Do you remember that farm boy? The one that would whistle life’s melodies through nature’s canvas. Traping through meadows far and wearing nothing but a great smile - wasting the day in the most beautiful way. He would always be dreaming of things beyond the visions of yesterday. That farm boy is here, and albeit only a character in his debut movie ‘Chicken’, British actor Scott Chambers carries this humility and visionary way of seeing the world with him off the film set.
Wide-eyed and excitable, Scott Chambers lights up with any new character that will tickle his taste buds and challenge him to new heights of acting glory. With a catalogue bound tight of vast roles under his loose belt, he constantly looks for that next ‘thing’ to call his muse. Let him geek out with you, endlessly talk about his gory scenes, his weird and wonderful buzz cuts; and best of all - let him inspire you.
Photographer Maud Maillard captures Scott being Scott; a character he doesn’t usually play. With the only script involved to simply be himself, Scott’s inner boy comes out to play on the BBG photoshoot set. His inner goof and witty comebacks, dressed up by Margherita Alaimo, showed a great preview of possible future films that we all want tickets for.
Hi Scott, how have you enjoyed the shoot today?
Yeah, it was really fun, it was different - I haven't done anything like this before. Usually I'm in character, so this was definitely different.
Tell me a bit about yourself.
I grew up in Essex, Colchester. I only recently moved to London to really jump into acting, which I've genuinely wanted to do since I was six or something. Professionally I’ve been acting for like three years now.
Above: Jumper and Blazer by LOU DALTON.
How did it feel to be listed as one of BIFA’s promising newcomer awards at only 22?
Yeah, that was pretty awesome, especially since I am very aware that the film I’m in is extremely independent. Lots of people that normally tend to get that kind of thing have made films of a much higher budget or is a lot more known generally. We were lucky that we had Ian McKellen’s support of the film, him championing it was really cool for such an independent film as ours. The director and I were both so excited.
Let’s talk about 'Chicken' , which is your debut movie. Tell me a bit about the movie and your role in it.
The film is about two brothers that live in a caravan on someone else’s land. My character, Richard, has special needs, and as the movie goes on you find out how he got to the caravan and all the difficulties they had. You start to discover that the older brother has quite a lot of secrets to do with their past, and you find out that the brother is actually quite abusive to my character. Richard is always trying to help his brother calm himself down, and try to be there for him, and ultimately he meets these new landowners and their daughter Annabel. A friendship blossoms between them, and before you know it Richard’s life takes a completely new direction - which is really good!
My character, I was stupidly lucky with it. In lots of roles you go up for you have to just do your own voice, be 'you' basically, and what I really really liked about this role was that it was so opposite to me; the voice, the characteristics, how he processes information, all of it. For my first role it was a challenge; it's quite intimidating and you don’t want to disrespect anyone, especially around this kinda subject. There’s a big twist at the end of the film, and the audience can take what they want from it. I filmed it when I was 20, I think, and thought; 'if I mess this up, my first role, I’m screwed'. I was very lucky, and the director and other actors were very supportive.
How did you prepare to portray someone with special needs?
Originally, the director bought me all these child development books, so I started by reading those. Seeing Richard in the script, you don’t necessarily find out his early years, so it was all down to me and Morgan (who plays my brother, Polly) to make character biographies. We both did 22 page biographies, one for every year of their life, and we would write similar memories. Although mine would be more of a positive memory and his would always be negative. Preparing for it; I was looking into what the effects are on a child if they weren’t given the right nutrients when they were young or if they’re left and fell and hit their head. I had been looking into Williamson Syndrome. My niece at the time was six years old and had a lisp from her teeth falling out. I loved the lisp, so I completely copied that! I would like secretly record her.
Above: Jumper by BOGLIOLI and Jacket by CASELY-HAYFORD.
That’s crazy, really?!
Yeah! She found it out when I was on a Q&A, and she was in the audience, and I just said; 'oh yeah she has no idea'… and she was in the audience and I heard her shout 'ME!' And I was like 'yeah, you!' The lisp really worked for Richard, because it was like that whole way of putting yourself in that mentality. He lived in this caravan for x amount of years, and their way of living is very different; so he’s probably not brushing his teeth. You’ve got to think about these effects and how their body would work, and what’s different from theirs to yours. Also, developing speech patterns, I would assume he would easily have a lisp, because he’s not been taught properly - he didn’t go to school. At the time, my cousin liked Jessie J and I remember her waffling about how she met Jessie J somewhere, and it was all rubbish - she hadn’t met her. I secretly recorded all this waffle and it was very Richard.
I guess if you’re playing someone with a lisp, you can really put yourself into a completely different person’s body. You can be able to differentiate yourself and Richard very clearly.
At the early stages of rehearsal I remember we had a week rehearsal, and I was kinda rusty, because I hadn’t done Richard in front of people much. It was a little bit nerve wracking, because what if they’re thinking 'oh, he’s rubbish'? Or again, if I'm insulting someone, but it went well. When we were going on set, for about two hours prior, I'd have my headphones in and was just Richard - I was in that mentality. Walking how he does, all that kinda stuff and the lisp helped, the different voice helped a lot.
You're going into a completely different body, it must be quite a challenge.
With Richard, I was really crapping myself, because if I messed up I was very aware that I was going to be slaughtered in reviews. People would act like it was an offensive performance and it was a bigger concern that I’ve got to be respecting this person. There was a point where I stopped looking into Williamson Syndrome and child development books, because Richard doesn’t know he’s got anything different. There’s a line in it where Annabel calls him and says; ‘you’re a freak’ and it's one of those things where you say you’re a loser or whatever, but it really got to him. At that moment I got that he really doesn’t understand, when people say these certain words he thinks; 'what’s different about me?'. So it's really nice putting yourself in that mentality, but definitely daunting.
Above: All clothing Scott's own.
If you’ve done it well, you’ve done it so well, and you have obviously done just that!
Going into it I was thinking that I've either got to completely kill it or… I remember going to the hairdressers with the director and he told the hairdresser; ‘ok, give me him a pretty bad haircut’. She said it was breaking her hairdressing rules, haha. My hair was longer than this at the time and I remember she was chopping into it and I left and I was like; 'it's cool though, because now you’re Richard'.
That must be so weird!
Then we went to the costume fitting, and as soon as I put the costume on, I was thiking it was all worth it and the hair was worth it, because I looked exactly what I think I should look like. Exactly how I pictured Richard to be.
Have you been compared to Leonardo DiCaprio in his role in ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape’. You must’ve had some comparisons?
Yeah, haha! There were two reviews that said it and it was insane. At the time, I was filming a horror film called ‘Hush’, and I came back from Glasgow and was on the tube. My mum and dad had filmed Mark Kermode doing a review of 'Chicken' on the BBC, and they sent it to me. My heart was pounding, because it was my first review, and I was worrying what the hell was going to be said about me. I remember this one bit, whilst listening to it sitting on the tube with my headphones in, and they were comparing me to Leonardo DiCaprio, and I was like; 'what the fuck is going on?'
Of any comparison, that is a great one to have!
It’s mental! My smile was probably like an idiot - I just sat there like thinking; 'what's going on?'. I was like what the hell, and I got some really cool reviews - none of it really sunk in and I didn’t think I would ever get lucky like that.
Above: T-shirt by DSQUARED2, Trousers and Jacket by RAG & BONE.
How does your role in ‘Hush' compare to other roles you’ve done before?
This is definitely the most complex and challenging role. In 'Hush' I play someone who was the tech boy - he's got the camera and it was set in the 80s and it's quite fun. Richard compares so uniquely, because his voice is so unique, and I don’t believe that kind of character’s voice is portrayed much - especially as a lead role. Normally, it would be the character that pops up a couple of times. It was so interesting when I read the script, because it was Richard’s journey and you go on it with him. He plays with dead animals and dresses them up in little clothes, because he doesn’t have toys. Then in the second act, you understand what he's about, so when other people interact with him you feel very protective. I really pray that people take away from 'Chicken' to not ever judge a book by it's cover, because there's a lot of different layers behind people.
You were saying Richard dresses up animals, and your best friend in the film was a chicken. How was it working with a one?!
Haha, really good, I had two! There are chickens that don’t mind getting picked up - some obviously go nuts, but these were special ones. I had two, and called one 'Shy' and one 'Confident', purely because one was shy and one was confident! So like, if I had to run through a field with a chicken, I would go for Shy, because she won't move. Whereas if I had Confident, she would be like; 'get off me, what you doing!'. There are scenes when Richard is on his own in the caravan and he's cooking. He's not a good cook, but it's cool, and Fiona, the chicken is sat on the side. He would be talking to her, and I was like; 'I want Confident for that, because she gives a response - she's very movie!' I was warned before that chickens would be awful to work with, they're going to poo on you and I didn’t get any of that. So yeah, it was absolutely fine.
Above: Shirt by Paul & Joe, T-shirt and Jeans by Topman.
I looked at an extract from the film and it was just beautiful; everything about it. The filming, the script. How was it working with the director Joe Stephenson? He must be like a master of film.
Genuinely, anything he does, if he will let me be in stuff, I will be like; 'yes!' Because, for me, he’s a 50/50 person; he will spend time with the DOP and then his time with us. Genuinely, every step of the way in pre-production I could ring him, and this is God’s honest truth - he would read my character biography. Certain directors just don’t want to know, they simply want you to get to set, but he was very involved. He wanted to know what I was thinking. I got to improvise quite a lot, because I had ideas I wanted to add, so he was like; 'go for it, Scott!'
What kind of thing?
The dad in it, there’s a bit when I go to Annabel’s house and we have a connection by this point. I’m drunk, and have been badly hurt by my brother, and a lot of drama has gone on, so I’ve gone to her house for help. I told her earlier about my dad and how he owns pilots - he doesn’t own a pilot, it's all made up, because he wants to make his life better. So, when I went to the house I thought it would be nice if I took a picture of my dad where I look happy. And be like; 'look I was happy, I was happy!', because I’m crying and bloody. All these little moments, like the dad owning a plane was my idea. Normally there’s this thing where you get three takes and that’s it, but on the third one (if he’s got what he wants) you get to do whatever you want. No script, you can do whatever, just respond in a different way. That’s great if you’re an actor, it's freeing. It was lucky, very very lucky.
How old were you when you realized you wanted to act?
It was during the 'Scream' the film, I think that came out in ’97, so I must’ve been about six years old. My sister had all her mates around and she used to cover my eyes every time someone was being killed. And one time, I think I saw a death, and I was like 'Oh, they're dying!', but she explained to me that they were all acting and running around covered in blood, like playing. So from that point onwards, I was thinking it would be a pretty cool job! Obviously, getting older, I’ve seen it in a different way. I’m watching dramas now, like 'Monster' with Charlize Theron and seeing her incredible performance. It's now stuff like that I wanna now do, but that’s how I got into it, because it just looked fun. And it is fun, but it's not what I thought it was going into it. You’re not aware of the rejection as much. You’ve always got to remember that for the person that got a role, there’s always someone that didn’t.
Above: Jeans by TOPMAN DESIGN and all other clothing as before.
You never think of that.
There are times when you audition like eight times for a film and you hear really positive stuff and think you’re going to get it', then it still falls through. I think entering it I was very dazed thinking; 'oh, it's fine I'll just get spotted'. Having a good agent is also really important.
Who is Scott Chambers away from the set?
Oooh that’s a weird question. Um, I really like indoor wall climbing… The last four days I’ve been at 'Fright Fest' (which is a horror festival), so I love horror films. And then I do other stuff. I produce under a different name, and I write scripts under a different name.
You’re just a facade. Who are you?
Haha yeah! It's like Scott is different people.
So those film I’m guessing are horror?
Yeah, they’re horror. We go to distributors before they’re made and ask what they would put on a DVD, because we don’t want to make stuff that won't go anywhere. Also for people who put money in, we need to get their money back, and ideally go into returns so we can fund our next films. Yeah, the three we’ve done are all horror, coming out next year, but you won't know it's me behind them.
So even though you’re in front of the camera quite a bit, you also like doing stuff behind it?
Yeah, I think as an actor it helps me grow a lot, because you’re behind the camera too. When someone’s being quite difficult about something petty, it makes you realise all the people behind the camera that have been on set all night and all day when it's freezing. It makes you realise that your job is a lot more luxurious than others' and it's about having that respect. Sometimes 20 hour days in the woods and it's freezing, and the cast is just coming out for little segments. It's also takes my mind somewhere else when inbetween acting projects.
How would you describe your generation of boys?
Ooh, these are interesting questions. I’ve never had anything like this. Well, I went to a school where you wouldn’t be encouraged to do any of the arts - it’s not industry in Essex. I went to college to study acting and near the end of college I was told by my tutor; ‘I don’t think you should do it’, and I was like, 'why am I on this course then, like why did you accept me?' I think teachers have such an impact on people - they can put down people’s confidence or can pull it up. For me, I would sit there and say; 'well I’m still going to do it', even though he was telling me I wasn't good enough. So, I was like; 'cool I'll go home and just work harder.' This was my mentality, but it's unfortunate, because I’ve got friends who didn’t have that belief in themselves, and I don’t think that’s nice. I think being in London there’s so much more positivity, everyone is much more encouraging. You live once, who gives the fuck - just do it! If you have a passion, a dream, what’s the worst that could happen? Cool, you gave it a shot.
When is Scott Chambers going to grace our screens next?
The next one is going to be 'Hippopotamus', which is based on a novel by Stephen Fry. I play Roger Allan’s gothic son, going through a little crisis and just rebelling really. His parents have split up and he’s going; 'well, this is what I’m going to be now'. It's 'Green Day' times a million!
Yeah, I look really far gone, but it was fun. So that one, and then very shortly after it will be ‘Hush’, which is based on a book. It has got Celia Imrie in it, who I thought was awesome and I have some really cool action scenes in it. Basically, people try to kill me more than once, so it's cool.
You keep on coming back…
Haha yeah, and I'm covered in blood!
And for a horror geek, you probably loved that!
Haha, basically I was on Skype to the director and had got to the final stage; I really loved the script, I felt like it hit so many horror themes - it was easy to be excited about it, because I genuinely believed in it. Behind me was this cupboard and I was like; 'believe it or not, all these DVDs are basically all horror', so it was a complete geek-out. There’s a bit where I’m gashed up all up my arm and I’ve got this prosthetic and it was just really cool having all this stuff happen. But it's harder than what you think. I thought it would be complete fun, but putting yourself in that mentality like, you’re going to get murdered for 12 hour days; you do leave and I did find it one of the harder jobs. You’ve been crying, screaming and shouting, or you might be getting tortured or whatever, there’s a lot of drama and it is supernatural as well.
You can watch Scott's debut performance in 'Chicken' here.
Words and Interview: Charli Poster
Grooming: Sandra Nilsen