Home » Interviews » Exclusive Interview: Ed Westwick Shares All on Latest Film ‘Enemy Lines’

Exclusive Interview: Ed Westwick Shares All on Latest Film ‘Enemy Lines’

by Kat Hughes

Signature Entertainment

Known to most for his portrayal of the dastardly dashing Chuck Bass in Gossip Girl, actor Ed Westwick heads up this week’s new film release Enemy Lines. The film unfolds during WWII and follows Westwick’s American Major Kaminski and a group of British troops as they embark on a deadly mission – extract a rocket scientist being kept prisoner by the Nazis. Based on a series of real-life missions, the film shines a light on some of the traumas that these men endured to keep our world free. The release is also perfectly timed to coincide with the 75th Anniversary of VE Day, and makes for a nice escape from our current climate.

We were lucky enough to get the opportunity to speak with Westwick about the film. When we caught up with him, he, like the rest of us, was locked down in his London home, doing his part to support our NHS. He was in high spirits and spoke very highly of his appreciation for not only the real-life heroes that formed the inspiration for Enemy Lines, but also those working tirelessly on the front-line. Here’s what he had to say about making a war movie, playing the hero, his directorial debut, and of course, those Gossip Girl rumours.

How did you get involved with Enemy Lines, and what made you want to do it?

If I had to rate one of my top films it would definitely be Saving Private Ryan. One of the eras and theatres within which I find most interesting (and I know I’m not a rarity there) is World War II. There’s just so many different stories, so many different angles of that conflict. It’s a while back… but it doesn’t feel long ago. We still have a connection to that generation. I was very interested in those things and wanted to make a film, tell a story, play a character, in that time. My manager gave me the script, she had worked with and was friends with the producer, Andy Thompson, and he wanted me to read it and see what I thought.

I read it and was really really into the story and thought that there were a couple of things that I’d love to enhance about it and chat about, and they were willing to take on my input and have a creative conversation with me, which was great. I instantly felt like I could be part of a team that wanted to collaborate, and a team who wanted to work together. It all came together and we flew out to Belarus, and went about making this film. I had a great experience. The crew out there, the film community out there – I didn’t know this – but if you’re not going to go and spend 100 million shooting in England or the USA for a WWII thing, well Belarus is the next best. They’re the experts on it. It was great to see them at work and see how they did it, and I just had a great time doing it.

Kaminski is rather different to some of your more famous roles, was it nice to play a real-life hero for a change?

That’s one of the most appealing things, I’m glad you touched on that. He’s a good guy. There doesn’t seem to be any bad streak in him. I’ve played the villain countless times, I mean whether or not they’re actually villains is a whole existential debate, but definitely the bad guy, the bad boy, I’ve played those. So for me to play a role where this guy was just a strong good man was very very appealing. I really really enjoyed that and that’s something I’d like to explore more, definitely. There’s only so many times one can wear the same face and play the bad boy you know.

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One of the things that really hit home was that men like Kaminski and his team would do these massive acts of heroism, and because of the nature of the operations and secrecy etc. they wouldn’t know if what they had done worked. Here, Kaminski doesn’t get to know the fate of his charge. 

Do you know what, that’s really interesting. I don’t know if I thought about that in the moment when I was filming that scene. I thought I just filmed it from the position that he’d been through this physical trauma and emotional trauma, and that’s where I was from an acting point of view. But now that you mention that – I probably should have thought that thought – but you’re exactly right, there is no closure for these people. Same as anyone that’s been through a trauma, there’s no closure. When did this closure come? Did it come when the war ended? They weren’t the people that closed the door on the war you know, but it’s a very interesting thing, and must have been an incredibly difficult experience.

Obviously you hear stories about people traumatised from war, having nightmares and some people taking their own lives. I wonder to what extent if we were to have fast forwarded and were telling the Kaminski story, of him as a man back in America in the 1960’s and ’70’s, what kind of a person would he have been? I think it’s a massive, very interesting, potentially upsetting, exploration of  a human mind, one that’s been through war. What it does to you later in life. I thought he was a very interesting character, we only got a snapshot of him. It’d be great to explore that character even more.

War movies have been around forever and still seem to be going strong, what do you think it is about them that audiences find so appealing? 

I think because often you get a definitive good versus evil. People can pick a side, you’ve got a clear narrative and objective. I think it’s that there’s so much at stake during these stories. People can get gripped by that.

So many people do go to war. Sadly, unfortunately, so many people are impacted by war. This [WWII] was a war that’s not too much in the past and so you’re able to, from watching a film like this, you’re able to be in those lives from a safe distance and still, hopefully, feel the emotional connection through the story, through the performances, but still be safe and sound.

Something like WWII…I mean the level of catastrophe it was, I think people are just intrigued as to how a society, not to far away in the past, that walks and talks like we do, how could they ended up in this world wide battle. How can a man so evil as Adolf Hitler have the reign of power to the extent he had over a country like Germany, which is a great place and the people are great. How did these things happen? How does mass manipulation on a nationwide or international scale happen? I think we then look to our own generation and draw comparisons with other figures that might be out there, or other situations that go on in society these days. I don’t know, I think we’re always constantly looking to the past to compare to now. That’s what we do as humans right? I think it’s all of those different things, it’s fascinating.

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You’re English, playing an American, surrounded by other British actors. Was it tough keeping the accent going?

I got such good practice in on Gossip Girl, you’ve just got to get focused and get in the zone and go for it. It wasn’t massively distracting, but there certainly weren’t any American accents around to – almost listening to a song to make sure you’re hitting the notes – so it was a little bit more challenging, but I prepared, as I always do, and I gave it my best shot. Hopefully it’s alright. I’ve seen the movie twice and I can’t really hear my English come out, so I hope it’s alright.

You’ve recently made the transition behind the camera, is this an area you see yourself moving into?

Oh absolutely! I’d love to direct a full feature film. I just directed a short film, Tether, which I co-wrote and I act in it as well. It wasn’t originally my plan to act in it, but then my manager persuaded me to act in it because she said, ‘you know you want people to actually watch it’ (laughs) ‘so you should act in it’. I took this endeavour and had an amazing experience and had lots of fun doing it. It felt really quite natural. I’ve worked with some pretty fantastic directors, Oscar winners, and I’ve been on the other end of that as well so I feel that I had a good pool of experience to use and a lot of stuff I’ve picked up over the years from being in front of the camera came in handy. I had a great team around me and I loved the experience.

We were going to the film festivals, we got Mammoth International Film Festival in, which was very cool, but then Covid-19 happened and shut everything down. So the others we haven’t been able to get to, but hopefully they pick back up at some point. Regardless, we just had a great time doing it and I would absolutely, definitely love to direct a full feature. I think I probably wouldn’t act in that one because it’s a lot of jumping around. But it was really cool and I’m going to try and get it out to people in anyway that I can pretty soon.

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Outside of acting and directing you’re also a very vocal supporter of a range of charities and organisations, can you talk a little bit about that?

Over the years I’ve met people who have different involvement with different charities, and I’d be invited at first to an event not knowing too much information, but would go along to support. Sometimes it required going to different events and keeping an eye on the work of the charity on social media etc.; you start to strengthen that bond and that relationship, and the work really really moves you. The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation is one that I was introduced to in Los Angeles through a friend of mine. They put me on their host committee, which was a great honour. I would go to the events and meet different people working with the charity, people affected by HIV, and I was just moved by some great work that was going on so I was happy to support.

Social media was always a funny thing and it’s only in the last year or two I’ve seen the real power of it, or how I wanted to use it as much as I can to convey positive messages and help people. I don’t know how much help I’m responsible for, I hope that I’m helping a little bit. However much I am, I’m happy to help if I can. I think that is one of the positives of social media and connection in that way.

I definitely think that people like yourself who are public figures, you do give these lesser known organisations and charities this platform to get their message out to much wider audience.

Definitely, and there are so many of them. I think that’s wonderful that there are so many organisations trying to do good things. I would never say that I’m a guru on charity or the authority on charity or understand everything, but if someone is trying to do something good, you’ve got to try and give them a hand.

Recently you sent social media into something of a frenzy when you posted a couple of cryptic Gossip Girl related images. There’s currently a new iteration of the show in development, would you go back if they asked you to?

Absolutely I would, but I don’t know that they want us (laughs). I don’t know anything about this reboot except from what you guys have read. I think it’s a completely different generation, a different spin on it all. I’m not sure how our characters would fit in. But I look back on that period with great great fondness, even more fondness now. I think when you’re in it, it’s moving so quick and you’re part of it, it’s difficult to know what you’re in. Now I’ve had several years since we finished, and it was just magical. I’m so lucky to have known those people, to have played that role and to have been in New York City and doing that. Are you kidding me, I’d go back in a heartbeat, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.

And what would Chuck Bass be doing during Lockdown?

You can imagine that kind of penthouse right? Good God. I imagine him drinking some Scotch, playing some pool, probably getting his feet rubbed by some different people and probably have his right-hand man Nate Archibald around…. wait he’s married now, with a kid right? That’s me forgetting that last part… He’d probably be entertaining child number two or three, who knows.

It really was a great show, even if I might have been slightly older than the target market when it released…

Never! It has something for everyone. A lot of people liked it. One of the cool things, and it’s been happening again now with lockdown with people re-watching it – which is so cool, it’s almost like it’s lived again – is that mothers and daughters, mothers and sons, daughters and fathers are watching it. Some of the time when I would meet people they would say, ‘we watched it as a family’, I was like ‘good God really?’ It’s great that they can sit there and watch it because some of it was…you don’t always want to watch sex scenes or certain scenes with your parents do you? There were things that might be slightly revealing about what you get up to as a late teen or in your early twenties. It’s cool man. I think that show meant something to a whole range of people and I’m still in awe about it.

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Enemy Lines is out now, just in time for VE Day and during a nationwide lockdown. Why should people pick it for their isolation viewing?

Because I think that we’re fighting an enemy right now in 2020, and this is a snapshot of what another generation were fighting. Alright there’s a few more guns and a few more bombs, but you get to be transported to a different time, to a real hero. It’s just a really exhilarating ride with some good characters. I feel that it’s a good hour and a half spent.

True, plus, it’s sunny like it was when I watched it; it’s quite nice in an odd way to see a load of people walking around in the snow, it takes your mind off the fact that it’s really warm outside.

There you go. The outside features heavily, which is something that people might not have in their lives too much right now.

Enemy Lines is available on DVD & Digital HD now from Signature Entertainment. 

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