Interview: Christopher Egan Woos Amanda Seyfried in ‘Letters to Juliet’

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CHICAGO – Christopher Egan is an Australian actor portraying a Londoner on holiday in Italy. That internationalism has helped him tackle his first major lead role opposite Amanda Seyfried and Vanessa Redgrave in the new film “Letters to Juliet.”

Egan climbed the show business ladder through his native Australia, honing his chops on the long-running and popular Aussie TV series “Home and Away.” American audiences might remember him as David Shepard, modeled after the biblical King David in the short-lived NBC TV series, “Kings.”

True Romance: Amanda Seyfried as Sophie, Vanessa Redgrave as Claire and Christopher Egan as Charlie in ‘Letters to Juliet’
Amanda Seyfried as Sophie, Vanessa Redgrave as Claire and Christopher Egan as Charlie in ‘Letters to Juliet’
Photo Credit: John P. Johnson for © 2009 Summit Entertainment, LLC

This good looking and charismatic actor was anxious to talk with about his lead role in Letters to Juliet, especially the experience of performing with the great Vanessa Redgrave (as his grandmother) and one of the hottest young actresses of the moment, Amanda Seyfried. This is one of your first major film leads, a very romantic role and it’s opposite Vanessa Redgrave and Amanda Seyfried. How did you get the role and did anything freak you out about the challenge?

Christopher Egan: I read the script after coming off ‘Kings,’ which was exhausting and completely beat me up. I read it during a break in Australia, and after coming from freezing cold New York City, the setting was in Italy, one of the most beautiful places in the world. [laughs] I just responded to the character of Charlie right away, I had an idea on how I wanted to play it. It was an instant connection that I felt.

HC: Did you know that Amanda Seyfried and Vanessa Redgrave were attached to the film?

CE: I did, and that goes back to what freaked me out. [laughs] It was my first big lead role and it’s going to be playing opposite Vanessa Redgrave. She is an absolute joy, so wonderful and made me feel so comfortable. And also I knew who Amanda was as well, so to play her love interest and also to play Vanessa’s grandson was probably what freaked me out. But they both made it completely comfortable, nobody was difficult. They were very welcoming.

HC: What impressed you most about the scenery you got to experience while filming on location? Was it a region that you had ever traveled in before?

CE: I actually had done two projects there before, which was really cool. One of my first jobs ever was in Rome, so I lived in Rome for six months. It sounds very spoiled. [laughs]

The scenery is really a major character in the movie, and it’s all on location. And we were able to shoot a lot of it in order, so it had the feel of a road trip. There were regions I hadn’t been before, certain parts of Tuscany that had vineyards. It was amazing.

HC: Did Vanessa Redgrave give you any acting feedback while you were working with her?

CE: She did. The relationship we had is between my character Charlie and her was about protectiveness, which I wanted to portray in the first half of the film. That is why he is so unpleasant, because anything that is going to hurt his grandmother is going to rile him up. So we talked a lot about that.

Watching her in rehearsal was the biggest learning thing for me because we spent two weeks sitting with the script and re-reading scenes, and Vanessa would talk about a scene for an hour. And to listen to that for me was an honor. Just the way she pulled apart scenes, the backstory of her character and bringing her own personal stuff to the table. I was like wow, and that’s how I like to work.

HC: While making out with Amanda Seyfried is not exactly difficult, what is the strangest thing about being intimate with someone who is portraying your lover in a film or TV show?

CE: Strange depends on the characters and the story. And we got along very well so that made it very easy. My character really dislikes her initially, so it was nice to pick those moments together of how their relationship would change over the course of the movie, without making it too hardcore. We didn’t want the friction to be too much. You have to feel somewhat towards Charlie. But with all the romance, and shooting in order, as Amanda and I became closer friends it just got easier. Nothing really strange about it.

Gentlewoman of Verona: Amanda Seyfried in ‘Letters to Juliet’
Gentlewoman of Verona: Amanda Seyfried in ‘Letters to Juliet’
Photo Credit: Myles Aronowitz for © 2009 Summit Entertainment, LLC

HC: Have you ever been on a difficult situation in any of the other films or shows you’ve done?

CE: I suppose if there is a boyfriend on set, watching behind the camera. [laughs]

HC: Are you a romantic person by nature? What is the romantic thing you’ve ever done?

CE: Yes I am, I would say a hopeful romantic. The most romantic thing I’ve ever done was a road trip through Italy with a girlfriend. It was a three week road trip, if you’re not tearing at each other by the end of it that says a lot about a relationship.

HC: You were asked to shift a lot emotionally with your character in the film. What was your strategy for approaching those shifts and how did you work it out with director Gary Winick?

CE: Gary was key. The unpleasant nature that Charlie has in the beginning, the somewhat over-the-top attitude, it was really Gary’s job to keep a tap on it so it wasn’t too much. I wanted that journey, though, because it is based on his protective nature toward his grandmother. It’s only by watching Sophie’s effect on his grandmother does he really begin to change. That is, I think, what makes it different as a romantic comedy. It’s not just straight off the bat between Charlie and Sophie, it’s actually caused by Vanessa’s character that transforms their relationship. It’s only halfway through the movie that he begins to see this, but it does go back and forth. It helped to shoot in order, you don’t often get that luxury, so I was able to take notes and keep tabs on the changes and progression. Gary was also very generous, and it’s all about trust with the director.

Christopher Egan in Chicago, April 27, 2010
Christopher Egan in Chicago, April 27, 2010
Photo credit: Patrick McDonald for

HC: Were you portraying a Londoner in the film?

CE: It’s called a Royal R.P. That’s where the accent comes from. I don’t know where it’s from really. [laughs] I think the harshest critics of the accent will be people actually from London. It’s very specific, it’s like the Queen. And I wanted the accent to relax as Charlie relaxed.

HC: You were young when you got your first big break with Australian television with ‘Home and Away’ when you were 16 years old. How difficult was it to do series television at the age you were?

CE: The most difficult part about it was doing school at the same time. We had an intense schedule and you don’t get the treatment in Australia that you get here. There are communal change rooms, no wardrobe person or personal assistants. [laughs]

The TV show Home and Away has been running a long time, it is one of the most popular shows still in Australia. You have two types of acting training in Australia, you either go to drama school or appear on Home and Away. [laughs]

HC: How difficult was it to make the move to Los Angeles from your native home? What has been the biggest culture shock to living in the USA?

CE: It’s really just a big culture shock living in Los Angeles. [laughs] It’s not America, it’s L.A. that is the culture shock. I was glad I was 18 years old when I did it, because I was naive and it felt like a big adventure. I was also lucky to get the first job I auditioned for, and ended up living for six months in Rome.

HC: What is it about the Australian school of actors and acting that produces so many film stars? Is it cultural or just part of the Aussie nature?

CE: It may be a culture thing. When I was doing Home and Away, I just learned to really appreciate it. We’re lucky to be taken in and be able to work in America. I think there is just an element of not being babied in Australia that makes the transition to here easier. When you come here, it’s opposite, it becomes about keeping your head on straight.

“Letters to Juliet” opens everywhere May 14th. Featuring Christopher Egan, Amanda Seyfried, Vanessa Redgrave, Gael García Bernal and Franco Nero, written by Jose Rivera and Tim Sullivan, directed by Gary Winick. Rated “PG senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Senior Staff Writer

© 2010 Patrick McDonald,

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