On digital download now, and coming to DVD and Blu-ray from 7th August, is the powerful and gripping action-packed drama, The Ottoman Lieutenant. The film features an all-star cast including Academy Award® winner Ben Kingsley (Gandhi, Schindler’s List), Josh Hartnett (Black Hawk Down, Penny Dreadful), Michiel Huisman (Game of Thrones, The Age of Adaline) and Hera Hilmar (Anna Karenina, Davinci’s Demons).
The Ottoman Lieutenant tells the wartime story of a strong-willed woman Lillie (Hera Hilmar) who leaves the United States after meeting Jude (Josh Hartnett) an American doctor who runs a remote medical mission within the exotic Ottoman Empire. There, she finds her loyalty tested to both Jude and the mission’s sagacious founder (Ben Kingsley) when she falls in love with Ismail (Michiel Huisman), a Lieutenant in the Ottoman Imperial Army. Set among the backdrop of World War 1 and tied together with epic battles and mind-blowing fight sequences, Lillie must decide if she wants to be what other people want her to be, or to be herself.
We caught up with Sir Ben Kingsley to talk about the film.
Q: Can you describe the dynamic between your character (Woodruff) and Khalil Bey?
I saw Haluk Bilinger (Khalil Bey) in a film recently, and I loved his performance. It’s an example of our director (Joseph Rueben) really choosing a strong team. It brings me back to the narrative function of each actor on the set. And his narrative function is to bring an utterly unquestionable authority to his role. There was occasion for us as takers of the Hippocratic Oath, to say that his authority doesn’t hold sway in this context. In the story, it’s really two authorities meeting each other.
Q: What is your character’s role in the film?
The essential key to performance is to appreciate why you are in the story. The rest, oddly enough, will come second. My role in this film is very simple. By simple, I mean it’s a small target, meaning it’s hard to hit. In the process of filmmaking and meeting, and working with our leading lady, Hera Hilmar (Lillie), I had to understand how to enhance her character’s journey. It’s no good by trying to get the audience to like her by sentimentalizing your role. What you have to do in her journey is to give her hurtle after hurtle to overcome. Then you have the growth of a character that’s worth watching, so that was my gift to her as a colleague, and in my performance to bring to her an unchallengeable despair and grief. The more I can focus on my character’s losses, addictions, and anaesthesia of the soul, the more the audience can see Hara will never get past Woodruff and prove to him that she’s a hero. So that’s why my character exists. My character is immovable and very set in his ways. Overcome by alcoholism and drug addiction, he is dedicated not to remember how beautiful life was. However, Lillie reminds of that by saving his life.
Q: Describe your experience on set working with the cast?
I work a lot with first time actors. And it’s really good to be in the company of those who are certain not taking their first steps, but taking steps along a journey of which they are approaching with great intelligence and dedication. It’s a great pleasure to be in the company of Hara (Lillie), who is very focused and concentrated and a good colleague. I just learn my lines. You never know how the scene is going to go until you meet with your fellow actor. And then the chemistry emerges. And you think, what can I bring to this performance to make them look good and serve their journey. So, that’s how I work.
Q: What was it like working with Joseph Rueben (director)?
I had never worked with Rueben before. He has a good energy and his ego is in the right place, in that he’s not as interested in power as much as he is interested his in filmmaking. Joe trusts his actors. I think a good film set democratizes those who are inhabited, so that we collaborate well, and I think creatively, under the directorship of Joe. A good director will give the impression, whether he/she’s aware of it or not, that he/she knows the name of every person on crew; that there is a vested interest in every member of the crew, and a common interest in making the film run. And Joe does just that.
The Ottoman Lieutenant is available now on Digital Download and DVD and Blu-ray from 7 August.