“I thought it was a piece of fiction. I thought it was the weirdest story to set a film around, honestly,” Jamie Bell shares of his first impressions, after being approached with the script to Paul McGuigan’s romantic drama Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool. “I had no idea who Gloria Grahame was and I certainly didn’t know who Peter Turner was, at all. I thought: It’s just a bizarre work, I don’t know how to really wrap my head around it.”
Based on the memoir of the same name by Turner, the Sony Pictures Classics release brings to the screen the true story of the unexpected romance that bloomed between a young English actor (Bell) and an aging Hollywood diva —Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening), remembered for her turns in It’s a Wonderful Life and The Bad and the Beautiful, which brought the actress her first and only Oscar.
Sitting down with Deadline’s Joe Utichi following an Awardsline screening of the film, Bell recalled the table read he did with Bening for the pic’s producer Barbara Broccoli, a moment that was a turning point in the actor’s understanding of the material, as he witnessed the 007 producer cry in front of him. “That was when she told me that she had known Peter and Gloria when they were together, personally,” Bell remembered. “She’d been very good friends with Peter for a very long time—and that’s when she handed me the memoir.”
During the panel, Bening and Bell touched on a pivotal scene toward the film’s end which is, unusually, told from two perspectives—that of Grahame, as well as Turner, this in keeping with the actor’s fractured, memory-based approach to his memoir. “That’s not in the book or anything—that was very much Paul’s cinematic idea. It was very helpful, and that is also an interesting way of thinking about the past, because the past does continue to change,” Bening said. “I find that as we look back on events, we find ourselves focusing on different parts of a moment. Paul really wanted to tell the story that way, as a way of trying to get inside of how Gloria thought.”
To hear more from Deadline’s conversation with the Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool duo, click above.