- Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Strong play a married couple in “Armageddon Time.”
- The two revealed to Insider how the dinner scenes helped them get into character as there were no rehearsals.
- Hathaway said they had to “lean on each other, and that’s what we did.”
There was an era when a movie like “Armageddon Time” would never be attempted without the actors and director being able to congregate for weeks before cameras began rolling to rehearse the entire script.
Nowadays with the insane schedules stars have pinballing from one project to another, and living in a world with COVID, directors are lucky if they will even see their actors before the first day of shooting.
This was what “Armageddon Time” director James Gray faced when casting the parents for his coming-of-age semi-autobiographical drama that focuses on a Jewish boy named Paul (Michael Banks Repeta) and his relationship with a Black schoolmate named Johnny (Jaylin Webb) in 1980s Queens, New York.
Playing Paul’s parents, Gray hit pay dirt with the casting of Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Strong. Established stars who bring Oscar (Hathaway) and Emmy (Strong) wins along with them, the pair have the talent to deliver amazing performances without needing much prep time.
Or so you would think.
In a recent Zoom chat with Insider, both actors admitted that the biggest challenge of filming “Armageddon Time” was the lack of time to build a rapport with one another before filming began.
“This was shot during COVID, so getting a bunch of actors together in a room to work these things out, it was just a physical impossibility so we all kind of had to lean on our own craft and lean on each other, and that’s what we did,” Hathaway said.
Both actors admit it was the scenes where the family eats in the dining room that helped them structure their performances playing a married couple.
There are two scenes in the movie, which also stars Anthony Hopkins as Paul’s beloved grandfather Aaron, where the family is together at the dinner table engaged in lively conversations.
The first is a lighthearted scene where Paul doesn’t want to eat what his mother prepared so he defiantly orders Chinese food instead. Then later, while having bagels and lox, they congregate around the table for a more serious talk as grandpa Aaron reveals to Paul that he will start attending a private school like his older brother.
“It’s the tonal center of the whole piece,” Strong said of those scenes, which he recalled when reading the script were “incredibly vivid, evocative, full-throated expression of life and chaos and love and rage.”
Looking back, Hathaway said she liked that they shot the scene where Paul orders takeout first.
“I was happy we shot that boisterous one first because then you could feel the more quiet quality of the bagel scene,” she said. “The heartbreak, the tension.”
Hathaway noted that there was also pressure to get the scenes right for Gray, who had told the actors that the reason he made the movie was to show his children a Queens that no longer exists.
“He took his children back to Queens to show them his house, his life, where he grew up, and he said there’s so little evidence that these people even existed,” she said. “So all of those dinners that kind of filled up his whole childhood, it’s like they never happened. So this movie for him in many ways is a ghost story.”
“Those scenes were wonderful scenes and tightropes to walk,” Strong said.
“It was this amazing balancing act and somehow we pulled it off,” Hathaway added.
“Armageddon Time” is currently in limited release and will expand nationwide on November 4.