Haley Bennett spoke with Solzy at the Movies about starring in Cyrano, filming during a pandemic, and having to sing live on set.
Following an Oscar-qualifying run in December, Cyrano is finally opening in wide release this weekend.
What was it about the script that initially attracted you to the stage musical?
Haley Bennett: The first thing that attracted me to the stage musical was my feelings of unworthiness. I’d never done theater before and I had a strong desire to get involved in the theatre community in New York. I was living in New York at the time. I asked my agent if he could think of me if there were any opportunities to bring someone their coffee. (Laughs) I didn’t care what it was. He called me the next day and he said, “I have a reading for you to go to. It’s for Cyrano. Peter Dinklage is playing Cyrano and The National is doing the music.” At that point, I was like, Oh, no, I actually have this opportunity. Do I want it? Maybe I shouldn’t go. Maybe, I’m not fit for the stage. But it was just a reading so I was like, Alright, well, how bad can it be. I’ll just go put on a fencing costume to play Roxanne. I was like, Alright, I’m going. Full charge. I’m gonna put my fears aside and see what happens. And here we are.
When it came to reprising the role for the screen—with stage musicals, you all have the audience there. With the pandemic impacting how many people can be on set, what was the vibe like with reprising the role on screen?
Haley Bennett: We had to adhere to a lot of different restrictions and stipulations. At one point, we were told that we needed to have Plexiglas between us so that everyone singing—because apparently COVID is more infectious when you’re projecting. We were told that we would need to sing with Plexiglas between us. We’re like, oh, no, well, that won’t work. Especially what we were trying to achieve with the intimacy that we wanted to create, that would be just totally rubbish, that wouldn’t work. Inevitably, we didn’t have to use the Plexiglas.
Part of me is like, did they have Plexiglas back then?
Haley Bennett: They would have had to take it out in post but it would have been really, really awkward for the actors. (Laughs)
I’m sure. With live singing on set, how nervous or terrified were you?
Haley Bennett: Well, none of us are singers. Neither Pete, Kelvin, or I are singers. We weren’t trying to achieve a Broadway-type quality of singing. The fact that there was room for quirks and flaws—we were liberated because we were allowed to make mistakes, and we were allowed to sound human. I think, is the beauty of the piece.
What do you typically look for in a character when you’re reading a screenplay?
Haley Bennett: Many different things. I always want to work with someone that I respect, admire. Screenplay characters, obviously very important to me. I want to feel the sense of curiosity when I’m thinking about a role.
When you saw the film at Telluride for the first time, what was your initial reaction?
Haley Bennett: Well, I was nervous. I sat down and watched the film with an audience. It was such a moving experience to feel the humanity in the room. And then, when I went to the bathroom after the screening, all of the women in the bathroom—we all stand in lines and wait to go pee—all of the women had mascara down their faces and were weeping. That was really special.
What do you hope audiences takeaway from watching the film?
Haley Bennett: It’s a love letter to love. I hope that they will be transported and they will fall in love.
MGM will release Cyrano in theaters on February 25, 2022.
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