Yorkshire-born Simon Haycock is an actor that is definitely on the rise and one you should keep an eye out for in 2015.
The talented actor, who trained at the Drama Centre in London, has been getting experience on the stage and makes his feature film debut in Spring 2015 with Wasp, the feature film debut of writer/director Philippe Audi-Dor. The film is a three-hander with Simon in the lead role of Olivier, one half of a gay couple holidaying in the south of France.
We sat down with Simon to find out more about Wasp, talk about the themes and challenges of the film, and to discuss what else he’s got in the pipeline.
How did you get involved with Wasp?
Elly (Condron), Hugo (Bolton), Philippe (Audi-Dior) and I all went to the same drama school. Philippe trained as a director and Elly, Hugo and I trained as actors although Hugo was on a different course. It was pretty much the first thing we did out of drama school. It’s about a year and a half ago now that we all started talking about it.
What attracted you to the role of Olivier?
It was quite an organic conversation. I’d worked with Philippe before on a couple of short films that he directed. We started talking about his idea for Wasp and the possibility of me playing the character of Olivier. The role was very appealing and it was semi-autobiographical for Philippe. It was adapted really from his own experience and Olivier is a close character to him.
The film is primarily about sexuality and love, and I think we’re starting to see more mainstream films addressing this such as Blue is the Warmest Colour, Weekend and Brokeback Mountain but as far as I know this is a unique film. You have a character who identifies as gay and then starts to question that as the film plays out.
What was the dynamic like between you, Elly and James?
We had a great dynamic – it was an incredibly fun experience. I knew Elly very well because we were on the same course. I didn’t know Hugo that well but we were sharing a room for the three weeks of the shoot so we got to know each other really well which was useful for the relationship we had in the film. We shot the film in a beautiful holiday home in the south of France so you couldn’t ask for more really. I knew most of the cast and crew before we got to the set so there was already a great atmosphere before we even started.
Wasp is incredibly understated. Is that something that appealed to you?
Yes. It’s a holiday situation and there’s nothing particularly happening but there’s this tension under the surface. Olivier identifies as gay but he suddenly finds himself attracted to this woman who’s invaded his holiday. It’s quite an interesting situation to explore.
It’s a hard script to read on paper. It would be easy to miss the subtleties that came out in the direction and the edit. It’s a film of contradictions – it presents a happy holiday, but it’s seething with frustration and claustrophobia. But so are people – they are contradictions too. So, in answer to your question – yes, the understated nature of the film appealed because it felt real.
Olivier and Caroline really don’t like each other to begin with do they? That makes the way the film unfolds quite surprising…
He’s mean at the beginning to her and he doesn’t want her to be there. He starts to accept it and she starts to be a little bit manipulative. I think it’s a very interesting story.
What would you say was the most challenging aspect of the film for you?
There are a couple of different aspects. It was my first feature film and that was a challenge in itself. Also the sexuality was very complex for this character. Exploring that you obviously look at your own sexuality. I’m straight so for me a lot of my preparation was identifying a way to develop believable chemistry with both Hugo and Elly. It was looking at first and foremost the other characters and the attraction; how I feel about them and comparing that with people I’ve had similar feelings about in my own life. My character then has this internal conflict and he starts to question his identity. The characters talk in the film about the Kinsey Scale and sexual orientation grid – those are interesting measures but it’s a much more complicated subject I think.
Wasp has a slow build to it and could work really well as a play. Is that something that could happen in the future?
Yes – it could definitely work as a 3 hander. Philippe has definitely got a lot of theatre experience but I’m not sure if he’s considered it as a play recently, because he’s been so close to it as a film for such a long time. It’s a huge passion project for Philippe and all of the team that got behind it – maybe once it’s come out as a film the team could look at developing it for the stage.
The film is independent and fairly low budget but you wouldn’t know that from watching it. How nice was it to spend a few weeks in the south of France?
Aside from the amazing set, the food and the wine is part of the culture down there so that was a big part of the atmosphere we had on set. It was such a small crew that we all were chipping in to help each other out. We were in this place that had beautiful sunrises and sunsets every day, it was hot and everyone was getting on really well, it made it the experience it was. There were things that you don’t expect or think about like the blasting hot sun and the characters walking around in very little meant there was sun tan continuity and sunburn.
Before Wasp you’d done some theatre hadn’t you?
Yes – most recently I did Coriolanus and Troilus & Cressida at the end of the summer. That was a really great run and we did the two plays back-to-back. It was quite a challenge really as they were two quite meaty plays just by themselves. They were both abridged to fit them into one evening. It was a really, really good experience and I learned a lot from it.
Now that you’ve done theatre and film do you have a preference?
I would like to do both but we’ll see what happens with the projects that come up. I’m not sure you can easily make a choice between the two early in your career as it’s difficult to turn down opportunities when they come up. My next two projects are both science-fiction films so it seems to be film for now. The first one is called Kaleidoscope Man – it’s an indie feature about aliens invading the earth, so quite different from Wasp. My character gets abducted by aliens and he has to find the wisdom and strength inside himself to be able to save humanity. The second one is a martial arts science-fiction short film so I’m enjoying all of the combat training I’m having to do for that at the moment.
Wasp will be released in Spring 2015. You can read our verdict in our review. Watch the trailer for Wasp below: