Laurence Fuller is a British Australian actor who trained at Bristol’s Old Vic Theatre School and, after graduating, went into London’s West End theatre. He’s never looked back and is now settled in Los Angeles.
I caught up with Laurence to discuss his role in Five Families (2019), the legacy of gangster movies and the realities of acting, as well as his screenplay about and tribute to his late father, the controversial art critic Peter Fuller.
FF: Can you tell us a little bit about Five Families (2019)?
LF: Five Families is directed by Adam Cushman who is someone I met on his last feature, The Maestro (2018), which I had a small part in as a favour to my friend the producer David Phillips. David also produced Five Families (2019), so, it’s kind of becoming like a little filmmaking crew that we’re forming.
Adam and I started talking after The Maestro (2018); he comes from this literary background where he directs the trailers to people’s novels. That’s actually how he got started as a director by directing book trailers.
He formed a small company and I guess they make hundreds of these book trailers now.
And so we started talking about Shelley and some Romantic writers. And then he told me he had this gangster movie that he was making and he wanted me to play the villain/antagonist. The reason he’s an antagonist is that he wants things to be like they were for the mafia world in America around 60 years ago, where surveillance wasn’t such a thing, so that gangsters can go into somewhere and can shoot up the place, ‘give me all your money!’, rob banks, extort, bully etc. I guess just have more of an action-packed kind of lifestyle.
We decided that there was something kind of romantic in that… I guess, in a kind of William Blake sense, a chaotic sense. In that he has a nostalgia for the past and I was able to kind of find that energy through romanticism in a weird way.
Anyway, we got to rehearsals and it turned out that Adam was writing this film with Barry Primus who was in a lot of those early De Niro/Scorsese films and is a very close colleague of De Niro still, and is in The Irishman (2019) coming out soon.
Barry plays my grandfather in the movie so it was amazing to get to learn from him and to see how he works. He’s an old school actor.
FF: I was looking on my IMDb…his career stretches back so far, doesn’t it?
LF: Yes, it was an honour to work with him really. He’s sort of a piece of that legacy of, I guess, method acting on film. He’s the real deal – especially with those gangster films, he’s ‘one of the guys’.
And I really felt like kind of an oddball being half British and half Australian!
FF: What was Adam Cushman like as a director to work with?
LF: Adam was kind of to the point. He wouldn’t micromanage us. We talked a lot in rehearsal and then when it came to set he’d kind of give us a few ‘Spark Notes’ around context. Mostly we put it all in rehearsals and then he put a lot of trust in the actors and just kind of guided us when we got to set. So, the rehearsals were valuable in that respect.
FF: You mentioned in another interview that you watched gangster films when you were at school… Which would you say is your favourite of all-time?
LF: I’d have to go with the original Goodfellas (1990) as a well rounded all round movie in terms of cinema. There’s something about gangster movies that excites me. Gangs of New York (2002) is not like a perfect film like Goodfellas (1990) was, but there’s something really exciting about it; Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance in that lights up the screen.
I remember seeing that for the first time when I was 15 and just being blown away. It made me think about what is possible about screen acting and taking it seriously as an art form.
FF: What’s your current or next project? I see you’re in a TV series called Kick?
LF: Yeah, Kick is a pilot. I’ve heard they’ve sold but they’re not giving the details yet. But that should be an interesting one. That’s Lucy Davis’ baby really. She’s recently been in Wonder Woman (2017) and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018 on Netflix.
The other thing I’m working on at the moment is a screenplay about my late father. He was one of the most controversial art critics of all time. I think if you’re going to make a movie about an art critic it has to be the most controversial of all time.
Especially today… the whole field of criticism has changed completely from what it was when Peter was writing. There were, I guess, less critics and so the individual had more sway over the entire group.
Anyway, he just lived a very troubled and interesting life. He put his soul into his work. It’s an interesting thing to do, I suppose, but it involves so many people. For one thing, it’s not just a personal story, it’s kind of about a movement in art history.
He was rallying this movement in British art which was kicking off. He died quite suddenly, in 1990, but this screenplay kind of goes into the search for ‘the father’, in a way. He was dealing with his own issues; overcoming his own Oedipal complex.
This is my way of doing that. Kind of… art saving your life, to help you find something and become a more realised person.
FF: I’ve heard you allude to hundreds of rejections in your career to date yet your career is clearly on the rise. What keeps you motivated?
LF: I think it’s just inevitable within an artist’s career. I think it’s so, so rare, to where someone has to face very few rejections and all of a sudden, they’re a super star.
In Taron Egerton for instance, it’s just so rare, it’s like 1 in a million.
Even he (Taron) had to get into drama school, ‘cause he went to RADA, where you would have faced a lot of pushback from the teachers there. They’re very tough on you.
So I think it just stings less the further you go! And for me I’ve just become more grateful for things when they do come along. And I guess it’s kind of like a spiritual quest; it has made me a better person, facing all of those obstacles. So, I’m grateful for the journey.
FF: If you could pick one director to work with in the future who would you chose?
LF: P.T. Anderson. No doubt. His stories are so person and ambiguous. There’s always a lot of room for the performances.
FF: What do you wish you’d known when you first started acting?
LF: I wish I’d known all the Oscars results so I could bet on them! Just kidding.
Joking aside… It really is about the ensemble. It’s not just about your performance. It’s about creating a piece of art through a collaborative process, and that’s something very important to learn and integrate.