risky one, where one mistake could lead to the collapse of the entire film. This isn't lost on the film's leading lady: "It's the most insane thing I've ever done, work-wise. It's incredibly exciting, the fact that we're shooting it in one take, with one camera, and that it's live. It feels like the best kind of theatre meets the best kind of film. We're smashing those two things together, in a way that I've certainly never experienced before." Matsuura continues, "We've been talking about it a lot on set, how different it is and what that feels like. We're rehearsing it like a play, going through it scene by scene; you don't get that time when you're doing a film, normally. The end product is all about the camera and the timings. It becomes very technical, more accurate, which you do expect from film – a more considered, measured kind of work. It's been a crazy combination of those two things, but in a really cool way."
The schedule isn't one to joke about, either. "We're on such a tight time limit in terms of getting the film all done, hitting our locations at the right point, keeping it at a good time for a movie; you don't want too bore people." No pressure then, right? "The pressure to not be the person who drops the ball is huge!" the actress laughs. "Because it's such an unusual event, because it's live, it's part of the reason why people [will] come to see it. Not necessarily to see people make mistakes, but for those unexpected moments that you don't get when you're doing a multi-cam film, because you'd strive for a much more polished, much more perfect product. But I think that's part of the charm we're going for."
It feels like the best kind of theatre meets the best kind of film
The excitement that Eleanor has for the project is infectious. She recalls her ambition to get the part, how it stood out for her, and attracted her sense of endeavour. It's plan to see that she's passionate not only about the project but also its creator, Woody Harrelson. Thankfully for her, he didn't disappoint.
"It's always a risk when you work with someone you love; I'm such an admirer of Woody Harrelson. He really walks the walk, that's how he chooses to live his life," she continues. "I think he tries to find authenticity and humour within his Hollywood bubble. It's kind of incredible that he's chosen to do a film that has so much heart, humour and real character. I think you really show your true colours in projects like this. It's well known that Woody has a lot of insane ideas and he's definitely a risk taker, but he really runs a tight ship as well; his ideas and his work ethic are some of the best I've had the privilege of working with."
What about the famous actor's directing skills, then? "I had a realisation last night," says Matsuura, earnestly. "We did a run of the film last night, and then we all got together and watched it back, which NEVER happens. You often won't see the cut of a film until months months later. We went through it, giving notes, and it occurred to me that Woody's not only the most incredible actor, and can write really funny [stories] – he's also a really good director. This whole concept comes from him and the fact that everyone's getting together, giving it their best, trying to produce their best work – it's because we've got him leading."
That doesn't mean it's all been plain sailing, though. "Films are stressful at the best of times, as are theatre rehearsal rooms; you're under time pressures and technical challenges. It's a testament to Woody that he's managing to keep his head, and is honest about sharing his fears, in a pressured situation like this. Sometimes he'll come in and say, 'I'm really feeling it today, I'm really scared about what we're trying to do,' so you feel like you're having a conversation with a fellow actor, and you can support each other in that way."
Shooting in 14 London locations over 90minutes is testing but also exciting for Eleanor, as a Londoner: "I've lived and worked here for over a decade, and it always feels special to shoot something on location here. This is my stomping ground. We're out in beautiful locations like Waterloo Bridge with the skyline and the National Theatre in the background; that's an iconic space in London, and a personal favourite of mine. I get a real buzz off that. [As for Woody's] experience, when he was here and had that insane night that inspired this project, so much of it couldn't be anywhere else. The characters that he meets along the way – which are real – they're hilarious because they're instantly recognisable. It could be the London cabbie or the fans outside, tourists running around.. you just kind of go, oh God, yeah, that's our city, he's captured it perfectly."
So, what does the actress hope for the future of the project? "If it all goes to plan, what we have is a pretty beautiful and very, very funny story." Fingers crossed that it will indeed work as planned; either way, it'll be worth watching, as it seems that entertainment is surely guaranteed.
Main image shot by Michael Shelford